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									    Ethical Implications
of Emerging Technologies:
         A Survey

 Prepared by Mary Rundle and Chris Conley

          Geneva Net Dialogue

             UNESCO: Paris, 2007
The ideas, facts and opinions expressed in this publication are those of the
authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of UNESCO and do not
commit the Organization.

Recommended catalogue entry:
UNESCO. Information for All Programme (IFAP).
« Ethical Implications of Emerging Technologies: A Survey ».

Edited by the Information Society Division, Communication and Information
Sector (Editor: Boyan Radoykov) – Paris: UNESCO, 2007 - 92 p ; 21 cm.
I - Title
III – Information for All Programme

Published in 2007 by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural
7, place de Fontenoy F-75352 Paris 07 SP, Paris, France

Coordinator of the publication: Boyan Radoykov

All rights reserved
CI-2007/WS/2 - CLD 31112
                                      ETHICAL IMPLICATIONS
                                  OF EMERGING TECHNOLOGIES:

                                           A SURVEY

                     Prepared by Mary Rundle and Chris Conley ∗


In the course of compiling this report, a number of prominent members of the
worldwide technology and infoethics communities have shared their expertise
and perspectives with us, including: Hal Abelson, Ben Adida, Ang Peng Hwa,
Kader Asmal, Ted Barnett, Stefan Bechtold, Peter Berghammer, Scott Bradner,
Stefan Brands, Kim Cameron, Shunling Chen, David Clark, John Clippinger,
Urs Gasser, Lauren Gelman, Georg Greve, Dick Hardt, Dewayne Hendricks,
Chris Hoofnagle, Hai Huang, Ben Laurie, Ronaldo Lemos, Lawrence Lessig,
Jamie Lewis, Abdel-Hamid Mamdouh, Désirée Milošević, Nicholas Negroponte,
Cory Ondrejka, David Reed, Eric Rescorla, Jonathan Robin, Judit Rius Sanjuan,
Wendy Seltzer, Lara Srivastava, William Terrill, Paul Trevithick, Jake Wachman,
David Weinberger, Ian Wilkes, and Jonathan Zittrain.

    Mary Rundle is a fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law
    School and a non-resident fellow at the Center for Internet and Society at Stanford Law
    School. Chris Conley holds a master’s degree in computer science from M.I.T. and is currently
    a J.D. candidate at Harvard Law School, where he focuses on the intersection of law and
    technology. This paper has been produced under Geneva Net Dialogue, a Geneva-based,
    open, international association whose mission is “to lend its support to the operation
    of human rights in the information society by improving ties between the technology
    community, the policymaking community, and civil society at the international level.”
            Ethical Implications of Emerging Technologies:
                               A Survey
                      Mary Rundle and Chris Conley

             Table of Contents
Foreword                                                          4

Introduction                                                      6

The Technologies as a Short Story                                 8

Infoethics Goals for Neutral Technologies                        11

The Ethical Challenges of Emerging Technologies - Case Studies   28
•   The Semantic Web and Other Metadata                          28
•   Digital Identity Management                                  31
•   Biometrics                                                   38
•   Radio Frequency Identification                                41
•   Sensors                                                      50
•   The Geospatial Web and Location-Based Services               55
•   Mesh Networking                                              58
•   Grid Computing                                               62
•   New Computing Technologies                                   70
•   Table: Summary of Infoethics Concerns                        73

The Short Story Revisited                                        75

Recommendations                                                  78

ANNEX: A Democratic Information Society
(Summary of an interview with David P. Reed)                     82

    Embracing coherent ethical guide-           Increase public infrastructure or
    lines is essential for building inclusive   permit preferential use by investors?
    knowledge societies and raising             Allow the market to oblige people
    awareness about the ethical aspects         to participate in digital systems or
    and principles is central for upholding     subsidize more traditional lifestyles?
    the fundamental values of freedom,          Let technology develop as it will or
    equality, solidarity, tolerance and         attempt to programme machines to
    shared responsibility. Thus, UNESCO         safeguard human rights?
    encourages the definition and adop-
    tion of best practices and voluntary,       The Infoethics Survey of Emerging
    professional guidelines addressing          Technologies prepared by the NGO
    ethical issues for media professionals,     Geneva Net Dialogue at the request
    information producers, and service          of UNESCO aims at providing an
    providers and users with due respect        outlook to the ethical implications of
    to freedom of expression.                   future communication and informa-
                                                tion technologies. The report further
    The quickening speed of techno-             aims at alerting UNESCO’s Member
    logical evolution leaves little time to     States and partners to the increasing
    decision-makers, legislators and other      power and presence of emerging
    major stakeholders to anticipate and        technologies and draws attention to
    absorb changes before being chal-           their potential to affect the exercise
    lenged to adapt to the next wave of         of basic human rights. Perhaps as its
    transformation. Lacking the time for        most salient deduction, the study
    lengthy reflection, the international        signals that these days all decision
    community is often faced with imme-         makers, developers, the corporate
    diate policy choices that carry serious     scholar and users are entrusted with a
    moral and ethical consequences:             profound responsibility with respect

to technological developments and
their impact on the future orientation
of knowledge societies.

It is our hope that this study will
impress upon the policy makers, com-
munity, producers and users the need
to carefully observe evolutions in ICTs
– and, by so doing, to comprehend
the ethical and moral consequences
of technological choices on human
rights in the Knowledge Societies.

Abdul Waheed Khan
Assistant Director-General for
Communication and Information,


    The Internet boom has provided                  nity to these advances, particularly as to
    many benefits for society, allowing the          their ethical and societal consequences,
    creation of new tools and new ways              which this report refers to as“infoethical”
    for people to interact. As with many            challenges or “infoethics.” To that end,
    technological advances, however, the            this survey analyzes certain UNESCO
    Internet has not been without nega-             goals in light of emerging technologies
    tive aspects. For example, it has created       that will usher in the future Information
    new concerns about privacy, and it has          Society1 – in particular:
    been hampered by spam and viruses.
    Moreover, even as it serves as a medium          1.    The Semantic Web and Other
    for communication across the globe, it                 Metadata – Metadata, or data
    threatens to cut off people who lack                    about data, enables greater auto-
    access to it.                                          mated analysis of information; the
                                                           Semantic Web promises to use
    New solutions in information and com-                  metadata to create an environ-
    munication technologies (ICTs) are                     ment in which computers can
    constantly emerging, and, for good or                  serve as intelligent agents rather
    for ill, the changes they bring may open               than mere tools.
    up our societies and our world to a
    greater extent than did the first phase of        2.    Digital Identity Management
    the Internet revolution. It is imperative to           and Biometrics – Digital identity
    consider the implications of these new                 management allows the amass-
    technologies, and to encourage positive                ing and automatic processing of
    choices regarding their uses.                          personal data; biometrics provides
                                                           means by which human beings
    UNESCO is well situated to call the                    can be uniquely identified.
    attention of the international commu-
        UNESCO is increasingly using the term “Knowledge Societies”, which reflects a
        development-oriented, people-centred and pluralistic vision of the future societies.
        However, for the purposes of this study, the term “Information Society” is used throughout
6       the document.

3.   Radio Frequency Identifica-              This survey considers these choices
     tion (RFID) and Sensors – These         in the light of key UNESCO infoethics
     technologies monitor the physi-         goals - in particular:
     cal world, using communications
     technology to distribute informa-       (a)   Fostering the application of
     tion about a specific location.                human rights and fundamental
                                                   freedoms in cyberspace;
4.   The Geospatial Web and Loca-
     tion-Based Services – Both of           (b) Extending the public domain of
     these technologies serve to as-             information;
     sociate digital data with physical
     locations.                              (c)   Enabling diversity of content in
                                                   information networks; and
5.   Mesh Networking – Mesh
     networking facilitates the forma-       (d) Promoting access to information
     tion of networks across areas               and means of communication.
     without existing communications
     infrastructures. As such, it can help   Taking these objectives as a given, the
     connect underserved areas.              survey employs them as measures in
                                             assessing likely consequences of differ-
6.   Grid Computing – This tech-             ent technological choices.
     nology may allow the world’s
     computing power and data stor-          In presenting results of this examina-
     age resources to be pooled for          tion, the report first tells an introductory
     people to access as needed.             story of how the technologies covered
                                             relate to one another. Next, infoethics
7.   New Computing Technologies              goals are presented. Then, for each tech-
     – Combined with the technolo-           nological trend surveyed, the report
     gies listed above, a powerful mix       contains a short chapter drafted in lay
     of optics, quantum computing,           terms to provide an overview of the
     and other new technologies has          relevant technology and to highlight
     potential to bring about a “global      ramifications and concerns. The report
     brain.”                                 then summarizes this infoethics analysis
                                             and revisits the story of the emerging
Because choices in their design and          technologies. Finally, the report offers
use carry moral consequences, these          recommendations on ways to advance
technologies pose significant infoeth-        infoethics goals in anticipation of these
ics challenges.                              oncoming technologies.
    The Technologies as a
    Short Story

    In the short history of the Information   a detailed set of terms to facilitate
    Society, technology has moved from        exchanges on behalf of individuals.
    making sense of cyberspace to             Put another way, as programmes
    making sense of the physical world,       navigate the web (with web agents
    with new modes of connectivity now        querying many web sites to answer
    holding promise for a seamlessly          any given human question), a person
    integrated Internet to reach all          needs to be able to delegate his
    regions of the globe.                     identity to a programme so it can
                                              think and act on his behalf – for
    For the Internet’s first phase, humans     example negotiate for his preferred
    initiated the exchange of text, images,   rental car model, designate which
    and other information. Given the enor-    friends may have access to his
    mous amount of content and code           calendar, or pay taxes on online
    that has been generated, computers        transactions. Hence, records are
    now need interoperable metadata,          being developed to refer to elements
    or data about data, to navigate. The      of a person’s various digital personae
    semantic web promises to offer such        (e.g., name, date of birth, citizenship,
    metadata. This new metadata language      etc. for one persona; pseudonym,
    offers predictability in a cyberspace of   favorite songs, etc. for another). In this
    ever growing exchanges, with the vo-      way, metadata serves as a language
    cabulary of metadata lending greater      for describing digital identities.
    precision to human use of the Internet
    or even allowing computers to access      To date, digital identities have typi-
    and analyze content directly.             cally been dissociated from physical
                                              identities. However, the emerging
    Since people have been the actors         technology of biometrics promises to
    in the first phase of the Internet, and    correlate the two, linking an individual’s
    should remain of central concern in       various digital identities to his embod-
    all future developments, it makes         ied person. An embodied person can
    sense that computers would need           be represented in digital form through
                                                           The Technologies as a Short Story

the translation of unique attributes – for     One might take issue with metadata’s
example his fingerprints, iris pattern, or      linguistically equating an individual
walking gait. These attributes are taken       with a bottle of shampoo. To such an
as measurements, with the biometrics           objection, a computer scientist might
translated into numerical expressions          respond that these problems can be
that computers can refer to in their           resolved as the metadata languages
machine-readable language. A physi-            are refined to add dimension and
cal person can thereby be uniquely             ascribe value.2
identified and then abstracted as data.
                                               There are certain signs that this
Similarly, both radio frequency                refinement is underway, driven
identification (RFID) and sensors               in part by the importation of the
are making other aspects of the                physical world into cyberspace.
physical world manageable and                  Sensors are enabling the further
searchable in the digital world. RFID          digitization of the physical world
tags enable the tracking of physical           – measuring observable qualities
objects or people using cheap,                 such as oxygen level or acceleration,
digital technology: A person bearing           and then translating them into digital
an RFID chip can easily be identified           form. With more material added to
for different purposes – for example,           cyberspace, flesh is put on the bones
ensuring that new-born babies do               of previously catalogued ideas.
not get mixed up in a hospital, or             Different contexts provide dimension
granting the proper people access              and establish added meanings for
to restricted areas of a building.             the semantic web to recognize.
Likewise, a specific product (say, a
bottle of shampoo) can be tracked              Meanwhile, just as cyberspace is
from its production line to the store          importing the real world, it is itself
where it is sold and even associated           being exported to that physical
with an individual consumer. This              space through the geospatial web
information can be used for a range of         and location-based services (LBS)
purposes, from promoting efficiency              technology. These Internet-rendered
in the supply chain to allowing the            services superimpose themselves on
recall of faulty products.                     the real world and offer web-based
                                               views of real-world locations overlaid
    Such issues point to the problem of technological neutrality – that is, the question of
    whether technology is neutral or whether it is laden with values. Values may be ascribed
    during the development of a language, and someone or something needs to choose
    how to order things – for example deciding if a human falls into the same category as an
    object, or how categories should overlap.                                                  9
The Technologies as a Short Story

       with relevant information (e.g., home     them as available, in accordance with
       prices, crime rates, or hiking trails).   some cost allocation scheme.
       The line separating the “real world”
       and “cyberspace” has already begun        Should a combination of ubiquitous
       to blur; in time, these two worlds may    networking and grid computing come
       be integrated.                            about, the Information Society would
                                                 find itself in a world of ubiquitous
       However, the Information Society is       computing – at which point the
       not there yet. Huge swaths of the globe   physical and digital worlds will become
       remain without Internet connectivity,     less distinguishable. Every object
       particularly in the developing world.     – even doors, clocks, refrigerators, or
       While this territory historically has     watches – will be able communicate its
       seemed vast, it may not be long before    status and respond to its environment.
       global connectivity is realized. The      Meanwhile, computing power itself
       advent of mesh networking, which          may continue growing exponentially,
       allows network-enabled devices (e.g.,     supported by new technologies such
       mobile phones) to establish a peer-       as optical or quantum computing,
       to-peer network spontaneously, offers      which will be important for processing
       one means of extending the range          this immense quantity of data. In
       of connectivity without requiring an      combination with a massive computing
       expensive infrastructure. The evolving    grid, this force could constitute a large
       ability of mobile phones and other        virtual “brain” that continuously pushes
       electronic devices to connect to          computational limits in an expanding
       the Internet and to each other will       universe.
       expand the reach of mesh networks,
       perhaps eventually extending a global     This story tells of a bright future in
       network to every location on earth in     which emerging technologies are
       ubiquitous networking.                    applied to the benefit of all human-
                                                 ity. History suggests, however, that
       Of course, a network comprised            technology can also be used to limit
       largely of devices without significant     rather than to promote human rights
       computing power has limitations           and dignity. Thus, it is important to
       in terms of computing resources,          consider how these technologies
       data storage and accessibility. This      may promote or thwart the realiza-
       problem could be addressed by grid        tion of infoethics goals.
       computing, whereby storage and
       computing power are pooled in a
       network, with people tapping into
10     resources as needed and providing
                    Infoethics Goals for
                   Neutral Technologies

Information and communication                 But technology in itself is neutral; it
technologies (ICTs) are an increasingly       does not directly contribute to the
powerful force in the modern world.           advancement of human rights. Many
Their influence can be seen in all             technologies have multiple possible
spheres of public life, from business         applications, some of which may
interactions and education to politics        serve to further this goal, others of
and international affairs. These               which may hinder it.
technologies, particularly the Internet,
have also become a dominant                   It is therefore imperative that emer-
mechanism for conducting private              ging technologies be examined in
affairs and participating in society.          light of their impact on the exercise
Advancing technology frequently               of human rights. As described
serves to allow prior activities to be        above, the infoethics goals provide
performed more easily and can open            a framework for this examination.
up entirely new possibilities.                The first infoethics goal, derived from
                                              the Universal Declaration of Human
Moreover, the rate at which tech-             Rights,4 establishes the fundamental
nology advances is itself increasing.         priority of putting technology in the
Moore’s Law,3 which states that the           service of human rights. Stemming
computing power of a single mi-               from that goal are three others that
croprocessor grows exponentially,             aim to promote the public domain,
applies to other technologies as              diversity of content, and access
well. The Internet and related tech-          to information and the means of
nologies allow for new ideas and              communication – with these three
inventions to be distributed far more         based on the premise that all people
rapidly than before, and encourage            should be able to share in the
the ever-increasing pace of tech-             benefits of ICTs.
nological growth.

