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Ethical Tools Review

In our desk research, we identified tools that currently exist that attempt to address ethics - and as much as possible - ethics as it relates to IOT development. At the same time, we identified some tools that are more analogously inspirational to our work, though not necessarily specifically designed for IOT developers. Javier Ruiz from the Open Rights Group along with CIID conducted extensive surveys of the field of ethical tools - encapsulated in an ORG report disseminated internally. 
In CIID's desk research and consolidation of reporting from ORG's report as well as the reporting of the fieldwork by the anthropological teams (LSE and ITU), we have noticed the following gaps in terms of tools that would support IOT creators to reflect and address ethics while making IOT. These gaps in existing tools are not absolute - some tools try to address one or the other - but few tools address any one of these gaps with the thoroughness it requires.

  1. Most notably, the tools that exist currently lack the ability to truly take into account change and input over time. As such, they do not reflect the evolution of a company's decisions and how those decisions do or do not match the company's material product choices. 
  2. Together with point 1, we see a lack in active integration of legal aspects upon which said decisions might infringe. 
  3. There is very little consideration of social discussion that can enhance an individual's understanding of a given issue. How have their peers dealt with this issue? How would their peers review their decision or solution? Would there be a way to integrate willing and able legal/ethical experts as reviewers in the process of decision-making.
  4. Though considering unpredictable outcomes is crucial to these tools addressing tensions that have not yet occurred but may occur in the future, there is little to no attention paid towards immersion in speculative outcomes and even more - structured speculation to enforce that creators consider where their product might go if certain technological developments (whether negative or positive) were to occur. 
  5. Many IOT developers describe that their sense of ethics and company values often become more or less prioritised and even misaligned when they are choosing certain materials that compose their product, and secondly, when they have meetings with investors and other stakeholders. Yet the current ethical tools do not seek to facilitate or prepare creators for the difficult discussions that will take place around the material and investor decisions.

Still, the current tools demonstrate several inspirational methods for structuring reflection on ethical practices.

  1. What is the context and potential impact of your product? What are the tensions in it and causes for those tensions? What are alternative technologies and methods you could use to address those tensions? Assessment of final decisions. 
  2. How can documents that state principles, obligations and guidelines be supported with accountability for complying with such self-stated plans?
  3. How can tools ensure that they reflect specificity of context, of location?
  4. How can the tools allow for continuous dialogue over the lifecycle (and beyond) of the product? Can the tools be designed such that they would integrate user-driven evolution - that is, open sourced and changing with the changing technologies that will need to be addressed as we progress?
  5. If decisions are not quantified, how else can they be evaluated? Are there actionable outcomes or simply aid for deliberation? 
  6. Scenarios, and especially case studies, can demonstrate dilemmas, for people to discuss alternatives and prepare for positive solutions - whether solutions that will have to be made now or in the future.

Towards Tools

Ethics, Again