Computer Ethics, Fall 2023

Monday Oct 16, class 6

Class 6 Readings

Read chapter 3 of Baase on speech

Forget Privacy

Avery Pennarun (CEO of Tailscale) doesn't think much of how effectively companies use the private data they collect about you.

A quote:

("Ad blockers" remove annoying ads, but they also speed up the web, mostly because they remove trackers. Embarrassingly, the trackers themselves don't even need to cause a slowdown, but they always do, because their developers are invariably idiots who each need to load thousands of lines of javascript to do what could be done in two. But that's another story.)

Undermining Democracy (by protecting children)

Yet another article on the EU's desire to ban end-to-end encryption. But this is about more than that.

Good news for privacy rights: "On Thursday 14 September, it emerged that there is insufficient support in the Council of the European Union for [the Johansson] proposal." But then:

a day later, on 15 September, the Commissioner commissioned a paid advertising campaign on X (formerly Twitter)....

To sway European public opinion, however, the European Commission [Johansson is Commissioner] went even further. X’s Transparency Report shows that the European Commission also used ‘microtargeting’ to ensure that the ads did not appear to people who care about privacy (people interested in Julian Assange) and eurosceptics (people interested in ‘nexit’, ‘brexit’ and ‘spanexit’ or in Victor Orbán, Nigel Farage, or the German political party AfD). For unclear reasons, people interested in Christianity were also excluded. After excluding critical political and religious groups, X’s algorithm was set to find people in the remaining population who were indeed interested in the ad message, resulting in an uncritical echo chamber.

Take that, Avery Pennarun!

(If we really wanted to protect children, we might start by limiting speed limits in residential neighborhoods to 15 mph.)

Appropriation Art

Yet another NYTimes article on Clearview AI, the facial-recognition people

Bentham's Mugging

The "mugger" says "Give me $10 or I'll cut off my own finger". Which course of action leads to the maximum social utility?

More seriously, though, what about the choice of giving $10 to someone who is poor, and who will buy food for his children, versus buying a Caramel Macchiato?

Ad-free Facebook for €13/month

Who will sign up for this? Nobody. But to use the free version, you must consent to data collection for targeted advertising. But because you can opt out of that (by paying), it's supposedly legit with the EU.

The Amazon Trial

Ok, I missed this excellent article earlier. Matt Stoller is the blogger on antitrust issues.

Note the part about how the real value of Prime shipping is estimated at $1,000/yr, not $140. That's not just for shipping, but the point is that those shipping expenses have to come from somewhere, and it's not Prime subscription fees.

Paper 2


Start with Facebook newsfeeds, Cambridge Analytica

Free Speech