    See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moore%27s_law (viewed November 8, 2006).
    UN General Assembly resolution 217 A (III) of 10 December 1948.                     11
Infoethics Goals for Neutral Technologies

        Human Rights and Fundamental             cal, jurisdictional or international
        Freedoms                                 status of the country or territory to
                                                 which a person belongs, whether
        Technology can serve to promote or       it be independent, trust, non-self-
        restrict human rights. The Information   governing or under any other
        Society should foster the use of         limitation of sovereignty.
        emerging technologies in such a way
        as to maximize the benefits that they     ICTs enable the collection and pars-
        provide while minimizing the harms.      ing of information and, as such, allow
        In many cases, this promotion may be     myriad categorizations. Personal data
        less a matter of technological control   may be broken down to such elements
        than of oversight: establishing the      as ethnicity, gender, religion, national-
        proper legal or regulatory system to     ity, and socio-economic status, among
        ensure that technology capable of        others. From an infoethics perspec-
        abuse is not in fact abused, and that    tive, it is important to ensure that the
        the benefits of technology are shared     categorization of data elements ac-
        among all.                               cording to such lines does not result in
                                                 interference with a person’s rights and
        In discussing human rights, we take      freedoms.
        as a starting point the Universal
        Declaration of Human Rights. Many        ARTICLE 3:
        of the rights stated in this document
        are particularly important when          Everyone has the right to life,
        considering the ethical ramifications     liberty and security of person.
        of new technologies and their
        potential uses. For the purposes of      The right to life, liberty and security
        this study, key provisions include:      of person is one of the most
                                                 fundamental rights included in the
        ARTICLE 2:                               Universal Declaration of Human Rights,
                                                 and yet among the most difficult
        Everyone is entitled to all the rights   to define. This right encompasses a
        and freedoms set forth in this           right of access to all of the necessities
        Declaration, without distinction of      of life, including food and shelter.
        any kind, such as race, colour, sex,
        language, religion, political or other   ICTs contribute to health-improving
        opinion, national or social origin,      and even life-saving benefits, ranging
        property, birth or other status.         from clean-air technologies and
        Furthermore, no distinction shall        coordinated medical research to early
12      be made on the basis of the politi-      emergency alerts and quick access
                                              Infoethics Goals for Neutral Technologies

to medical information. Does a right        in violation of this Declaration and
to life encompass universal access          against any incitement to such
to these benefits of technology,             discrimination.
regardless of ability to pay?
                                            The concept of equal protection can
So, too, the economic efficiencies            be aided or hindered by the deploy-
brought on by ICTs may raise the            ment of ICTs. Technologies that serve
standard of living in many areas of         to provide all people with equal
the world. Hence, the economic              opportunity and access, without
gains normally translate into better        discrimination, serve this provision.
enjoyment of the right to life, liberty     However, technology can also be
and security of person.                     implemented to identify members of
                                            specific groups, and thus to enable
While this Article may be construed         discrimination against those groups.
as entailing a right of access to the
information, ideas, cultural elements,      ARTICLE 11:
and communication media that allow
people to take part in society, it may      (1) Everyone charged with a
also be read to allow an individual             penal offence has the right to
to opt out of participating in ICT              be presumed innocent until
systems. For example, under this                proved guilty according to
right a person might be permitted               law in a public trial at which
to refuse to have an ICT device                 he has had all the guarantees
implanted into his body. If such an             necessary for his defence.
implant were to become de facto
requirement for participation in the        (2) No one shall be held guilty of
Information Society, should the law             any penal offence on account
step in to allow that person to have            of any act or omission which
access to all of the necessities of life,       did not constitute a penal
including food and shelter, despite             offence, under national or
his refusal to receive the implant?             international law, at the time
                                                when it was committed. Nor
ARTICLE 7:                                      shall a heavier penalty be
                                                imposed than the one that
All are equal before the law and                was applicable at the time the
are entitled without any discrimi-              penal offence was committed.
nation to equal protection of the
law. All are entitled to equal pro-         Data that is gathered or analyzed by
tection against any discrimination          technology is increasingly used in      13
Infoethics Goals for Neutral Technologies

        judicial proceedings. When evidence               ICTs can afford anonymity, allowing
        stemming from the application of                  people to feel comfortable sharing
        technology contradicts a person’s tes-            ideas they might not air if their names
        timony, a dilemma arises as to which              were associated with these ideas. In
        account deserves more credence.                   this sense, privacy and anonymity in
        Despite the tendency of society to trust          communication bear a close relation-
        evidence produced by machines on                  ship to the right to seek, receive and
        the basis of general statistical accuracy,        impart information (Article 19) as well
        computer code may carry mistakes or               as the right to associate or assemble
        be corrupted. In this sense, then, there          (Article 20).
        are infoethics nuances in the use of
        technology to establish “proof”.                  Efforts to protect privacy, however,
                                                          may impose other costs on society,
        ARTICLE 12:                                       and efforts to protect other rights may
                                                          have privacy implications. For exam-
        No one shall be subjected to arbi-                ple, any protection that technology
        trary interference with his privacy,              provides for anonymous, secure com-
        family, home or correspondence,                   munication may limit the effectiveness
        nor to attacks upon his honor and                 of protection against attacks on a
        reputation. Everyone has the right                person’s “honor and reputation.”
        to the protection of the law against
        such interference or attacks.                     Privacy concerns are also raised by
                                                          the increasing collection of personal
        ICTs can serve to protect or limit                data by private and governmental
        the right of privacy. For example,                entities. A question receiving grow-
        encryption technologies can make                  ing attention is the duty that private
        communication between private                     companies have to safeguard con-
        parties confidential, or they can be               sumers’personal data, especially in the
        modified to allow outside interests                international context of the Internet.
        (such as governments) to intercept                There are also questions regarding
        this communication. Likewise, sur-                governmental treatment of personal
        veillance technologies can serve to               data, particularly concerning what
        guard privacy, but they may also be               rules apply when different govern-
        used as tools to infringe on the pri-             ments share such information.5
        vacy of others.

            The United States and the European Union are currently embroiled in a dispute concerning
            the disclosure and use of information about airline passengers. See “Air Security Talks Fail,”
14          Daily Mail, October 2, 2006, p. 32.
                                                   Infoethics Goals for Neutral Technologies

Of course, there are questions as to             ARTICLE 19:
what constitutes “arbitrary” and “in-
terference”. If a policy applies across          Everyone has the right to freedom
the board and is supported by what               of opinion and expression; this
seem to be reasonable arguments, is              right includes freedom to hold
it “arbitrary”? If surveillance poses no         opinions without interference and
inconvenience, is it “interference”?6            to seek, receive and impart infor-
                                                 mation and ideas through any
ARTICLE 18:                                      media and regardless of frontiers.

Everyone has the right to freedom                As with the right of privacy, the
of thought, conscience and reli-                 right to freedom of opinion and
gion; this right includes freedom                expression in the Information Society
to change his religion or belief,                is tightly intertwined with ICTs.
and freedom, either alone or in                  Technologies can open channels by
community with others and in                     which information may be shared
public or private, to manifest his               and opinions expressed; it can also
religion or belief in teaching, prac-            be used to restrict the information
tice, worship and observance.                    available7 and to identify and interfere
                                                 with people expressing alternative
ICTs and thought, conscience and                 opinions.8 In this sense, there is a link
religion can interact in various ways.           between privacy (Article 12) and the
First, and most simply, ICTs can be              freedom to seek, receive and impart
used to further religious interests              information.
and to allow persons to communi-
cate on issues of faith. If, however,            Moreover, the right to freedom
the use of technology is contrary                of opinion and expression loses
to beliefs, then the observance of               value without the ability actually to
these beliefs may be threatened                  communicate one’s views to others.
by making the use of technology                  ICTs can be used to create a public
mandatory or practically necessary               forum where this communication
to function in the modern world.                 can take place, or it can restrict
                                                 expression by placing limits on a

    See Lawrence Lessig, Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace, New York: Basic Books, 1999, Ch.
    11: “Privacy”.
    For example, many countries currently use filtering software to limit the information that
    citizens can access on the Internet. See http://www.opennetinitiative.org/.
    See, e.g., http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=16402 (describing the prosecution of
    dissidents based on information provided by Yahoo!).                                         15
Infoethics Goals for Neutral Technologies

        person’s ability to communicate with            and association (Article 20) since
        others. The right to seek, receive,             accessing and disseminating ideas
        and impart information, therefore, is           often entail connecting with others
        closely tied to freedom of assembly             in the Information Society.

                                       Anonymous Expression
                                          By Wendy Seltzer9

            Anonymous expression has a long and distinguished tradition. Voltaire and George
            Eliot wrote under pseudonyms. Support for the ratification of the U.S. Constitution
            was procured through anonymous articles in the Federalist Papers. Modern-day
            bloggers and mailing-list contributors may not use the same flowery language and
            elegant pseudonyms, but their freedom of expression is no less important. The tech-
            nology they use can facilitate either identification or anonymity – and that will affect
            the range and content of online expression.
             Anonymity can make possible or enhance many expressive activities. The freedom
            to impart information thus includes the right to speak anonymously; freedom of as-
            sembly includes the right to associate without giving a name or without revealing
            group membership to outsiders; and the freedom to seek and receive information
            includes the right to listen, watch, and read privately.
            Protections for anonymity are vital to democratic discourse. Allowing dissenters
            to hide their identities frees them to express minority views critical to an informed
            democratic discourse. Otherwise, fear that their identity may be uncovered and that
            they may be persecuted on account of their speech, may prevent those in political,
            ethnic, religious, or other minority groups from speaking at all. That silence in turn
            deprives the whole public of access to those ideas.

            Wendy Seltzer is Visiting Assistant Professor of Law, Brooklyn Law School, and a fellow at
16          the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School.
                                               Infoethics Goals for Neutral Technologies

ARTICLE 20:                                  – with technology reinforcing this
 (1) Everyone has the right to
     freedom of peaceful assembly            ARTICLE 21:
     and association.
(2) No one may be compelled to               (1) Everyone has the right to
     belong to an association.                   take part in the government
                                                 of his country, directly or
The right of association is affected              through freely chosen repre-
by ICTs in various ways. Technology              sentatives.
may serve to enable this right by
providing the means of facilitating          (2) Everyone has the right of
contacts, coordinating exchanges,                equal access to public service
and interacting with other persons in            in his country.
an association. However, technology
can also hinder this right, if used to       (3) The will of the people shall
identify and target members of an                be the basis of the authority
association, or to disrupt or otherwise          of government; this will shall
prevent peaceful assembly.                       be expressed in periodic and
                                                 genuine elections which shall
Technology also presents a threat to             be by universal and equal
the right to refrain from joining an             suffrage and shall be held by
association. This “right to be alone”            secret vote or by equivalent
depends in no small part on the                  free voting procedures.
individual’s choice not to interact
with others. Technology can infringe         Democratic elections, like many other
upon that right, requiring that a            facets of modern life, are becoming
person associate with others in order        increasingly reliant on technology.
to obtain the full benefits available to      Political candidates rely on media and
members of society. It can also enable       communication networks to express
the identification and stigmatization         their views and coordinate sup-
of those who choose not to join a            porters. Candidates are not alone in
given association.                           doing so; politically active groups are
                                             also increasingly using the Internet to
As noted above, the rights to enjoy          obtain grass-roots support for their
privacy (Article 12) and to seek, receive,   proposals and to build a constituency
and impart information (Article 19)          and thus a voice.
are linked to this package of rights
Infoethics Goals for Neutral Technologies

        Political use of ICTs can be harmful,                  friendship among all nations,
        however, where technology is abused                    racial or religious groups, and
        to further a political candidacy or                    shall further the activities of
        agenda.10 Furthermore, the increasing                  the United Nations for the
        use of technology in politics can                      maintenance of peace.
        present a barrier to entry, where certain
        classes of persons are effectively                (3) Parents have a prior right to
        barred from political activity if ICTs               choose the kind of education
        are not broadly available for their                  that shall be given to their
        use. Finally, as electronic voting is                children.
        adopted as a means for carrying out
        elections, security against corruption is        Education is becoming reliant on tech-
        increasingly dependent on specialists.           nology in two ways. First, education
                                                         about technology itself is growing
        ARTICLE 26:                                      in perceived importance and value
                                                         as technology emerges as a domi-
        (1) Everyone has the right to                    nant facet of business and thus a
            education. Education shall be                viable career route for many learners.
            free, at least in the elemen-                Second, technology is used to enable
            tary and fundamental stages.                 education on a vast range of subjects,
            Elementary education shall                   allowing learners to improve their
            be compulsory. Technical and                 access to outside sources of informa-
            professional education shall                 tion, use multimedia educational
            be made generally available                  materials, and interact with teachers
            and higher education shall                   and fellow learners in new ways.
            be equally accessible to all on
            the basis of merit.                          For these reasons, the single greatest
                                                         threat that ICTs pose to the right to
        (2) Education shall be directed to               education is the possibility that they
            the full development of the                  will serve to increase stratification
            human personality and to the                 based on income level and access
            strengthening of respect for                 to technology. As ICTs become a key
            human rights and fundamental                 component in an educational system,
            freedoms. It shall promote                   learners who are unable to obtain
            understanding, tolerance and                 access to the technology have fewer
             For example, staff members of several members of the U.S. Congress have altered online
             encyclopedia entries about their employer, sometimes removing facts that cast the Senator
             or Representative in a negative light. See http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/4695376.
18           stm.
                                                   Infoethics Goals for Neutral Technologies

resources available to them; moreo-                   from any scientific, literary or
ver, the quality of non-technological                 artistic production of which
educational resources may decline as                  he is the author.
a result of a greater focus on online
education. Encouraging programmes               Perhaps the greatest promise of ICTs
that seek to prevent this result should         is the concept of a true information
be a primary concern of governments             commons, a medium that allows
and infoethicists.11                            for the increasingly rapid discovery
                                                and distribution of new ideas. At the
Finally, technology can impact the              same time, technology can serve
ability of parents to choose the edu-           as a barrier to the spread of new
cation presented to their children.             ideas. For example, ideas that are
ICTs can provide a broad range                  only available on a specific medium
of options, allowing schools and                may infringe on the rights of those
parents to create individually crafted          who have no access to the required
curricula that take advantage of the            technology. Furthermore, even those
wide range of options. Conversely,              with access to the Internet and other
however, parents may find it difficult             forms of ICTs can be blocked from
to limit the information that their             full participation in cultural life by
children access as part of their educa-         technological means, for example
tion precisely because of the ease of           technology implementing data use
access provided by technology.                  restrictions.

ARTICLE 27:                                     Technology also poses a threat
                                                to existing intellectual property
(1) Everyone has the right freely               regimes and thus to the protection of
    to participate in the cul-                  rights-holders interests. File-sharing
    tural life of the community, to             networks and other activities made
    enjoy the arts and to share in              possible by new technology have
    scientific advancement and                   made the infringement of copyright
    its benefits.                                much easier to effectuate and harder
                                                to prevent or prosecute.
(2) Everyone has the right to the
    protection of the moral and                 In order to encourage a vibrant
    material interests resulting                cultural life for all, infoethics must
     Two such programmes are the “One Laptop per Child” programme at the Massachusetts
     Institute of Technology (see text box, infra, and http://laptop.media.mit.edu/) and the
     Global Education and Learning Community (see http://www.sun.com/products-n-
     solutions/edu/gelc/).                                                                     19
Infoethics Goals for Neutral Technologies

        consider the role that technological             actions of their elected leaders,
        advancement may play in strength-                and thus allowing all persons
        ening or weakening the enforcement               to participate in the process of
        of intellectual property rights.                 government;

        Access to Information and                   •    Information about personal
        Communication                                    data retained by entities, allo-
                                                         wing individuals to understand
        In order for human rights to be                  the extent to which actions may
        fully operational in the Information             or may not be private;
        Society, people need access to infor-
        mation, which in turn requires access       •    Scientific and historical data,
        to the means by which it is delivered.           allowing all persons full access to
        Therefore, infoethics goals must also            the knowledge that they need to
        focus on three major categories of               interpret events and to further
        access to information and communi-               the progress of knowledge;
        cation that are essential to the exercise
        of human rights: (i) the public domain      •    Information relating to health
        of knowledge and creative works;                 hazards, allowing persons to
        (ii) diversity of content on information         understand the risks to which
        and communication networks; and                  they may be exposed and to act
        (iii) unfettered access to such informa-         accordingly;
        tion (including the means of delivery
        and the ability to use content).            •    Information on the state
                                                         of technology, allowing the
        í    Public Domain                               public to consider how the
                                                         Information Society might guard
        One primary goal of infoethics is                against information warfare and
        to extend the public domain of                   other threats to human rights.
        information; that is, to define an illus-
        trative set of knowledge, information,      •    Creative works that are part
        cultural and creative works that                 of a shared cultural base, al-
        should be made available to every                lowing persons to participate
        person. This category contains, but is           actively in their community and
        not necessarily limited to:                      cultural history.

        •    Government documents, allo-            UNESCO’s Recommendation concerning
             wing an informed democracy             the Promotion and Use of Multilingualism
20           to observe and evaluate the            and Universal Access to Cyberspace,
                                                         Infoethics Goals for Neutral Technologies

adopted at its 32nd session in October                remove certain content from the
2003, provides the following definition                public domain, deeming exposure to
of public domain information: “Public                 this material harmful to the popula-
domain information is publicly acces-                 tion at large.12 Scientific research and
sible information, the use of which                   knowledge may be limited by govern-
does not infringe any legal right, or                 ment regulation, often due to ethical
any obligation of confidentiality. It thus             concerns.13 Intellectual property laws
refers on the one hand to the realm of                frequently reduce the public domain
all works or objects of related rights,               by granting exclusive license over
which can be exploited by everybody                   creative works to the holder of the in-
without any authorization, for instance               tellectual property rights, with varying
because protection is not granted                     degrees of fair use permitted.14
under national or international law, or
because of the expiration of the term of              However, infoethics perhaps need
protection. It refers on the other hand               not determine whether any given line
to public data and official information                 between “public domain” and restricted
produced and voluntarily made avail-                  information or intellectual property is
able by governments or international                  “right.” Instead, infoethics should focus
organizations.”                                       on ensuring that information that is
                                                      clearly part of the public domain is
The extent of the public domain is                    available to all persons. Information on
frequently contested. Public access                   health risks of new technologies should
to government documents and de-                       be readily available and distributed to
liberations is naturally restricted by                all potential users. Creative works that
the need for confidentiality in certain                are part of the public domain should be
affairs; similarly, access to personal                 clearly indicated as such. Governments
information is constrained by privacy                 should allow access to documents that
concerns. Some nations choose to                      are not properly secret,15 including
     In Germany, for example, content promoting neo-Nazi organizations or denying the
     Holocaust is prohibited. See Deutsche Welle, “Trial Highlights Limits of Free Speech in
     Germany,” available at http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,2144,1896750,00.html
     (describing the criminal trial of Ernst Zündel on charges of “inciting racial hatred” based
     on his denial of the Holocaust).
     For example, the UN has recently passed a resolution urging Member States to prohibit
     human cloning in any form, but it was unable to reach an agreement to pass a binding form
     of the same resolution. See United Nations Declaration on Human Cloning, U.N. Doc. No.
     A/59/516/Add.1 (2005).
     See Ruth Okediji, “Towards an International Fair Use Doctrine,” 39 Columbia J. Transnat L.
     75 (2000).
     South Africa provides individuals a right of action to obtain information held by private entities.
     See Promotion of Access to Information Act, Act No. 2 of 2000 (The Republic of South Africa).         21
Infoethics Goals for Neutral Technologies

        making those documents available                 and existing channels may have no
        over commonly used communication                 incentive to accept content from
        and information media.                           other sources or to provide diverse
        í      Diversity of Content on
               Information Networks                      In Brazil, observers have expressed
                                                         concern about the diversity of
        ICTs also can have a great impact on             content available on cellular phone
        the diversity of content on informa-             networks.18 Cellular phone networks
        tion networks. In an ideal society,              are currently the dominant means of
        the content available on information             distributing interactive content; while
        networks should reflect the diver-                45% of the population has access to
        sity of legitimate preferences of the            cellular phones, only 12% has access
        population. In addition, the informa-            to the Internet. Not surprisingly,
        tion networks should be open to                  then, cellular phone networks are
        content from all sources, allowing               increasingly becoming carriers of var-
        any interested person to be a creator            ious forms of content beyond voice
        of content rather than a mere con-               telephony; music, video, interactive
        sumer.                                           games, and other material can be
                                                         accessed on cellular phone networks.
        Broadcast media, such as television              Thus, as with traditional media enter-
        and radio, allow content to be rap-              prises, cellular phone companies
        idly delivered to consumers in distant           may have exclusive control over the
        places. However, broadcast media                 content available to a large fraction
        tends to cater to the population                 of the population, and therefore have
        segments with the most economic                  the potential to promote or limit the
        power; the substantial startup costs             delivery of available content.
        of operating a television channel or
        radio station deter the distribution of          ICTs offer the potential to overcome
        content targeted at niche audiences,16           these obstacles to content diversity.
             Some nations have attempted to address this problem through regulation. In Germany,
             for example, each state must either provide a public network supplying diverse content or
             must regulate private networks to ensure that they provide a diversity of content matched
             to the interests of subsets of the population. See Uli Widmaier, “German Broadcast
             Regulation: A Model for a New First Amendment?”, 21 B.C. Int’l & Comp. L. Rev. 75, 93-99
             The United States attempted to regulate the relationship between television networks and
             the creators of television programming, but has abandoned that effort. See Christopher S.
             Yoo, “Beyond Network Neutrality,” 19 Harvard J. L. & Tech. 1, Fall 2005, p. 49 n.188.
22      18
              Email conversation with Ronaldo Lemos, Creative Commons Brazil, February 2006.
                                                  Infoethics Goals for Neutral Technologies

In principle, ICTs substantially reduce        a country whose citizens have limited
the cost of producing and distribut-           access to computers and the Internet
ing content, allowing diversity of             cannot achieve the goal of universal
both creative works and creators.              access to information simply by
In allowing the generation of more             ensuring that content is available
interactive content, they transform            online. Instead, it must determine the
consumers into active participants.            best course of actually making that
                                               content available to its population.
í      Unfettered Access to                    This might be achieved by deploying
       Information                             new technologies like web-enabled
                                               mobile phones to increase connec-
Establishing a base of public domain           tivity; it might also be accomplished
information and diversity of content           by ensuring that the content is also
on information networks are laud-              available in other forms to those who
able goals. However, the fulfillment            cannot access it online.
of the spirit of these goals depends
on the actual ability of persons to            Diversity of content is heavily reliant
access and use the content and infor-          on maintaining “network neutrality”
mation that the public domain and              so that no single entity can serve to
diversity make available. Thus, one            limit access to (legal) content.19 Under
of the dominant goals of infoethics            network neutrality, each node on the
is to achieve universal access to all          network is content-blind, passing
legal content. There are two, largely          along all traffic without concern as
distinct, components to this goal:             to its type or content. Thus, if fully im-
ensuring that all persons are able to          plemented, network neutrality would
obtain the content, and ensuring that          require that all nodes on a network
all persons are able to use the content        (including Internet service providers,
that they obtain.                              or ISPs) pass along traffic without
                                               concern for (or even identification of )
The ability to obtain content requires         its origin, destination, and content.
access to the information networks
or other channels of distribution,             Complete neutrality, however, carries
which can be accomplished either               its own hazards: a network that is
by increasing access to a particular           entirely content-neutral encourages
channel or by providing additional             the diversity of legal content, but it
channels of distribution. For instance,        also permits various forms of illegal

     See, e.g., Mark N. Cooper ed., Open Architecture as Communications Policy, Center for
     Internet and Society at Stanford Law School, 2004.                                      23
Infoethics Goals for Neutral Technologies

        content, ranging from pornography                   sites, removing matches that link to
        to spam and viruses. Infoethics should              Nazi or anti-Semitic content.21 Again,
        thus seek to shape the future of ICTs               however, this capability is not ethically
        to retain the positive features of                  questionable per se; it may simply
        network neutrality while encouraging                require oversight to ensure that it is
        developments that limit its harms.20                being utilized to remove only illegiti-
        A key question here is whether edge                 mate content.22
        devices might better address harms
        than could changes to the network                   If information is distributed via ICTs,
        itself since edge devices may be                    access to it fundamentally requires
        better technically and are more likely              access to the technology itself.
        to rest under the user’s control.                   Increasingly, projects are being
                                                            launched to remedy lack of ICTs
        Search engines present another access               access, providing a solution that may
        point where the practical accessibility             be more cost-effective and more
        of content may be limited. Given the                beneficial than projects to provide
        sheer volume of data available on the               information in various offline formats.
        Internet, many users rely on search en-             The One Laptop per Child Foundation,
        gines to locate desired content; thus,              for instance, seeks to leverage ad-
        any content that cannot be accessed                 vancing technology to produce
        via search engines may be effectively                cheap, low-powered computers with
        inaccessible. Like ISPs, search engines             wireless network capacity that can be
        thus have the potential to act as a                 widely distributed in poorer segments
        chokepoint and to affect the diversity               of the world.23 (See Text Box, below.)
        of content available on an information              Moreover, as will be discussed in the
        network, promoting some content                     sections that follow, the problem of
        by placing it atop a list of search                 exclusion could diminish as the cost
        results while selectively filtering                  of networked computing drops.
        other content. Google, for example,
        has filtered searches conducted on                   Still, even if the cost of ICTs declines
        its French and German language                      to a point where today’s technology
             See Jonathan Zittrain, “Without a Net,” in Legal Affairs (January - February 2006), available at
             See http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/filtering/google/results1.html; cf. Isabell Rorive,
             “Freedom of Expression in the Information Society,” Working Paper for the Preparatory
             Group on Human Rights, the Rule of Law and the Information Society 8, Sept. 15, 2004
             (discussing censorship by search engines in France, Germany, and China).
             In addition, users could configure personal filters to prevent exposure to undesired
24      23
             See http://laptop.org/.
                                            Infoethics Goals for Neutral Technologies

becomes affordable for all, there will     Ensuring that all persons are able
always be new advancements that           to use the content that they obtain
begin with limited accessibility. In      poses other challenges. Even where
this regard, the process of ICTs diffu-    content is “available,” it is of little value
sion warrants attention.                  unless it can in fact be understood
                                          and used. Thus, universal access to
In the development of information         information requires that content
networks, it is important to ensure       be distributed multilingually, or that
that standards organizations and          technology be deployed to translate
the like are not overly influenced         content into a usable form. Similarly,
by particular agendas. Allowing any       technology can be used to make infor-
one group to capture a regulatory or      mation accessible to the physically
standard-setting organization prevents    disabled. In addition, content should
these organizations from achieving a      be easily machine-readable; public
balance between interests. Designers      domain content in particular should
of network technologies could be          be released in a format that is broadly
mandated or given incentives to offer      used and does not require specific
the greatest overall benefit to society,   applications or devices to access.
rather than to support the demands of
a specific group (e.g., owners of copy-
righted content).

Infoethics Goals for Neutral Technologies

                                One Laptop per Child: The $100 Laptop
                                           By Samuel Klein

             The “One Laptop per Child” (OLPC) initiative, conceived at the MIT Media Lab and first
             announced in January 2005, is an effort to mass-produce cheap, durable laptops and to
             distribute them throughout the world to improve education for children. The stated goal
             of the project is “to provide children around the world with new opportunities to explore,
             experiment, and express themselves.” If all goes as planned, these opportunities will be
             provided entirely through the laptops, which, equipped with free software, will be tools for
             creating and receiving content.
             The project to date has focused on developing cheap, durable hardware designs, particularly
             a low-cost display – with a target production cost of $100 per laptop in its early stages (less
             later) – and building a network of partners to help produce the necessary hardware and
             software. The project relies on economies of scale: The production schedule calls for at least
             5 million laptops. The laptop will have built-in wireless capability, will work as part of a local
             mesh network when there is no access to the global Internet, and will support innovative
             power sources, including winding by hand.
             The laptops are meant to be widely distributed within a given area, one to every child
             in a school or region. Distribution is to be carried out through schools via national
             governments. The OLPC Chairman, Nicholas Negroponte, says the team has had initial
             discussions with officials in China, India, Brazil, Argentina, Egypt, Nigeria, and Thailand;24
             the team recognizes, however, that unless a country can provide one laptop for every
             child in its population, hard decisions about where and how to distribute the laptops
             must be made.
             There are philosophical goals to the project, in addition to the technical ones. Laptops
             were chosen in part because they can be taken home and can engage the whole family.
             A stated intent is that children will own their laptops, though these may be among the
             most expensive and novel personal items in their neighborhood.

             From the One Laptop Per Child FAQ: http://laptop.org/faq.en_US.html (viewed November
26           8, 2006).
     The development of a deployment and education plan – from the design of software
     and content to be included on the machine, to research and suggestions on how to
     implement an effective “One Laptop per Child” teaching environment – is one of the more
     recent project goals to take form. OLPC is currently soliciting input on how to proceed
     with and study this goal.25 While OLPC is an educational project, this effort is not simply
     a question of pedagogy. Distributing millions of laptops to areas where computers are
     scarce, and providing every member of a community’s youngest generation with “a
     world view” and with exotic tools and knowledge completely foreign to their elders,
     disrupts the status quo in a significant way.
     The question of how to select content, distribute the laptops, and recommend their uses,
     so as to produce desired change without unwanted social and cultural upheaval, is a crucial
     question and one on which many groups may wish to engage. For an initiative of its size, OLPC
     is unusually open to suggestions; the project has a publicly editable list of tasks that includes
     a request for panels of thinkers to study some of these issues and propose improvements
     and recommendations.26

     From http://wiki.laptop.org/wiki/OLPC_software_task_list#Eductional_community_engagement
     (viewed November 8, 2006): “We propose including other intellectuals, artists, civic leaders in order
     to provide a diversity of experience and expertise.”
     Id., http://wiki.laptop.org/wiki/OLPC_software_task_list#Strategic_research (viewed November
     8, 2006).                                                                                               27
     The Ethical Challenges of
     Emerging Technologies -
     Case Studies

     With the increasing importance of ICTs
     in the world comes a growing need            The Semantic Web
     to recognize the ethical ramifications
     of new technologies. Moreover, the           and Other Metadata
     rapid rate of technological change
     demands that we understand emer-
     ging technologies and their potential        What the Semantic Web Is
     effects as they are being developed,
     and not wait until the consequences          The Internet was conceived as a
     are manifest before we prepare for           mechanism to allow humans to initi-
     them. By understanding tomorrow’s            ate the exchange of text, images, and
     technologies in light of infoethics          other information. With the exponential
     goals, society can better anticipate         growth of content available on the
     their effects and deploy them in a            Internet, however, this is increasingly
     manner that leverages their benefits          becoming impractical. Search engines
     while mitigating potential harms.            seek to mitigate this problem by provi-
                                                  ding a tool to navigate the web, but
     The following case studies highlight         they provide only a partial solution. To
     some of these technologies and flag           make the web fully navigable, interop-
     many of the infoethics concerns that         erable metadata, or data about data, is
     accompany them.                              required. This metadata can also serve to
                                                  make the web more machine-readable,
                                                  allowing computers to evolve from
                                                  dumb tools to intelligent agents. The
                                                  semantic web27 promises to offer such

          The Semantic Web is an official project of the World Wide Web Consortium, which was
28        founded by Tim Berners-Lee, the web’s inventor.
                      The Ethical Challenges of Emerging Technologies - Case Studies

How the Semantic Web                              This new language should provide
Works                                             predictability in a cyberspace of
                                                  ever growing exchanges, with the
The Internet existed for nearly three             vocabulary of metadata lending
decades before it took off as a popular            greater precision as computers access
medium for information and commu-                 and analyze content directly.
nication.28 Although the Internet was
based on common computer “lan-                    The semantic web combines a set
guages”, or code, from the start (TCP/IP,         of computer languages30 to provide
SMTP, etc.), what triggered its uptake            machine-readable descriptions of
was the royalty-free nature of the lan-           web content. This metadata may be
guages of the “World Wide Web” (web)              created by humans or computers,
– that is, HTML and HTTP – and the                and is designed to provide context
fact that HTML was particularly user-             about the content without requiring
friendly. These two languages allowed             a person or machine to actually parse
the “loose coupling” of machines                  the content. Once a piece of informa-
involved in exchanging information                tion is tagged, the semantic web can
– meaning any web client seeking                  reason about it and develop contex-
information could talk to any web                 tual meanings based on observations
server, which could then provide                  about connections that the piece
that information remotely, in a form              of information has with others. This
that people could enjoy. Internet                 enables machines to search web sites
usage increased dramatically, and this            and carry out tasks in a standardized
phenomenon spurred the creation of                way.
more content, which in turn gave rise
to more exchange.                                 Although the name refers to “web”, this
                                                  initiative is geared toward enabling
Given the high volume of web content,             machines to handle data among a
the semantic web is being designed                range of Internet applications.
“to create a universal medium for
the exchange of data”29 – using the
same loose coupling properties for
programmatic data as there was for
human-rendered data with HTML.
     See History of the Internet (Wikipedia entry), http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internet_history
     (viewed November 8, 2006).
     See http://www.w3.org/Consortium/activities#SemanticWebActivity.
     For example, Resource Description Framework (RDF), Web Ontology Language (OWL),
     and Extensible Markup Language (XML).                                                          29
The Ethical Challenges of Emerging Technologies - Case Studies

       Ramifications and Concerns for new service or content providers.
                                                         In this regard, the semantic web’s
       The wealth of content available on                machine-readable labels could mark
       information networks, particularly the            content for discrimination and reduce
       Internet, is useful only if people can            the ability of users to generate and
       actually find and access the informa-              share material.
       tion that they need. The semantic
       web allows people to use computers                Moreover, some would contend that,
       as agents to search for appropriate               in giving users the ability to access
       content based on a wide range of                  only the content that they desire, the
       criteria – which could include the                semantic web could damage public
       public domain or intellectual property            discourse. The theory here is that full
       status of the content, alternate sources          participation in society requires a
       of the content in different formats or             forum in which a person can make his
       languages, or even the existence of               voice heard, but that the semantic web
       evidence serving to refute the view               and other technologies allow other
       offered in the content.                            users fully to customize their experi-
                                                         ences and to receive only the content
       The wealth of content is closely                  that they explicitly request. In other
       related to the Internet explosion,                words, the semantic web enables
       which is often credited to the“network            end-user insularity and so indirectly
       neutrality” principle that holds that             destroys the forum. Here again, the
       all traffic should be treated equally.              worry is that the semantic web could
       Oddly, the semantic web could cut                 in fact harm the very connectivity that
       against this neutrality by equipping              it was designed to promote.31
       parties with tools to filter Internet
       content based on its associated                   More theoretically, machines must
       metadata: ISPs, routers, or search                be programmed to categorize and
       engines could use the metadata to                 assign values to information – so that,
       distinguish between types of content              for example, personal data can be
       and grant preferential treatment to               distinguished from weather patterns
       certain traffic, raising barriers to entry          and flagged as warranting privacy. In
            See Cass R. Sunstein, “The Daily We,” Boston Review (Summer 2000), available at http://
            www.bostonreview.net/BR26.3/sunstein.html. Others would argue, however, that even a
            seemingly low rate of exposure to differing views via the Net (e.g., 15 per cent) may suggest
            greater public dialogue than had previously been the case. See work by Eszter Hargittai,
            Cross-Ideological Conversations among Bloggers, http://crookedtimber.org/2005/05/25/
            cross-ideological-conversations-among-bloggers/ visited November 8, 2006 (describing
            work by Eszter Hargittai, Jason Gallo and Sean Zehnder analyzing cross-linkages among
30          liberal and conservative political blogs).
                  The Ethical Challenges of Emerging Technologies - Case Studies

this sense, there are risks inherent in    This section first looks at how the
designing tools simply to exchange         automated exchange of data is
information without simultaneously         driving the need for digital identity
coding them to assign a higher             management tools that afford better
value to data relating to humans.          control over the flow of personal
Safeguarding human rights may              information. It sets the stage for the
require programming computers to           next case study, which explores how,
put personal data on a higher plane.       through biometrics, metadata can
                                           go beyond a person’s diverse digital
Still, one should not overstate the        personae to pinpoint an embodied
dangers of the semantic web. After         person.
all, these harms are possible even
without metadata and are far from
certain to occur even with metadata.       What Digital Identity
                                           Management Is
On balance, it seems the semantic
web will support the goal of promot-       Simply stated, digital identity man-
ing access to information by making        agement concerns the control of
existing content far easier to identify,   digitized information pertaining to
locate, and use.                           a person. This information is some-
                                           times referred to as “personal data,” or
                                           “personally identifiable information.”
                                           This latter term more precisely sug-
                                           gests that the data can be linked to
Digital Identity                           the specific individual involved.

Management                                 As originally designed, the architecture
                                           of the Internet did not provide a mech-
The previous case study discussed          anism to verify, or authenticate, the
how metadata is allowing increasingly      identities of users. Its designers were
sophisticated machine-to-machine           working in a different time and culture
exchanges. This increase in commu-         from today’s online environment, with
nication between machines creates          that early community of Internet users
the potential for good or harmful con-     comprising essentially a highly coop-
sequences, such as the lowering of         erative, high-trust society of computer
transaction costs in commerce or the       scientists. The Internet they brought to
launching of malicious virus attacks.      bear reflected this culture.

The Ethical Challenges of Emerging Technologies - Case Studies

       With the explosion in Internet                     of consumers who feel comfort-
       usage drawing strangers to interact                able participating in e-commerce.33
       at unprecedented rates, it is not                  People have learned to question
       surprising that the once trustful                  whether the person or entity at the
       atmosphere of the Internet has                     other end of a transaction is indeed
       changed, and that people are starting              who he, she, or it claims to be, and
       to view the space with growing                     people wonder if they can actually
       reserve. Put another way, the Internet             hold that other party accountable
       has undergone a sort of urbanization,              should something in the exchange
       where more and more people are                     go awry. By responding to an email
       gravitating toward it for its benefits,             or filling out an online form, will a
       but where the “traditional” sense of               person be a victim of phishing or
       community has broken down and                      pharming?34
       people find they must be on guard.
       Computer scientists are starting to                At the same time, it is natural for
       say: “In retrospect, we should have                Internet users to lament the fact that
       designed an authentication layer                   they currently have to remember
       into the Internet. Now, with the                   passwords and fill out all sorts of forms
       Internet scaled up large, and with so              when reserving a rental car, purchasing
       much commerce passing over it, the                 a book, or engaging in some other
       potential for fraud is enormous.”32                common transaction online. Although
                                                          this is a repetitive and often frustrating
       E-commerce statistics bear witness to              task, people have been “trained” to
       this shift. Statistics published last year         provide information in this way, and
       showed a sharp drop in the number                  do so without thinking.35

            Interview with Paul Trevithick, Project Lead of the Eclipse Foundation’s Higgins Trust
            Framework project, August 2005.
            Riva Richmond, “Internet Scams, Breaches Drive Buyers Off the Web, Survey Finds,” Wall
            Street Journal, June 23, 2005, p. B3, reporting on a Gartner study of 5000 online consumers.
            The article states that more than 42% of online shoppers and 28% of those who bank
            online are cutting back on these activities due to security and privacy issues.
            David Bank and Riva Richmond explain in “Information Security: Where the Dangers Are,”
            Wall Street Journal, July 18, 2005: “In ‘phishing’ scams, fraudsters send emails that appear
            to come from a trusted source, like Citibank or eBay. Click on a link in the email, and you’re
            directed to a fake Web site, where you’re asked to reveal account numbers, passwords
            and other private information… Then there’s ‘pharming,’ where hackers attack the server
            computers where legitimate Web sites are housed. Type in the address of the legitimate
            site, and you are redirected to a look-alike.”
            This point is often made by Kim Cameron, Microsoft’s Identity and Access Architect. He
            reminds industry colleagues that people are not stupid, but rather they have been given
32          poor tools for interacting online.
                       The Ethical Challenges of Emerging Technologies - Case Studies

Industry specialists say that digital iden-        meanwhile, the new system will also
tity management tools will allow online            verify the identity of that other party
exchanges to be much more secure                   to the transaction.
and convenient, as this technology will
enable enhanced control over digitized
information relating to a person.36                How Digital Identity
                                                   Management Works
Consumers have to date not em-
braced this technology because it                  This user-centric identity model has
has not yet been presented in a form               two primary parts: one that handles
they are willing to accept. Microsoft              the exchange of identity informa-
is still smarting from its past experi-            tion as it passes between endpoint
ence trying to provide such tools,37               computers or devices, and the other
and other technology companies                     that helps a user manage his iden-
have taken note: People do not want                tity information on his computer. For
a single, powerful company to be at                the part between devices, this new
the center of their trust relationships            system may be thought of as a set
or to occupy a monopoly position in                of rules for exchanging information39
handling their personal data.                      (called computer protocols) in the
                                                   form of packaged, sealed “tokens”.
Technology developers38 are there-                 The user can hire whatever identity
fore now focusing on user-centric                  provider he wants to guarantee his
approaches to digital identity man-                information and package it into
agement. In this new paradigm, a                   tokens, even employing different pro-
person will choose among different                  viders for different purposes (e.g., one
“identity providers” to take care of his           to handle credit card details; another
personal data, with his permission                 to manage core personal information
then required for that identity provider           like name and date of birth; another
to pass his information to another                 to process medical records; etc.).
person or entity in a transaction;                 Identity providers may reside on a
     See, e.g., Kim Cameron’s “Identity Weblog” at http://www.identityblog.com/, Dick Hardt’s
     “Identity 2.0” weblog at http://www.identity20.com/, and others available at http://www.
     In the past several years the market has largely rejected Microsoft’s “Passport” identity
     management systems. The market also resoundingly rejected Passport’s predecessor,
     OpenID, Sxip, the Liberty Alliance, Shibboleth, Passel, and other industry players have joined
     Microsoft in the quest to provide identity management tools that the market will accept.
     A consortium involving Microsoft, IBM, and other technology firms developed the
     standards for this exchange as part of a larger set of standards for web services.               33
The Ethical Challenges of Emerging Technologies - Case Studies

       person’s computer or device, or they          computers or cellular phones or other
       may be located elsewhere, accessible          mobile devices. This agent will be the
       through the Internet.                         sole component of the digital identity
                                                     system with which the user will need
       So, for example, when a person wants          to authenticate himself directly (e.g.,
       to conduct an online transaction, the         through a fingerprint scan).
       computer or device on the other
       party’s end (in industry parlance, the        As the trusted intermediary, a person’s
       “relying party”) will indicate to his         identity agent will sit at the center of
       “agent” what package of information           the user’s communication and have
       is needed. The agent will then request        access to all identity information
       a token containing these claims from          exchanged. It will unwrap a token and
       one or more identity providers that           translate the claims from one system’s
       the person has entrusted with this            language into a format recognizable
       information; the identity provider(s)         to another. To protect privacy insofar
       will then pass the token to the relying       as possible, this trusted intermediary
       party. A person can supervise this            will ideally keep to a minimum the
       exchange every time it occurs, or he          amount of information disclosed for
       can do so once and then opt to let the        a given transaction. In many cases,
       exchange take place automatically             this may require that the information
       henceforth.                                   in a given token be transformed into
                                                     an alternate token corresponding
       The second part of the system is what         with a specific request. For example,
       takes place on a person’s computer            the intermediary will be able to take
       or device. Instead of remembering             information from a token vouching
       passwords or typing in an array of            that a person was born on a specific
       information in an online order form, a        date (e.g., July 20, 1969) and translate
       person conducting e-commerce will             it so that the new claim reveals
       simply choose a visual representation         nothing more than that the person is
       or icon of the particular package             indeed over 21 years old.
       needed (e.g., an icon symbolizing
       banking, medical, or tax information).        Putting theory into practice, Microsoft
       When he chooses that icon, his agent          is planning to roll out a user-friendly
       initiates a call for the release of digital   token exchange system with visual
       tokens by identity providers to the           icons called “Cardspace” that will
       relying party, as described above.            resemble cards that people currently
       The agent will be able to operate on          carry in their wallets, such as a driver’s
       all sorts of devices, be they desktop         license, a credit card, etc. While the
                      The Ethical Challenges of Emerging Technologies - Case Studies

plan is to introduce this system in              request.42 One attractive prospect
the new version of Windows, called               is portability in reputation systems,
“Windows Vista”,40 the digital identity          which would allow, for example, a
system will also be available in up-             person to take the reputation he has
grades for Windows XP. Microsoft has             built up in the eBay43 community and
been on the private campaign trail               carry it over into the world of Second
to convince big e-commerce players               Life.44 The technical requirements for
like Amazon and eBay to accept these             such portability are just starting to be
new services in exchange for more                explored.
direct access to Microsoft custom-
ers. Because so many people already
use Windows XP, the spread of these              Ramifications and Concerns
services will not hinge on widespread
adoption of the newer Windows Vista.             The new digital identity manage-
Given the fact that Windows XP runs              ment tools promise to cut today’s
on hundreds of millions of machines              phishing and pharming and may also
today, these digital identity manage-            address spam problems. Since an
ment tools have a strong probability             identity agent can help to minimize
of taking root.                                  data disclosed to a merchant or other
                                                 entity with which a person interacts,
Meanwhile, IBM and Novell in February            the technology may boost privacy as
2006 announced their intention to                it minimizes the number of entities
offer programming code to allow for               that have access to an individual’s
similar digital identity management              profile. Perhaps most significantly,
tools to be built using open-source              the system’s distributed architecture
software. The project, named “Higgins”,          should reduce vulnerability to attack
will enable different identity manage-            since theoretically data is not con-
ment tools to interoperate.41 Rather             centrated in one place.
than managing digital identities itself,
Higgins overlays different systems                If the system can protect personal
in order that information might be               data in this way, digital identity
exchanged among them at a user’s                 management has many possible ben-
     Worldwide availability of Windows Vista is scheduled for early 2007.
     The Eclipse Foundation, an open-source community, manages Higgins.
     Interviews with John Clippinger, a senior fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet and
     Society at Harvard Law School, Fall 2005.
     See http://pages.ebay.com/services/forum/feedback.html describing the eBay reputation
     system (viewed November 8, 2006).
     See http://secondlife.com/whatis/ describing the 3-D virtual world of Second Life (viewed
     November 8, 2006).                                                                          35
The Ethical Challenges of Emerging Technologies - Case Studies

       efits to society, including preventing       the other parties to a transaction (i.e.
       malicious conduct and making the            identity providers and relying parties).
       Internet a better forum for commerce.
       From this vantage point, the techno-        In addition, it is quite conceivable that
       logy promotes privacy, security, and        the market will not support the host
       improved living standards.                  of identity providers that advocates
                                                   of systems speak of, but that instead
       So, too, tools enabling the exchange        there will be a natural concentration
       of personal data based on an indi-          in identity provisioning. Quite simply,
       vidual’s preferences may facilitate         users might find it inconvenient or
       social interactions. Paul Trevithick,       expensive to separate their data and
       Project Lead for Higgins, emphasizes        designate elements to different iden-
       the benefits of a user-centered net-         tity providers. Or, relying parties might
       working layer that “gives people more       be restrictive in recognizing identity
       control over their digital identities       providers, with the result that a lim-
       across a wide variety of computer-          ited set of identity providers would
       mediated contexts (e.g., email, instant     dominate the market. Either way, a
       messaging, e-commerce, shared               small number of identity providers
       spaces, and enterprise directories),        would have control over a great deal
       especially those involving social net-      of personal data. Moreover, given
       works.”45 In this way, digital identity     current designs of the system, it is
       management tools may serve as a             technically possible for identity pro-
       boon to freedom of assembly.                viders and relying parties to collude.
                                                   In other words, it is unclear how the
       Looked at from another perspective,         players in the identity management
       however, the existence of digital           infrastructure will be accountable to
       identity management systems could           users and the Information Society
       pose significant risks for privacy and       generally.46 Of course, the market may
       security. As noted, in the proposed         spur improved technologies whose
       architecture a person’s identity agent      architecture guarantees trustworthy
       will serve as the most trusted inter-       behavior, and the law may well rein-
       mediary in the new digital identity         force these incentives.47
       system; however, current technology
       provides no guarantee that a person’s       To some, the primary infoethics con-
       identity agent will not collude with        cern is what happens if a big player
            Interview with Paul Trevithick, September 20, 2005.
            Mary Rundle and Ben Laurie, “Identity Management as a Cybersecurity Case Study,”
            Berkman Center Publication Series, September 2005, p. 8.
36     47
            Microsoft took a strong stance advocating privacy legislation in 2006.
                      The Ethical Challenges of Emerging Technologies - Case Studies

– e.g., a government or a mega-                  the empowering of machines in this
corporation – usurps a distributed,              way could ignite an explosion in
user-centric identity system and ap-             machine-to-machine interaction.
plies its own globally unique identifier,
violating all the user-centric principles        Machine empowerment points to
that industry developers have ad-                perhaps the biggest unknown and
vertised. In other words, there are              the one with the greatest potential
currently no innate technological pro-           impact – concerning not what humans
tections regarding possible future uses          may do with these tools, but rather
of these tools. If the tools were used           how machines will treat humans with
throughout the Information Society               personal data so well organized. Kim
in an abusive manner to discriminate,            Cameron, Microsoft’s chief Identity
intimidate, and block communication,             and Access Architect, underscores
human rights and related infoethics              these apprehensions:
goals would be in serious jeopardy.
                                                      The broader aspects of the way
The magnitude of these effects                         network intelligence responds
should not be underestimated given                    to who we are is of much more
the revolution that digital identity                  concern to me when I think
management may bring in machine-                      forward twenty years… Beyond
to-machine interactions, or “web                      the abuse of power there are
services”. Dale Olds, a key Novell                    other equally chilling possible
engineer in this area, has indicated                  futures – involving the potential
that Higgins may seek to develop                      relationship between human
an additional technology that would                   kind and machine intelligence.
automatically transfer information                    I realize people are not likely to
from an individual’s given digital                    want to discuss this because
identity (or persona) when he visits a                it is too forward thinking, but
web site.48 It may be here that digital               the two actually can mutually
identity management tools will have                   reinforce each other in truly
their strongest impact: By enabling                   frightening scenarios.49
machines to exchange personal data
automatically on people’s behalf, the
tools will throw off one of the biggest
impediments to web services. Hence,

      Robert Weisman, “Harvard, tech firms push data privacy: Goal is to let Net users control
     the personal,” Boston Globe, February 27, 2006.
     E-mail exchanges with Kim Cameron, Fall 2005 (cited with permission).                      37
The Ethical Challenges of Emerging Technologies - Case Studies

                                                    and in digital form. As such, biometrics
       Biometrics                                   can be combined with other
                                                    technological advancements – for
                                                    example metadata (since biometrics
       While digital identity management is         can be categorized for processing
       expanding the metadata vocabulary            and exchange by machines); digital
       to allow automated exchanges of              identity management (since they
       personal data, its real-world coun-          concern control over personal data);
       terpart, biometrics, is fostering the        and sensors (since measurements are
       application of metadata to physical          often captured by sensing devices).
       space. Since both deal with a person,
       there is a blending of the virtual and       The primary driver of development in
       real worlds through linguistic fiat as        recent years has been the desire for
       the same basic metadata is used to           security, both on the part of the private
       describe aspects of both.                    sector (e.g., to restrict access to trade
                                                    secrets) and on the part of govern-
                                                    ment (e.g., to limit travel by criminals or
       What Biometrics Is                           suspected dangerous persons). Many
                                                    governments stepped up research and
       Biometrics is an emerging technology         development in this area following the
       that measures and analyzes unique            terrorist attacks in the United States on
       characteristics of individuals, including    September 11, 2001.
       both physical and behavioral. Among
       others, the following characteristics
       are often listed as biometrics:              How Biometrics Work
        •   DNA               •   Retina patterns
        •   Facial patterns   •   Scent             A person’s biometric is registered
        •   Fingerprints      •   Signature         in a system when one or more of
        •   Gait              •   Typing cadence    his physical and behavioral chara-
        •   Iris patterns     •   Voice
                                                    cteristics are captured by a device. The
       Although biometrics is known to              measurement is then processed by a
       have existed in China as early as the        numerical algorithm that in essence
       14th century,50 it is considered an          abstracts it into a digital form. The
       emerging technology because the              result is then logged into a database.
       capture, measurement, and analysis of        At this point the person may be
       biometrics are increasingly automated        considered “enrolled”, whether or not

            Wikipedia entry for “Biometrics” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biometrics), viewed
38          February 7, 2006.
                      The Ethical Challenges of Emerging Technologies - Case Studies

he is aware of it. Each subsequent at-            implement a worldwide, standardized
tempt to have that person’s biometrics            system of identity confirmation.”52
authenticated by the system requires
the biometric to be captured and digi-            As mentioned above, the pivotal step
tized anew. That digital representation           in the user-centric identity manage-
is then compared against those in the             ment system involves the initial
database to find a match.                          authentication of the user to his elec-
                                                  tronic agent – with subsequent
                                                  claims transfers then based on this
Ramifications and Concerns                         verification. It is conceivable that
                                                  ICAO’s universal biometric stand-
In 1997 the International Civil Aviation          ards for Machine Readable Travel
Organization (ICAO) began develop-                Documents would evolve into a
ing “a global, harmonized blueprint               global mechanism for government-
for the integration of biometric iden-            sanctioned proof of identity – and
tification information into passports              at the same time serve in the initial
and other Machine Readable Travel                 authentication. Such an internation-
Documents…”51 This blueprint was                  ally recognized digital identity would
adopted by ICAO members in 2003.                  then seem to constitute the ultimate
With implementation requiring major               guarantee that a person was who he
effort, a full programme is underway in            said he was and that claims transfers
ICAO to accomplish this harmonization.            based on that identity were valid.

ICAO’s 188 member countries are                   It is easy to see why the international
arguably obliged to conform to this               system might adopt such an approach.
global requirement for electronic                 After all, a globally unique identifier
travel documents: After all, Article              would seem the ultimate backer for
22 of the Chicago Convention char-                digital identity management and so
ter calls for signatories to “adopt all           would allow online transactions to
practicable measures... to prevent                thrive; it could also help ensure order
unnecessary delays to aircraft, crews,            in the face of cyber attacks. So, too,
passengers and cargo, especially in               it would provide a global method
the administration of laws relating               for enforcing other international
to immigration, quarantine, customs               commitments to monitor individuals’
and clearance.” ICAO has stated that              activities for the sake of stability
the blueprint will help members “to               in taxation, financial services,
     See ICAO’s web site at http://www.icao.int. For an additional overview of this organization
     and a summary of this initiative, see http://www.netdialogue.org/initiatives/icaomrtd/.
     ICAO Press Release dated May 28, 2003.                                                        39
The Ethical Challenges of Emerging Technologies - Case Studies

       environmental protection, and more.53             another globally unique identifier, the
       In short, a globally unique identifier             move could signal the effective end of
       could seem the answer for according               anonymity. It would become feasible to
       a person official digital existence in the          compile a complete profile of a person’s
       Information Society.                              activities – including where the person
                                                         has gone, what he has spent money
       For a system to ensure that each person           on, with whom he has been in contact,
       had one and only one government-                  what he has read, etc.55
       issued identity, it would need to have
       a central administration.54 It is foresee-        This death to anonymity would mean-
       able that an international agency                 while be coupled with asymmetry
       might be tasked with administering                in information: The individual’s every
       this system. In light of the fact that            move could be monitored, yet he may
       international bodies have not been                not have any knowledge of this surveil-
       immune from corruption, trusting a                lance. Beyond privacy, such a state of
       single, global body with this critically          affairs does not bode well for the ex-
       sensitive information could leave the             ercise of other fundamental freedoms
       Information Society in terrible shape.            such as the right to associate or to seek,
       Simply stated, international institutions         receive, and impart information – espe-
       are not equipped with mechanisms to               cially as the intimidation of surveillance
       prevent the abuse of power.                       can serve as a very restrictive force.

       Moreover, a centrally administered                Finally, biometric techniques like
       identity system would be a prime                  facial recognition are becoming more
       target for attacks. No institution is able        accurate over time. However, false
       technically to guarantee system secu-             positives in biometrics could implicate
       rity. A far less risky approach would be          a person in a crime, raising the infoeth-
       to prevent centralization of this data.           ics question of what constitutes proof
                                                         if a person is to be presumed innocent
       If the international system did em-               until proved guilty.
       brace extensive use of biometrics or
            For a discussion of these initiatives, see Mary Rundle and Ben Laurie, “Identity Management
            as a Cybersecurity Case Study,” Berkman Center Publication Series, September 2005.
            Stephen T. Kent and Lynette I. Millett, Editors, “IDs – Not that Easy: Questions About
            Nationwide Identity Systems,” Computer Science and Telecommunications Board:
            Committee on Authentication Technologies and Their Privacy Implications, Washington,
            DC: National Academy Press, 2002, Chapter 2.
            Of course, such profiling may be possible without biometrics or other globally unique
            identifiers. Data profiling is a growing business and will be furthered even more by the
40          technologies that follow.
                       The Ethical Challenges of Emerging Technologies - Case Studies

                                                   Wal-Mart and the U.S. Department of
Radio Frequency                                    Defense are known to be big drivers
                                                   from the demand side as they have
Identification                                      required their largest contractors to
                                                   use RFID tags.56 A main motivator is
                                                   supply chain and inventory manage-
What RFID Is                                       ment. When a pallet is loaded with
                                                   products that each contain an RFID
Radio frequency identification (RFID)               tag, the entire load can be accounted
is a technology that enables data                  for as it passes a reader – for exam-
exchange from a small, inexpensive,                ple, as it is transferred onto or off a
wireless device, called an RFID tag,               delivery truck. In retail RFID tags are
that is equipped with a computer                   expected to replace barcode labels
chip and antenna. An RFID device                   altogether since the newer technol-
can simply transmit its unique iden-               ogy allows item-specific labeling.57
tification number; it can also transmit
additional data about a specific                    So, too, RFID technology is being ap-
object (e.g., date of a product’s pack-            plied to transportation, in the name of
aging, price, factory of origin, etc.)             promoting smooth travel and public
or person (e.g., name, health status,              safety. Airline companies hope to use
etc.). Although the technology has                 RFID to cut costs and increase reli-
been used since the 1980s, it has                  ability in baggage handling, with an
become more widespread today due                   estimated savings of US $700 million
to advances in networking, miniaturi-              per year.58 Demonstrating the mar-
zation, and computing.                             ketability of RFID chips for the recall
                                                   of faulty products, Michelin in 2003
One major use of RFID technology                   began testing chips in tires to allow
is in the area of product tracking.                automobile manufacturers to comply
     As reported by Todd Spangler, “Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retailer, says it will double the
     number of stores using RFID to more than 1,000 by January 2007… bringing to more than
     600 the number of supplier companies using RFID technology in concert with Wal-Mart.
     (“Wal-Mart Plans to Add RFID to 500 More Stores,” Extreme RFID, September 12, 2006.) In
     2003 the U.S. Department of Defense announced a policy requiring its suppliers to use
     RFID chips by 2005 (U.S. Department of Defense Press Release No. 775-03 of October 23,
     2003, available at http://www.defenselink.mil/releases/2003/nr20031023-0568.html).
     Although predicted to be some years out yet, RFID tags could eliminate the check-out
     line as customers might walk past a reader with their collection of purchases and have
     an account automatically charged when leaving a store (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/rfid
     viewed October 6, 2006).
     Andrew Price, RFID Project Manager for the International Air Transport Association (IATA),
     speaking at RFID Journal’s Aerospace Summit (September 26-28, 2006).                             41
The Ethical Challenges of Emerging Technologies - Case Studies

       more readily with U.S. requirements              have incorporated RFID chips into
       for tire tracking, and the industry              passenger passes.
       has since moved to standardize this
       practice.59 Meanwhile, the automo-               RFID tags are also being used in
       tive industry has decided as a group             items that people carry or wear in
       internationally to embed RFID chips              order to track individuals or verify
       in vehicles for reading by roadside              their identity. Several corporations
       equipment. This initiative follows               have begun embedding RFID
       government initiatives to reduce                 tags into employee uniforms or
       traffic congestion and accidents                   identification badges, allowing an
       and to support environmental                     employer to track the whereabouts
       standards.60 Many highway systems                of an employee at all times or to re-
       offer RFID enabled toll passes that               strict access to areas of buildings.61
       allow vehicles to speed through                  In 2005 Cisco began selling RFID
       electronic collection booths. These              servers that work with RFID chips
       applications are used in parts of                embedded in uniforms to track em-
       Australia, Canada, Chile, France, the            ployee whereabouts.62 Similarly, for
       Philippines, Portugal, Singapore, and            immigration control, many coun-
       the United States. Similarly, public             tries are incorporating RFID chips
       transportation systems in Hong                   into passports to implement ICAO’s
       Kong, London, Moscow, New York,                  requirement for contactless, ma-
       Paris, Perth, Taipei, and other cities           chine-readable travel documents.

            These tire-tracking requirements stem from the Transportation, Recall, Enhancement,
            Accountability and Documentation Act (TREAD Act) passed by the U.S. Congress in
            2000 in the wake of the Firestone tire problems encountered with Ford Explorers.
            For more information on RFID chips in tires, see http://www.rfidjournal.com/article/
            articleview/269/1/1/      and   http://www.rfidjournal.com/article/articleview/2043/2/1/
            (viewed October 11, 2006).
            Through its Dedicated Short Range Communications initiative, the international
            automotive industry has agreed to a short- to medium-range wireless protocol designed
            especially for automotive use. See http://www.standards.its.dot.gov/Documents/
            advisories/dsrc_advisory.htm for information from the U.S. Department of Transportation,
            and http://www.ictsb.org/ITSSG/Documents/Mandate_M270.pdf for an overview of a
            European Commission mandate in the area of Road Transport Telematics (Mandate 270,
            published April 24, 1998 by Directorate-General III).
            This application of the technology dates back to 1989, when Olivetti Research introduced
            Roy Want’s Active Badge. Use of such badges did not appear practicable until the broad
            uptake of the Internet in industrialized societies.
            “Cisco slammed for RFID staff tracker,” Iain Thomson, Vnunet.com, May 4, 2005 (http://www.
            vnunet.com/vnunet/news/2127277/cisco-slammed-rfid-staff-tracker, viewed October 3,
42          2006).
                     The Ethical Challenges of Emerging Technologies - Case Studies

(See the discussion above in the case            to communicate.67 Another use of
study on Biometrics.)63                          human implants is in the employ-
                                                 ment context, where a few employers
In the public health context, RFID               have used implants in employees to
chips were used in badges in two                 control access to ultra high-security
Singaporean hospitals64 in 2003 to               areas. In 2004, the Mexican Attorney
record who had been in contact                   General’s office implanted a number
with whom, as a preventive meas-                 of its staff with an RFID chip to control
ure against the spread of Severe                 such access and to serve as a tracking
Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).               device in case they were kidnapped.68
Information was stored for 21 days               Perhaps testing early social accept-
(the incubation period for SARS being            ance of chip implants in humans
10 days) and then deleted to protect             for everyday uses, a nightclub has
confidentiality.65                                offered these devices to their VIP
                                                 clients in Barcelona and Rotterdam
RFID chips are also being implanted              for easy identification and drink pay-
in people. These devices currently are           ment.69 Human-implantable chips
the size of a grain of rice and are said         are also being marketed as tools for
to last 20 years.66 In the area of health,       immigration control, with the CEO
people may receive chip implants to              of one leading company touting, “It’s
store their medical data so that it is           really no different than a tamperproof
easily accessible and associable with            passport you can carry all the time,”
them, particularly if they are unable            and adding, “[a]s concerns mount
    Malaysia issued the first RFID enabled passports in 1998 (http://www.wikipedia.org viewed
    October 6, 2006). At the June 2005 Computers, Freedom and Privacy Conference, the RFID
    technology planned for use by the U.S. Department of State was shown to be hackable.
    Shortly thereafter the agency put plans for RFID passports on hold; after apparently
    bolstering encryption, in March 2006 the State Department issued its first batch of these
    RFID travel documents in a pilot project. See Marc Perton, “US Issues First RFID Passports,”
    Engadget, http://www.engadget.com/2006/03/13/us-issues-first-rfid-passports/.
    Alexandra Hospital and the National University Hospital participated in the pilot project.
   “Singapore Fights SARS with RFID,” RFID Journal, June 4, 2003, available at http://www.
    rfidjournal.com/article/articleview/446/1/1/ (viewed October 23, 2006).
    “I’ve got you under my skin,” The Guardian, Technology section, June 10, 2004, available at
    http://technology.guardian.co.uk/online/story/0,3605,1234827,00.html (viewed October
    11, 2006).
    The VeriChip Corporation markets its VeriMed chip implants as allowing the identification
    of patients and health records. See http://www.verimedinfo.com/content/intro/patients
    (viewed October 3, 2006).
    See, e.g., http://www.verichipcorp.com/images/GSN_Mar06.pdf.
    See the “VIP” section of the web site of the Baha Beach Club in Barcelona, http://www.
    bajabeach.es/ (viewed October 11, 2006).                                                       43
The Ethical Challenges of Emerging Technologies - Case Studies

       about falsified documents, VeriChip                 provide immediate access to specific
       technology ensures security and                    information such as the identity of
       privacy for the individual as well as              the animal, its age, medical history,
       increased security at our borders...”70            where it has been, and its contacts
                                                          with other cattle.”73
       RFID implants are incorporating other
       technologies as well. For example,                 In addition, motion-sensing RFID
       RFIDs equipped with bio-thermal                    chips are being developed to moni-
       sensors can register temperatures                  tor activity levels and routines of
       among animal populations. This                     the elderly and people with chronic
       technology has been put forward as a               diseases. Data logs of people’s move-
       way to help monitor and combat the                 ments will be used to profile people’s
       spread of the H5N1 avian flu virus.71               habits, with alarms going off if be-
       Similarly, in a joint pilot programme,             havior changes (e.g., if a person stops
       the Digital Angel Corporation72 and                eating, taking medicine, or getting
       the Brazilian Agriculture Research                 out of bed).74
       Corporation (Embrapa) have been
       implanting bio-thermal RFID chips in               For the visually impaired, a company
       cattle so as to curb the spread of Hoof            called En-Vision America has devel-
       and Mouth Disease. According to                    oped smart-label RFIDs that work
       the company’s press release, “When                 with readers to offer speech synthesis
       scanned with an RFID scanner and                   technology. The chip is programmed
       used in conjunction with a database                with the information written on a
       program, the bio-thermal chip can,                 product’s label, and this information
       in addition to sensing temperature,                is then spoken out in audible form

            “VeriChip Highlights Role Implanted Chip May Play in a Government Immigration and
            Guest Worker Program,” U.S. Newswire, June 9, 2006, http://releases.usnewswire.com/
            GetRelease.asp?id=67264 (viewed June 16, 2006).
            See, e.g., Ephraim Schwartz, “RFID tags for chickens? Digital Angel says tracking temperature
            of poultry could be early warning system for avian flu,” InfoWorld, December 5, 2005
            (viewed at http://ww6.infoworld.com/products/print_friendly.jsp?link=/article/05/12/05/
            HNchickenflu_1.html October 11, 2006).
            Digital Angel Corporation is majority-owned by Applied Digital Inc., which is also the
            parent company of VeriChip Corporation. Another of its subsidiaries, Signature Industries,
            is a leading developer and manufacturer of search-and-rescue GPS beacon equipment
            (trade name SARBE), used by different countries’ militaries.
            See http://www.digitalangelcorp.com/about_pressreleases.asp?RELEASE_ID=217 for the
            Digital Angel Corporation’s Press Release of April 25, 2006 announcing an agreement with
            the Brazilian government.
            Pacific Health Summit’s Health and Information Technology and Policy Briefing Book,
44          Health Information Technology and Policy Workgroup, June 2006, page 6.
                      The Ethical Challenges of Emerging Technologies - Case Studies

when the reader and RFID label are               forms that can be printed directly into
coupled. These smart labels are being            paper, antennae and all.77 With exten-
marketed in the prescription drug                sive RFID uses already underway in
context, with pharmacies attaching               objects, animals, and humans, one
them to drug packages so that a                  expert has predicted that by 2010,
patient can use a reader to hear what            more than 500 billion RFID tags will
is printed there: for example, the               be put in circulation annually.78
patient’s name; the type of drug; the
recommended dosage; warnings;
general instructions; the prescription           How RFID Works
number; and the doctor’s contact
information.75                                   An RFID system usually has a small
                                                 “tag” that has been assigned a unique
These applications may give the                  electronic number and sometimes
impression that RFID technology is               can store additional information. The
a niche market; however, the tech-               tag is equipped with a transponder as
nology has already become quite                  well as a digital memory chip. The tag
prevalent. As of early 2006, several             works in conjunction with a separate
hundred million RFID tags had al-                “interrogator” antenna or reader that
ready been used in food packaging,               has a transceiver and decoder; the
and more than 70 million tags had re-            reader emits a signal, and this signal
portedly been applied to livestock.76            activates the RFID tag so that it can
Recent bulk pricings of passive RFID             send that device data that is encoded
tags have been at US$.07. Meanwhile,             in the tag’s integrated circuit (silicon
some companies are developing new                chip). As opposed to barcodes that

     See http://www.envisionamerica.com/scriptalk.htm (viewed October 3, 2006).
     “Food and Livestock RFID - Where, Why, What Next?” IDTechEx, February 10, 2006 (viewed
     October 11, 2006 at http://www.idtechex.com/products/en/articles/00000434.asp).
     Companies such as PolyIC and Philips are developing tags made with polymer
     semiconductors, which, if commercialized, are expected to be printable and much
     cheaper than tags made with silicon. See “Philips Demos Polymer HF Tags,” Mary Catherine
     O’Connor, RFID Journal, February 7, 2006, available at http://www.rfidjournal.com/article/
     articleprint/2139/-1/1 (viewed October 11, 2006).
     Loring Wirbel, “RFID tags ubiquitous by 2010, MIT prof predicts,” My-ESM, September 15,
     2004. There had been concerns that licensing and intellectual property disputes could
     slow deployment of RFID technology. A company called Intermec holds various patents on
     RFID, while the industry association EPCglobal has developed the “UHF Class 1 Generation
     2” standard (Gen 2). It has been decided that Gen 2 does not infringe on Intermec patents,
     but royalties may need to be paid to Intermec depending how the tag is read. See Mark
     Roberti, “EPCglobal Ratifies Gen 2 Standard,” RFID Journal, December 16, 2004, available at
     http://www.rfidjournal.com/article/articleview/1293/1/1/ (viewed October 11, 2006).           45
The Ethical Challenges of Emerging Technologies - Case Studies

       are commonly used on products                 Active RFID tags serve as beacons.
       today, RFID tags do not require that          With their own power supply, they
       the reader be in direct “line of sight.”      have a longer range (up to tens of
       As suggested above, the tag can be            meters) and larger memories than
       applied as a label, or it can be em-          passive tags, plus they can store
       bedded.79                                     additional information sent by the
                                                     transceiver. At present, the smallest
       RFID tags fall into three categories:         active tags have a battery life of up
       passive, semi-passive, or active.             to 10 years, cost a few dollars, and
       Passive tags contain no internal              are approximately the size of a small
       power supply; the minute electrical           coin.81 (Of course, in 10 years the size
       current induced in the antenna by             of today’s tag and antenna will likely
       the incoming radio frequency signal           seem monstrous.)
       provides just enough power for the
       integrated circuit in the tag to power
       up and transmit a response. In other          Ramifications and Concerns
       words, the antenna both gathers
       power from the incoming signal                While RFIDs themselves may be neu-
       and transmits its own signal back.            tral, their wide-scale rollout is sure to
       Passive RFID tags can be so small as          have broad infoethics consequences.
       to be almost invisible. For example,          Similar to digital identity manage-
       as of the spring of 2006, the smallest        ment and biometrics, RFID technology
       devices along this line measured 0.15         presents particularly pressing issues
       mm × 0.15 mm (without antennae)               for privacy.
       and were thinner than a sheet of
       paper; despite their lack of internal         These issues emerge even if the
       power, they can nevertheless still be         technology is deployed only in con-
       read by a reader a few meters away.           nection with consumer goods. For
                                                     example, if the bulk of a person’s
       A semi-passive tag, on the other hand,        purchases have RFIDs attached to
       does contain a small battery, obviating       them, and if the person’s identity is
       the need for the antenna to collect           ascertainable (e.g., through his use
       power from the incoming signal.80 A           of a credit card to buy the items),
       semi-passive tag activates only when it       the information can be linked. Vast
       detects a signal from an interrogator.        amounts of data accumulate over

            See generally http://www.glandi.com/epackaging.htm.
46     81
                       The Ethical Challenges of Emerging Technologies - Case Studies

time, allowing a detailed profile of                 evacuations, to investigate thefts,
that person’s spending patterns. Add                and to enforce employee-conduct
this compilation to the data on where               rules (such as break times).83
a person travels in his RFID-tagged
car, and the profile becomes highly                  Of the companies studied, not a
sophisticated.                                      single one had informed its em-
                                                    ployees about these additional
Katherine Albrecht, director of the                 applications, leaving them to assume
consumer privacy group Consumers                    the RFID chips were used solely for
Against Supermarket Privacy Invasion                controlling locks. Generally speaking,
and Numbering (CASPIAN), warns                      explicit written policies did not exist,
that RFID tags on consumer products                 and none of the companies had a
could emit data even after purchase,                limited data retention policy; rather,
allowing each tag to act as a potential             they all held the records indefinitely.
beacon for trackers.82                              Noting that fair information practices
                                                    would give employees the right to
As noted above, there are already                   inspect and correct records about
direct associations of RFID tags with               their activities, the study insightfully
specific human beings. A current                     cautions that, even if acknowledged,
concern with RFIDs in the employ-                   this right may lose its effectiveness
ment context is whether companies                   because it would be difficult for an
appropriately inform their staff of                  employee to reconstruct a given
how data from RFIDs in chip-em-                     day’s activities after time had elapsed.
bedded badges is collected, used,                   The study draws an important con-
and retained. While companies usu-                  clusion: As technologies collect and
ally say they require these tags for                analyze data on individuals’ behavior
the purpose of controlling access                   with increasing sophistication, ele-
to buildings, a recent study by the                 ments of fair information practices
RAND Corporation suggests that                      may need to be rethought.84
U.S. companies are in fact using RFID
data for additional purposes. For ex-               Reflecting the European Union’s
ample, RFID data is used to account                 greater attention to the protection
for employee whereabouts during                     of personal data, governments in EU

     Lecture by Katherine Albrecht at Harvard University, April 7, 2006. See http://www.nocards.org/.
     Edward Balkovich, Tora K. Bikson, and Gordon Bitko, “9 to 5: Do You Know If Your Boss
     Knows Where You Are? Case Studies of Radio Frequency Identification Usage in the
     Workplace,” TR-197-RC, 2005, 36 pp. The study compares and contrasts practices of six
     private-sector companies with over 1,500 employees.
     Id.                                                                                                47
The Ethical Challenges of Emerging Technologies - Case Studies

       member states have given companies                tional federation of service sector
       more guidance on RFID usage. In the               unions based in Geneva, Switzerland,
       United Kingdom, for example, the                  has organized a campaign to contest
       Information Commissioner’s Office                   this use of RFIDs.86
       has published best practices in its
       Employment Practices Code, calling                As for RFID use to prevent the spread
       on companies to avoid “oppressive or              of disease, it is imaginable that the
       demeaning” forms of employee moni-                type of system used in Singapore
       toring. Similarly, France’s Commission            during the 2003 SARS crisis could
       nationale de l’informatique et des                be deployed on a wide scale in
       libertés (CNIL) has advised companies             the event of a human pandemic
       to brief employees fully on any use               (such as an outbreak triggered by
       made of data from RFID-enabled                    a mutation in avian flu). To monitor
       identification badges. This body also              possible contamination, authorities
       recommends that individual work-                  could use RFID chips in identifica-
       ers be allowed to access their data               tion cards, in combination with RFID
       records.85                                        readers located at the entrances to
                                                         buildings.87 Even if such measures
       Employers argue that security and                 were embraced for public health
       public safety justify the use of RFID             advantages, protections for people’s
       tags. However, in addition to sacrific-            privacy and freedom of association
       ing employees’ privacy and personal               would beg for serious attention given
       autonomy, the tags could enable em-               the enormous surveillance potential
       ployers to intimidate employees and               brought on by this technology.
       keep them from exercising their legal
       rights – for example the right to collec-         RFID identifiers for people could
       tive action in trade unions. Surfacing            be required by law; they could
       these tensions, the British general               also, however, become a practical
       union GMB argued in 2006 that the                 necessity for a person to participate
       practice of some retail distribution              in society even if they were not of-
       centers of requiring employees to                 ficially required – similar to the way
       wear RFID tags was dehumanizing.                  that it has become difficult for adults
       Reacting against the surveillance of              in industrialized societies to make
       employees as they take breaks, Union              many types of purchases without
       Network International, an interna-                a credit card. If the market required
            Andrew Bibby, “Invasion of the Privacy Snatchers,” Financial Times, January 8, 2006.
            For a brief account of new building-code plans in the United States, see the case study on
48          the Geospatial Web and Location-Based Services, below.
                       The Ethical Challenges of Emerging Technologies - Case Studies

a person to have an RFID identifier                   Some commentators point to the
to participate in commerce but this                  national security interests in support-
condition were not mandated by                       ing infrastructure for RFID. As Désirée
government, it would be difficult for                  Milošević puts it, governments are
a person to claim that the state was                 starting to view this technology as a
infringing on his rights by requiring                geo-political necessity, igniting a sort
him to participate in such a system                  of “surveillance race”.
– unless the person argued that the
government, in allowing the market                   For now, however, there are very
to establish such a requirement, had                 immediate concerns regarding vul-
abdicated its responsibility to protect              nerabilities in RFID chips. A recent
his autonomy.                                        study on deployment in credit
                                                     cards has shown that cardholder
It is imaginable such a de facto or                  information can be gleaned by small,
de jure requirement could extend                     homemade readers assembled from
to human implants, and it is unclear                 computer and radio components
whether people would have the right                  that are easy to obtain. Because such
to refuse such measures.88 For exam-                 devices can read chips even through
ple, in the same way that bio-thermal                a wallet or clothing, the concern is
RFID chips are used to identify cattle               that someone could skim people’s in-
exposed to infectious diseases, these                formation simply by passing through
chips could be used in humans to                     a crowded area with a reader.
quarantine people so as to limit the                 Although the major credit-card issu-
spread of pathogens. While some                      ers contest that most RFID-enabled
people might object to subjecting                    cards have strong encryption, all
their bodies to such treatment (e.g.,                the cards examined in the study had
on account of religious beliefs), indi-              been issued recently, yet none was
viduals’ convictions may be required                 found to be secure.89
to give way to the health interests of
the greater public.
     The U.S. state of Wisconsin in the spring of 2006 was among the first states in the United
     States to pass legislation making it illegal to require an individual to have a microchip
     implant. “Wisconsin Bans Forced Human Chipping,” Free Market News Network, June 1,
     2006. Many other states have since followed suit.
     Thomas S. Heydt-Benjamin, Daniel V. Bailey, Kevin Fu1, Ari Juels, and Tom O’Hare,
     “Vulnerabilities in First-Generation RFID-enabled Credit Cards,” University of Massachusetts
     in collaboration with RSA Labs, October 2006. The paper is the first published under a new
     consortium involving industry and academic researchers to study RFID. Research is financed
     by the National Science Foundation in the United States. The paper is available at http://prisms.
     cs.umass.edu/%7Ekevinfu/papers/RFID-CC-manuscript.pdf (viewed October 23, 2006).                    49
The Ethical Challenges of Emerging Technologies - Case Studies

       Similarly, RFIDs used in human                  lines by passing through a scanner.
       implants have also been criticized              Governments are adding their own
       as insecure. In July 2006 hackers               mandates and incentives for use of
       demonstrated that they could “clone”            the technology in public services. With
       a VeriChip implant and attribute that           serious pressures driving companies
       same identifying information to a               and local governments to adopt the
       different device.90                              technology, and little incentive for
                                                       them not to do so, it appears that RFID
       These concerns aside, broad-scale               has an almost guaranteed place in the
       RFID deployment could support                   Information Society in the near term.
       numerous infoethics goals. By revo-
       lutionizing the supply chain and                Thus, in some ways, RFID represents
       bringing great economic efficien-                 a microcosm of the possibilities and
       cies that raise the standard of living,         threats of ICTs. If carefully deployed
       RFID technology arguably contrib-               and regulated, RFIDs present an op-
       utes to the exercise of life, liberty and       portunity dramatically to improve
       security. RFID-based identification              many facets of life; if used without ad-
       systems, if secure, reduce the need for         equate safeguards for security, privacy
       other methods of security, increasing           and other liberties, they threaten to
       access to transportation and public             bring nightmarish consequences.
       resources. Implanted RFID tags enable
       better medical treatment by ensuring
       immediate access to accurate health
       records. The list of benefits is long.
       While there are clear infoethics trade-
       offs with this technology, there is
       nonetheless marked demand for
       it on the part of wholesalers and               What Sensors Are
       retailers who can gauge inventories
       quickly, and there will also be demand          A sensor is a device that detects the
       eventually by everyday buyers who               presence of a biological or chemical
       will be able to avoid check-out                 entity or a physical stimulus and pro-

            The hackers, Annalee Newitz and Jonathan Westhues, demonstrated these vulnerabilities
            at the HOPE Number Six conference in New York City; the VeriChip Corporation said it
            needed to review the evidence but noted that hacking into an RFID chip is difficult. See
            Donald Melanson, “VeriChip’s human-implatable RFID chips clonable, sez hackers,” posted
            to Engadget on July 24, 2006 (available at http://www.engadget.com/2006/07/24/
50          verichips-human-implatable-rfid-chips-clonable-sez-hackers/, viewed October 24, 2006).
                     The Ethical Challenges of Emerging Technologies - Case Studies

duces a signal to give a measurement          Sensors may also be placed “in situ,”
of that quality.                              or on site, in areas where measure-
                                              ments are desired. Although many
Sensors are most commonly cat-                such sensors provide measurements
egorized based on the type of                 only to persons present at the site,
phenomenon that they measure                  a sensor can also relay information
– for example, acceleration, acoustics,       through an information network. In
displacement, flow, gas, humidity, in-         such an arrangement an individual
clination, magnetism, light, oxygen,          sensor is sometimes referred to as a
position, pH, pressure, proximity,            “pod,” with each pod having certain
rotation, and temperature.91                  components, including:

                                              1.    A sensor suite that contains the
How Sensors Work                                    sensing element and transducer;

Sensors have two basic parts – a sens-        2.    A microcontroller that contains
ing element and a transducer. Simply                the system’s protocols/com-
stated, the sensing part interacts with             munication standards, that
the surroundings and generates a re-                communicates with the at-
sponse. The transducer then converts                tached sensor suite, and that
that response into a quantifiable term               performs data analysis as
that can be interpreted.92                          needed;

Sensors can be deployed remotely,             3.    A radio linking the pod to its
allowing information about the en-                  local neighborhood or network;
vironment at a specific location to
be determined by a sensor located             4.    A power system that today often
at a distance from that location (e.g.,             comes in the form of a battery
from an aircraft, spacecraft, satellite,            pack with solar panels, with a
or ship).93 Remote sensing generally                current life span of several years;
relies on radiation to measure the en-              and
vironment. Such sensors may measure
a fairly broad range of phenomena,            5.    Packaging that usually must be
including heat, light (visual imaging)              lightweight, durable, cheap,
and sound.                                          easily mountable, and sealed
     Web Sensor Portal, http://www.sensorsportal.com/HTML/Sensor.htm, viewed November
     7, 2006.
     Sensor Technology Exchange, http://www.sentix.org/info.htm, viewed November 7, 2006.
     See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Remote_sensor (viewed November 7, 2006).              51
The Ethical Challenges of Emerging Technologies - Case Studies

              against weather, elements, and                like driving directions to allow new,
              animals.94                                    useful creations in the form of “mash
                                                            ups”. 96
       Increasingly, these sensors are being
       produced as microelectromechani-
       cal systems, or MEMS. MEMS sensors                   Ramifications and
       are able to amplify the output signal                Concerns
       generated by the sensor, to adjust the
       sensor reading for conditions such as                While sensors themselves may be
       temperature, and to perform some                     neutral, the service supplied and the
       calculations based on the sensor                     data gathered may give rise to con-
       readings. (So, for example, such a                   cern. For example, the same type of
       sensor might monitor a perishable                    sensors used to monitor a forest fire
       product through a supply chain to                    could be employed surreptitiously
       ensure appropriate temperature.)                     on the opposite side of a wall to
                                                            surmise a person’s activities based
       A recent article addresses ways to                   on body heat.97
       reduce the size of wireless MEMS to
       the micrometer level – approximate-                  Even data obtained for ostensibly
       ly the size of a grain of sand.95 (These             benevolent purposes may prove
       devices are sometimes referred to                    harmful if used in a way that violates
       as “motes” or “smartdust”.) The U.S.                 human rights. This would be the
       Department of Defense is reportedly                  case, say, if sensors were used to
       funding research and development                     detect the presence of infectious dis-
       along this line.                                     eases, but the data were then used
                                                            to establish a quarantine area that
       At the opposite extreme, large satel-                discriminated against a segment of
       lites in space are using sensors to                  the population.
       provide web content through the
       form of images, which can then be                    So, too, the data collection and its
       combined with other web services                     general purpose may be acceptable
            Kevin A. Delin, Shannon P. Jackson, David W. Johnson, Scott C. Burleigh, Richard R.
            Woodrow, J. Michael McAuley, James M. Dohm, Felipe Ip, Ty P.A. Ferré, Dale F. Rucker,
            and Victor R. Baker, “Environmental Studies with the Sensor Web: Principles and Practice,”
            Sensors 2005, Volume 5, 103-117, p. 106.
            Michael J. Sailor and Jamie R. Link, “Smart dust: nanostructured devices in a grain of sand,”
            Chemical Communications, vol. 11, p. 1375, 2005.
            See infra case study on Location-Based Services.
            The Supreme Court of the United States has barred law enforcement officials from using
52          this form of technology, see Kyllo v. United States, 533 U.S. 27 (2001), but there is no general
            bar to its use by other parties.
                      The Ethical Challenges of Emerging Technologies - Case Studies

to the public, but downstream uses                disposable chip will cost in the “tens
to which the data is put may cause                of dollars”, according to a Financial
alarm. For instance, satellite images             Times article.99
made available online by companies
like Google have caused consterna-                Sensors also help to optimize the
tion among governments – not                      production and distribution of food,
because of what Google itself is                  energy, and other essential compo-
doing or what the images represent,               nents of life in industrialized societies.
but rather because of the danger                  As such, they may be viewed as con-
posed by the accessibility of sensitive           tributing to a higher standard of living
information to potential enemies.98               and thus to life, liberty and security.

To get a handle on these tensions so              In terms of human rights, one of
that they may be considered more                  the most glaring issues is that of
generally, it is useful to consider               privacy. Simply put, information that
sensors in the light of infoethics                a person has traditionally assumed to
goals. Sensors may be viewed as                   be in his private domain may now be
contributing to the human right to                observable by sensors, with him pos-
life, liberty and security. For example,          sibly having no idea of the sensors’
many sensors serve as life-saving                 existence or presence. Data gath-
devices, such as those used to detect             ered about him may be personally
the presence of harmful chemicals                 identifiable, but it is unlikely that he
in water or to track the progress                 has effective notice or choice about
of a major storm. In anticipation                 this collection, or that he himself has
of the spread of the avian flu virus,              access to it or a can be assured as to
STMicroelectronics, Europe’s second-              its security.
largest chipmaker, and Veredus
Laboratories of Singapore have been               Of course, sensors can also help
developing a laboratory chip that                 enforce privacy, for example by
can analyze a minute blood sample                 detecting intrusions.
to diagnose the virus in one hour.
Instead of sending samples to labs                If sensor data is used in a court
for a several-day examination, the                proceeding, a person may be at a
chip will allow quick displays on                 significant disadvantage in trying to
laptops deployed in the field. Each                disprove its reliability as evidence.
     See, e.g., Katie Hafner and Saritha Rai, “Governments Tremble at Google’s Bird’s-Eye View,”
     New York Times, December 20, 2005.
     Maija Palmer, “STMicro, Veredus plan quick-test bird-flu chip,” Financial Times, January 19,
     2006.                                                                                         53
The Ethical Challenges of Emerging Technologies - Case Studies

       Does this weaken the right of a person             it quickly can become outdated and
       to be presumed innocent until proved               constrain technological advances.
       guilty?                                            By way of example, environmental
                                                          monitoring is generally considered
       Sensors also pose infoethics questions             necessary to protect the public from
       relating to the public domain and                  toxic contaminants and pathogens
       access to information. There are ambi-             that might be released into the air,
       guities regarding how the benefits of               soil, or water of an area. Sensor tech-
       sensor data will be shared – specifically,          nology enables cheap monitoring,
       whether exclusive rights to sensor data            avoiding the high costs of sending
       about public spaces exist, or whether all          a team out to collect samples, and
       such data is part of the public domain             preventing additional expenses that
       and available to everyone.                         might accrue if samples are compro-
                                                          mised during transport, storage, and
       A standard interface for sensor data               off-site analysis. Nonetheless, many
       would promote the accessibility of                 regulations still require manual collec-
       data. Information might be accessed                tion of samples for off-site analysis.102
       either from a central repository storing           Hence, the regulation of sensors, or
       the data or directly from the sensor               any other form of technology, re-
       itself if the sensor were connected                quires legislation and administrative
       to an information network. As noted                procedures that are flexible enough
       by David Clark,100 a leading architect             to evolve along with the technology
       of the Internet since the mid-1970s,               that they propose to regulate.
       “The interesting policy question is:
       ‘Will there be an open infrastructure              Despite the difficulties, policymakers
       for sensors?’.”101                                 and technologists must confront the
                                                          problems that sensor technology is
       While law is often viewed as the way               likely to present and take steps now
       to address such questions, scientists              to create a climate that is conducive
       tend to be wary of regulation because              to ethical uses.
             Clark served as the Internet’s Chief Protocol Architect from 1981-1989; he currently chairs
             the Computer Sciences and Telecommunications Board of the (U.S.) National Research
             Council and is a Senior Research Scientist at the MIT Computer Science and Artificial
             Intelligence Laboratory.
             Interview with David Clark at MIT, November 11, 2005.
             For the foreseeable future, the environmental field instrument market is expected to grow
             by an average of 7% annually – a figure that would be much higher if law and culture were
             faster to embrace technological change. Clifford K. Ho, Alex Robinson, David R. Miller and
             Mary J. Davis, “Overview of Sensors and Needs for Environmental Monitoring,” Sensors,
54           2005, Volume 5, 4-37, p. 5 and 7.
                       The Ethical Challenges of Emerging Technologies - Case Studies

                                                  a given distance of his present loca-
The Geospatial Web                                tion, as well as directions to those
                                                  restaurants from the user’s current
and Location-Based                                location.103
                                                  More significantly, LBS can automati-
                                                  cally track the location of a person and
                                                  provide this information to others.
What the Geospatial Web Is                        This tracking allows such services as
                                                  Dodgeball.com, which alerts people
Whereas sensors measure the real                  when friends or acquaintances are
world and turn it into data that can              nearby. It can also permit emergency
be read by machines, the geospatial               assistance to be summoned to the
web inverts this process, taking dig-             location of a car accident without
ital data and applying it to locations            any action by the driver whatsoever.
in the real world. By merging data                Some parents are providing LBS cell
from various sources, geospatial web              phones to their children so that
applications can, for instance, show              the children’s whereabouts can be
a map of the various restaurants in               tracked. Applications are only just
a given city, complete with contact               beginning to be conceived.
information and reviews.

                                                  How the Geospatial Web
What Location-Based                               and Location-Based
Services Are                                      Services Work
A location-based service (LBS) takes
this concept one step further. Rather             The concept behind the geospatial
than providing information about a                web is quite simple: Just indicate
requested geographic location, a LBS              the geographical location that cor-
automatically determines the user’s               responds to a given piece of (virtual)
location and provides information                 data, and then provide a mechanism
based on those bearings. To extend                for combining real-world maps
the application above, a LBS user can             and that data. To show a map of
be informed of all restaurants within             restaurants in a city, for instance, the
      The OnStar system, for instance, provides directions to drivers by determining the
      location of the vehicle and combining that information with street maps and the driver’s
      destination – the driver need not know his own location to take advantage of the service.
      See http://www.onstar.com/us_english/jsp/index.jsp (visited March 15, 2006).                55
The Ethical Challenges of Emerging Technologies - Case Studies

       geospatial web need only collect                    enon is the linking of mobile phones
       the addresses of various restaurants                to nearby Wi-Fi hubs, giving a reading
       and combine those with a mapping                    that can indicate, e.g., where a person
       programme that places each onto a                   is in a building.
       street map or some other representa-
       tion of the geographic area.                        Plans are in the midst for building
                                                           codes to require the use of RFIDs and
       LBS works by ascertaining the loca-                 sensors for LBS. As described on the
       tion of a specific person or device. At              web site of the U.S. National Institute
       the simplest level, the person merely               of Standards and Technology (NIST):
       reports his location to the service.
       Alternatively, a person’s location can                    The RFID-Assisted Localization
       also be calculated automatically. In the                  and Communication for First
       case of a mobile phone, for instance, a                   Responders project will deter-
       person’s location may be determined                       mine the feasibility of using
       by detecting the closest cellular                         RFID-assisted localization in
       towers to the phone and “triangulat-                      combination with an ad-hoc
       ing” the phone’s location based on its                    wireless communication net-
       distance from each of these towers.                       work to provide reliable tracking
       The accuracy, and even availability, of                   of first responders in stressed
       this method of determining a user’s                       indoor RF environments, where
       location may vary with the density of                     GPS-based localization and links
       cellular towers in the area. A satellite-                 to external communication sys-
       based positioning system such as                          tems are known to be unreliable.
       Global Positioning System (GPS)104                        The research will also consider
       can provide an alternative method                         the means and potential for
       of determining the location of a user                     embedding critical building/oc-
       without the constraint of nearby                          cupant information in specific
       cellular towers. (Indeed, many, if not                    on-site RFID tags to enhance the
       most, new cell phones include GPS                         safety and efficiency of the first
       receivers.) Another recent phenom-                        responders’ mission as well as
             According to the Wikipedia entry for GPS viewed March 15, 2006, “United States
             Department of Defense developed the system … and the satellite constellation is managed
             by the 50th Space Wing at Schriever Air Force Base… GPS is available for free use in civilian
             applications as a public good.” Meanwhile, “Russia operates an independent system
             called GLONASS (global navigation system), although with only twelve active satellites
             as of 2004, the system is of limited usefulness. There are plans to restore GLONASS to full
             operation by 2008. The European Union is developing Galileo as an alternative to GPS,
             planned to be in operation by 2010. China and France are also developing other satellite
56           navigation systems.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GPS.
                      The Ethical Challenges of Emerging Technologies - Case Studies

        to minimize dependence upon              increased social interaction.108 In so
        communication with external              doing, they can be viewed as helping
        building databases.105                   a person to exercise his right to asso-
                                                 ciate. This right can serve to support
The project description in the study             democracy and freedom generally as
notes the connection among tech-                 citizens can assemble to petition for a
nologies: “The system… is intended               government to honor their rights.
to leverage advances in ubiquitous
RFID tag technology, in combination              The geospatial web and LBS can also
with recent advances in miniaturized             be viewed as helping to protect the
inertial sensors, to develop a low-cost          health and safety of individuals since
tracking system…”106                             the availability of emergency services
                                                 in many cases depends on the abil-
Other LBS uses may be found in RFID              ity to determine a person’s location.
chips for human implantation. While              In this sense, the technology allows
the VeriChip CEO stresses that the               people to enjoy more fully the right
chips he is advocating for immigra-              to life, liberty and security of person.
tion purposes will be passive, the
company web site indicates that they             Of course, there are potential down-
also have human-implantable chips                sides to the use of the technology.
that can serve as beacons.107                    From a privacy perspective, people
                                                 may be concerned that their loca-
                                                 tions are being observed. In the case
Ramifications and Concerns                        of a repressed minority, the tracking
                                                 of location could result in discrimina-
In associating information with a                tion as the knowledge could lead
specific geographic location, these               to people’s harassment. And just as
technologies can enable a person to              location-aware services could help a
exercise various rights. For example,            group gather, they could also be used
they allow a person readily to identify          to impede association or assembly,
and locate persons in his social net-            depending on who had access to
work and provide opportunities for               the data and what kind of forces they
      National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST), Advanced Network Technologies
      Division, http://www.antd.nist.gov/wctg/RFID/RFIDassist.htm, updated on 03/03/06 and
      viewed on 14 March 2006.
      Leonard Miller, “Indoor Navigation for First Responders: A Feasibility Study,” National
      Institute for Standards and Technology, February 10, 2006, p. 7.
      See VeriChip web site at http://www.verichipcorp.com/ (viewed June 22, 2006).
      See, e.g., www.Dodgeball.com (a social networking LBS where users send a text message
      on a cell phone to indicate their current location).                                      57
The Ethical Challenges of Emerging Technologies - Case Studies

       could exert to stop a gathering. Even     As with other emerging technologies,
       the threat of location surveillance       choices in law and computer code will
       could have a chilling effect and stop      determine who has ownership and
       people from assembling.                   control over this information. Legal
                                                 and technological safeguards should
       These tensions point to one over-         therefore be put in place to ensure that
       riding concern: Who should have           location information associated with
       knowledge of a person’s wherea-           a person is used in a manner that a
       bouts? As currently designed, LBS         polity (including its minorities) deems
       allows the service provider to ascer-     acceptable. Such a combined solution
       tain the location of a person and to      would help the Information Society to
       share that information; it does not       reap the benefits of these tools without
       follow, however, that the service pro-    incurring heavy infoethics costs.
       vider should have the capability or
       permission to determine a person’s
       location at any given time, or to use
       or share that data as it sees fit.
                                                 Mesh Networking
       Similar to protections in digital iden-
       tity management, one approach to
       this potential privacy hazard could be    In addition to the content that is
       to utilize trusted intermediaries that    already on the Internet, there will be
       would provide the minimum neces-          a vast amount of data generated by
       sary information about a person’s         RFID, sensors, and LBS, especially once
       location, in a way that would not be      standards enable interoperability. This
       linkable to other information. So, for    great quantity will require a more ex-
       example, software might prompt            tensive communication network to tie
       an individual to choose when and          the technologies together. Mesh net-
       to whom his location is revealed.         working appears to be an ideal tool to
       Still, a person might not have the        begin to create this network.
       ability to choose when a LBS com-
       bines with sensors and biometrics
       (e.g., facial recognition technology)     What Mesh Networking Is
       to identify people’s whereabouts.
       Again, machines may need to be            In mesh networking, network-enabled
       programmed to treat personal data         devices (e.g., computers or mobile
       with extra care.                          phones) establish a peer-to-peer

                       The Ethical Challenges of Emerging Technologies - Case Studies

communication network spontane-                    the scene of a toxic spill to form their
ously. This connectivity is touted as              own network to share information.
self-configuring, self-healing, scal-
able, strong, and inexpensive.109                  Similarly, a mesh network using radio
                                                   or other wireless communication
                                                   technology could be deployed in
How Mesh Networking                                terrain where a wired infrastructure
Works                                              does not exist, due to terrain or other
                                                   constraints. If the network needed
Mesh networking works by devices’                  Internet connectivity, this link could
sensing each other’s presence and                  be achieved through just one node
negotiating with each other to                     with a connection – although the
set up a network for transmitting                  greater the number of nodes with a
communication. Instead of passing                  connection, the greater the reliabil-
through centrally-controlled hubs,                 ity and speed of transmission. Mesh
data exchanged via mesh networks                   networking could thus allow poor
travel in an ad hoc, “multi-hop” path,             regions to share a limited number
with each point or “node” along the                of Internet connections. To extend
way functioning as a router to relay               to remote areas, the network merely
messages to other nearby nodes. A                  needs to add nodes.110
participating node can be fixed or
mobile, wired or wireless.                         Mesh networks boast many possible
                                                   communication routes for data to
The primary advantage of a mesh                    travel along, and this redundancy
network is its ad hoc nature: a mesh               makes the network resilient in case
network can form between nodes                     any node fails.111 Whereas in busi-
with no underlying infrastructure,                 ness the idea of redundancy often
relying solely on the ability of in-               connotes inefficiency, in mesh net-
dividual nodes to connect to each                  working the contrary is true for three
other. So, for example, a mesh net-                main reasons: (1) the nodes them-
work would allow a rescue team on                  selves can be cheap, (2) installation
      See Mesh Networking (Wikipedia entry), http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mesh_network
      (visited March 11, 2006).
      In a traditional wireless mesh network, all devices operate on the same communication
      channel; in a large network, this can lead to congestion and reduced bandwidth. This
      limitation can be alleviated by using multiple channels to prevent interference. See Richard
      Draves et al., Routing in Multi-Radio, Multi-Hop Wireless Mesh Networks (2004), available at
      This method is similar to that of the Internet and other networks using peer-to-peer
      routing.                                                                                       59
The Ethical Challenges of Emerging Technologies - Case Studies

       is easy (a new node is automatically                drive standards in a way that leads to
       detected and incorporated by the                    abusive market dominance.
       network), and (3) a dense net-
       work of wireless nodes allows for                   Mesh networking has the potential
       lower-powered communication.112                     substantially to disrupt the ability to
                                                           control content. In a more traditional
       Mesh networking has other applica-                  Internet topology, almost all content
       tions as well. Sensors can utilize a                is relayed through ISPs, which then
       low-power mesh network to send                      have the capacity to filter that content
       messages directly to other devices in               – whether in service to government
       the network, and could for example                  (as by preventing access to illegal
       trigger a specific response if a chemi-              content), or for their own interest (as
       cal spill was detected. Since mesh                  by limiting the bandwidth available
       networks rely on distributed control,               to content provided by a competitor).
       and messages need not pass through                  A mesh network, by contrast, allows
       a center; the implication is that sys-              the creation of a great pool of users
       tems can become self-directing.                     who connect to each other in an ad
                                                           hoc fashion, without necessarily using
                                                           an ISP or any other central hub. The
       Ramifications and Concerns                           technology thus can enable users to
                                                           exchange information freely, thereby
       Mesh networking is a relatively young               furthering freedom of expression.
       technology, and there is a need for
       standardization: At present there are               At the same time, by reducing the
       over 70 competing schemes for how                   need for ISPs in local connectivity,
       the networks form and how the de-                   mesh networking has the potential
       vices communicate with each other.                  to concentrate power in those ISPs
       The IEEE professional association is                that serve the relatively few nodes
       pursuing standardization, a sign that               that connect to the Internet back-
       this challenge may be addressed in                  bone. These ISPs may be increasingly
       the near future. As with other tech-                able to filter content and leverage
       nologies, mesh network standards                    the situation to promote their own
       should be set in an open manner                     interests. Furthermore, any disruption
       that best serves the interests of all,              to the shared Internet connection
       without allowing powerful entities to               can have consequences for the entire
                                                           group of users relying on the mesh
             The strength of an electromagnetic signal is inversely proportional to the square of the
             distance from the source of the signal. It thus requires less power to relay a signal across
60           multiple short distances than to broadcast the signal directly across a greater distance.
                        The Ethical Challenges of Emerging Technologies - Case Studies

network. Given these considerations,                 Beyond competition, there are secu-
mesh networks may need to retain                     rity risks implicit in mesh networks.
multiple points of connection to the                 Without checkpoints through which
Internet backbone, preferably oper-                  all data must flow, harmful viruses
ated by separate entities to avoid                   or worms could spread throughout
monopolistic behavior.                               a mesh community. Such hazards
                                                     may reinforce demand for digital
David Clark notes: “Mesh networking                  identity management and other
raises issues about policy for spectrum              security-related technologies, in turn
allocation, industry structure, and so               magnifying the infoethics impact of
forth. There is sort of a classic strug-             those technologies.
gle going on, with incumbents using
regulation to slow down change.”113

                                The Tools Make the Rules
                           An interview with Dewayne Hendricks114

      Key to the Internet’s integration into our lives is its spread throughout our built environ-
      ments. Where the Internet cannot be found, modern life will not exist; here, the physical
      layer of Internet governance becomes particularly important. While to date the Internet
      has reached most users by wires – copper, coaxial, and now fiber – many of its applica-
      tions will soon derive their value from untethered links to the network. The Internet is
      becoming a pervasive part of modern life, and wireless access to the Internet will soon
      become as ubiquitous as air itself.
      In one sense, these wireless connections are simpler to deploy than their wired coun-
      terparts because they require less physical infrastructure: There are fewer wires to lay
      and fewer landowners to appease. But while a wire in the ground is virtually the same
      everywhere, the wireless spectrum is not. In nations such as the United States, spectrum
      has been carefully divided and mostly regulated. In places like China, the opposite is
      true. Other countries’ policies lie somewhere in between.115

      Interview with David Clark at MIT, November 11, 2005.
      “Serial entrepreneur” Dewayne Hendricks is CEO of the Dandin Group.
      See “Focus on Wireless: Special Study on Wireless Spectrum” at http://www.netdialogue.
      org/casestudy/ -- created in conjunction with the research arm of the Microsoft Corporation.
      This case study examines the 5 GHz spectrum and its potential for international use. Within
      these web pages, Net Dialogue presents information on 5 GHz’s worldwide availability, its
      prospects for regulation, and the standards that may someday make use of it.                   61
The Ethical Challenges of Emerging Technologies - Case Studies

             According to spectrum expert Dewayne Hendricks, “Carving out the radio spectrum
             into a series of walled preserves is an artifact of the past. By licensing spectrum, poli-
             cymakers have fostered the notion that the spectrum is a scarce resource where access
             to it has to be strictly managed or ordered. Changes in technology which started in the
             early 1950s have shown us that this perspective is inaccurate.”
             Dewayne notes that, with the advent of devices such as software and cognitive
             radios, and concepts like spectrum underlay (a.k.a. overlay), “the Information Society
             can start to treat the spectrum as a dynamically allocable resource, where access is
             dictated by the needs and requirements of the devices making use of it at any given
             The amateur radio spectrum and its use for almost one hundred years is the best ex-
             ample of this phenomenon, he says. Amateur radio has operated under a spectrum
             “commons” model for all these years with no major adverse effects, and it has fostered
             an environment where innovation has flourished; drawing a parallel, Dewayne asserts:
             “The more recent creation of the unlicensed bands have shown to all what results
             when society makes a spectrum commons accessible to countless devices.”
             When asked about the future, Dewayne replies: “It is hard to predict where a spectrum
             commons will take us. Just three years ago, if one had predicted that the major industri-
             alized cities of the world would now be covered by Wi-Fi ‘clouds’, people would not have
             believed it.” Yet this is where these societies are today.
             In conclusion, Dewayne reflects: “I believe that there is ample evidence out there now
             for policymakers all over the world to start to rethink their approaches to spectrum
             policy and give serious consideration to the concept of open spectrum.”

             This work is licensed under a Creative Commons “Attribution 2.0” License.116

                                                           many of these machines have very
       Grid Computing                                      low storage capacity and computing
                                                           power. For them to offer true par-
                                                           ticipation in the Information Society,
       Mesh and other networking technol-                  they need a way to access additional
       ogies are paving the way for countless              resources. Grid computing offers
       devices throughout the world to be                  possibilities here.
       connected to the Internet. Of course,

62     116
             See http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/.
                       The Ethical Challenges of Emerging Technologies - Case Studies

What Grid Computing Is                             time sharing.” However, it has only
                                                   been in the last five years or so that
Simply stated, “grid computing” is a               advancements in computer process-
technology that allows devices linked              ing, memory, and networking have
through a network to share computing               culminated to allow an appreciation
power or data storage capacity, and so             of the technology’s benefits. With the
to appear to operate as a single, extra            spread of the Internet, broadband net-
powerful computer. By combining                    works, and cheap, high-performance
resources, machines linked in a grid               computers using open standards, grid
computing system can perform com-                  computing has now enjoyed wider
putations that would be impossible                 acceptance as a concept.118
or too time consuming for a single
computer to do. This computational                 Grid computing is being marketed to
cooperation thus allows regular users              enterprises in the name of efficiency.
to perform large tasks, such as mod-               For example, the Sun Microsystems
eling the global financial system or                web site touts grid computing benefits
predicting climate change. A machine               as including “cost reduction,” “shorter
linked in such a system can also access            time to market,” “increased quality
data that is too bulky for it to store on          and innovation,” and the “ability to do
its own.                                           things previously not possible.”119

A grid computing system can be                     Similarly, IBM says that grid com-
organized to function like a utility,              puting brings business benefits by
whereby computing resources are                    allowing a company to: “Accelerate
available “on tap,” similar to the way             time to results… Enable collaboration
water and electricity are available in             and promote operational flexibility…
the developed world.117                            Efficiently scale to meet variable
                                                   business demands… Increase pro-
Grid computing has existed as a notion             ductivity… Leverage existing capital
for decades, with the first concep-                 investments…,” with technology ben-
tions in the 1960s cast as “computer               efits heralded as “Infrastructure

      In 1965 developers of the Multics operating system (an ancestor of Linux) presented a
      vision of “computing as an utility”. See http://gridcafe.web.cern.ch/gridcafe/Gridhistory/
      history.html, viewed on March 7, 2006. The term “grid computing” stems from a metaphor
      used in the early 1990s to connote computing power that is as easy to access as an electric
      power grid.
      Daniel Minoli, A Networking Approach to Grid Computing, Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons,
      Inc., 2005, p. 3.
      See http://www.sun.com/software/grid/, viewed March 5, 2006.                                  63
The Ethical Challenges of Emerging Technologies - Case Studies

       optimization… Increase[d] access to             different administrative domains.
       data and collaboration… Resilient,              Separate computers in a network
       highly available infrastructure…”120            indicate when they can offer spare
                                                       computing power or storage space,
       Meanwhile, Oracle advertises its                and devices needing those resources
       services in the following way: “Grid            can then draw upon it. When this
       computing enables you to create a               process is initiated, computational
       single IT infrastructure that can be            needs of a given user are broken
       shared by all your business processes.          into discreet pieces and distributed
       Oracle 10g software is specifically de-          to machines on the network. Each
       signed for grid computing, delivering           individual machine works on its
       a higher quality of service to those            piece and then sends back the result
       business processes at a much lower              for recombination with the results
       cost.”121                                       obtained from other participants. As
                                                       CERN elaborates, “This is more than
                                                       simple file exchange: it is direct access
       How Grid Computing Works                        to remote software, computers and
                                                       data. It can even give you access and
       As explained on the GridCafé web                control of remote sensors, telescopes
       site of the European Organization for           and other devices that do not belong
       Nuclear Research (CERN), a grid has             to you.”123
       five basic features:
                                                       Security may be thought of as involv-
       1.      Global resource sharing;                ing four interrelated aspects – that
       2.      Security;                               is, access, authorization, authentica-
       3.      Load balancing;                         tion and accounting. For access,
       4.      Distance neutrality; and                participants specify which resources
       5.      Open standards.122                      (software, computers, or data) may
                                                       be used by whom and at what time,
       In terms of global resource shar-               and what can be done with them.
       ing, computers in a grid computing              The authorization mechanism checks
       network share computing and stor-               to see whether a requested job is in
       age resources across geographically             line with the sharing relationships
       distributed organizations that have             that have been established. In the
             See http://www-1.ibm.com/grid/about_grid/benefits.shtml, viewed March 5, 2006.
             See http://www.oracle.com/technology/tech/grid/index.html, viewed January 27, 2006.
             See http://gridcafe.web.cern.ch/gridcafe/challenges/challenges.html, viewed March 5,
64     123
             See http://gridcafe.web.cern.ch/gridcafe/challenges/share.html, viewed March 5, 2006.
                      The Ethical Challenges of Emerging Technologies - Case Studies

authentication process, the identity            several locations…”125 As such, there is
of a participant (resource provider or          a relation between the development
user) is verified. Finally, accounting           of grid computing and semantic web
involves billing for usage; this aspect         and digital identity management
will increasingly become a focus as             technology.
grids move from the experimental
phase in academic and scientific                 Distance neutrality refers to the ability
research centers and become more                to share grid resources from diverse,
widely used by society generally.124 As         remote locations in an optimally ef-
policymakers and technologists try              ficient manner and without delays in
to address these security concerns,             the processing of jobs.
approaches in digital identity man-
agement and computer certification               Similar to the way the Internet is a
may be looked to as solutions.                  network of networks, “the Grid” as
                                                envisioned will be one large Grid
Load balancing refers to the need               comprised of overlapping grid net-
for a grid to allocate resources ef-            works – with a need for common
ficiently. Instead of humans trying to           standards to allow applications to
optimize resources, myriad “middle-             run across them. To answer this need,
ware” programmes enable machines                hundreds of players around the world
to negotiate with each other – with             (companies, academic institutions,
some acting as agents (telling about            other research institutions, etc.) have
users, data, and resources) and others          been cooperating in developing
as brokers (striking deals on access to         standards. Perhaps the biggest boon
and payment for these services) in              to this standard making came with
the market of computing and stor-               their merging of regional grid advo-
age resources. Metadata (data about             cacy organizations into the Global
data) allow this exchange by indi-              Grid Forum126 in 2001. This group is
cating “how, when and by whom a                 now developing a standard called
particular set of data was collected,           the Open Grid Services Architecture,
how the data is formatted, and where            which is expected to be key for ena-
in the world it is stored – sometimes at        bling the Grid.127 To complement this

      See http://gridcafe.web.cern.ch/gridcafe/challenges/access.html, viewed March 5, 2006.
      See http://gridcafe.web.cern.ch/gridcafe/gridatwork/middleware.html, viewed March 6,
      Global Grid Forum members as of 2005 are available at http://www.gridforum.org, viewed
      March 5, 2006.
      See http://www.gridforum.org/documents/GFD.30.pdf, viewed on March 7, 2006.              65
The Ethical Challenges of Emerging Technologies - Case Studies

       overarching architectural standard,                a way that may result in obstacles.129
       the Globus Alliance has released an                In recent years, however, companies
       open source software package, the                  have designed technology that can
       “Globus Toolkit”,128 to foster develop-            distinguish effectively among differ-
       ment of grids and applications that                ent types of traffic (e.g, voice, video,
       can run on them.                                   or simple textual data). Hence, those
                                                          companies are advocating a depar-
       Notably absent in the basic features is            ture from the net neutrality principle
       a call for “net neutrality”, which holds           in the name of quality of service.
       that there should be no discrimina-
       tion among types of information                    At the international level this quality of
       flowing over the network. This princi-              service argument has been advanced
       ple has largely been held as a truth in            effectively in the International
       the first few decades of the Internet,              Telecommunication Union (ITU), which
       based on the idea that efficiency and                has launched the Next Generation
       innovation are best served by the                  Networks Global Standards Initiative
       network’s doing nothing other than                 (NGN-GSI) to implement such capabili-
       transmitting information. The idea has             ties on a worldwide basis. Interestingly,
       been to keep “intelligence at the ends”            the Global Grid Forum and the ITU’s
       of the network, meaning where users                NGN-GSI group are collaborating to
       connect, instead of having assess-                 see how the technologies may com-
       ments made by the network itself in                plement each other.130

             The Globus Alliance has been working on fundamental grid technologies for the Globus
             Toolkit. The Globus Alliance was started in 1996 as the Globus Project, based at the
             University of Southern California and the University of Chicago in the USA. Now called the
             Globus Alliance, this group currently includes the Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden,
             the University of Edinburgh, the National Center for Supercomputing Applications in
             Illinois, USA, and Univa Corporation, based in Illinois, USA. Sponsors include a range of
             U.S. federal agencies (e.g., DARPA, DOE, NASA, and NSF), along with commercial partners
             such as IBM and Microsoft.
             See “End to End Arguments in System Design,” J.H. Saltzer, D.P. Reed and D.D. Clark, MIT
             Laboratory for Computer Science, 1984 (available at http://www.reed.com/Papers/
             endtoend.pdf, viewed on June 22, 2006).
             For example, the ITU and the Global Grid Forum hosted a joint meeting in Geneva,
             Switzerland in October 2006. See http://www.itu.int/ITU-T/worksem/grid/index.html (as
66           viewed on June 22, 2006).
                      The Ethical Challenges of Emerging Technologies - Case Studies

             Free Software: Access to Information and Knowledge
                                By Georg Greve131

  Information and knowledge have always been at the heart of human evolution: They have
  shaped societies, helped build peace and were reason for war. Information and knowledge
  in the hand of a few can enslave entire peoples. Used wisely they can liberate them.
  Information and communication technologies have fundamentally changed the rules
  for access to both information and knowledge. Digitalization has for the first time made
  it conceivable to transfer information in real time, without loss and at virtually no cost,
  across the planet.
  Software is a cultural technique at the heart of this change, the medium that shapes this
  evolutionary step. Software codifies the rules along which information is exchanged and
  converted to knowledge. It controls who can do this and under which conditions: Access
  to and control over software determines, in part, today’s knowledge and power structures.
  That is why software is such a controversial and central issue.
  Software can be designed to give all power to change and enforce rules to a single person
  or group; this is the default approach in proprietary or non-free software.
  But software can also be designed to give all users power over their own computers, and
  the right to determine how to interact with others in this new, virtual environment. For
  this right to be fully provided, software must give its users four fundamental freedoms:
  the freedom of unlimited use for any purpose; the freedom to study the software and
  learn how it works; the freedom to modify the software to adapt it to the needs of others;
  and the freedom to copy and distribute the software in original or modified form.
  The rules of proprietary software make many dependant on the good will of a very few.
  The rules of Free Software provide an equal and independent playing field, which is why
  it is a natural choice for all activities that seek to promote Access to Information and
  Knowledge for everyone.132

      Georg Greve serves as President of the Free Software Foundation Europe.
      More information about Free Software can be found on the web pages of the Free Software
      Foundation Europe and the GNU Project: http://www.fsfeurope.org; http://www.gnu.org.      67
The Ethical Challenges of Emerging Technologies - Case Studies

       Ramifications and Concerns cies, grid computing’s economic gains
                                                     could boost the standard of living and
       Grid computing in time could re-              so buttress the right to life, liberty and
       shape access to computing. Rather             security of person.
       than requiring each individual to
       have a high-powered computer, grid            In practice, of course, there will be sig-
       computing encourages the use of               nificant hurdles in terms of accounting
       low-cost “dumb terminals,” each with          and system security that will need to
       only enough computing power to                be overcome. Grid computing within
       perform routine tasks and to coordi-          a single organization is far easier than
       nate communication with a central             an open grid using the Internet.
       computing resource. These terminals
       are generally much cheaper than a             A large-scale grid is not without its
       standard computer, and they thereby           infoethics hazards. The security risks
       suggest a way to provide computing            implicit in sharing computing power
       access to the poorest regions of the          and data with others will make
       world (particularly in combination            demand for digital identity manage-
       with mesh networking).                        ment and other security-related
                                                     technologies more pronounced, in
       This optimism presumes that users             turn heightening the ethical concerns
       from poor regions will in fact be able        associated with those technologies.
       to access the shared computing utility.       Moreover, if grid authentication were
       If, however, grid computing is run as a       centralized or concentrated, access
       commercial operation, ability to pay          chokepoints theoretically could dis-
       may exclude many areas of the world           criminate among people wishing to
       from sharing this resource; if it is not      participate in the network.
       structured as a commercial enterprise,
       then some organization will have to           Similarly, a grid architecture by
       agree to subsidize its existence.             its nature demands distinctions
                                                     based on content. The technology
       While distribution of gains will need         facilitating these distinctions as cur-
       to be worked out, grid computing in           rently designed will allow “deep
       theory promises outstanding efficien-           packet inspection” by governments
       cies. Instead of having billions of devices   or companies providing Internet
       that either have unused computing             services – meaning that these enti-
       power or are constrained in this capac-       ties could monitor and possibly block
       ity, this technology allows resources         the flow of specific information. The
       to go where they are needed. Just as          threat to freedom of expression is
68     other technologies herald vast efficien-        obviously profound here.
                         The Ethical Challenges of Emerging Technologies - Case Studies

These negative prospects weigh                         harnessed for a variety of purposes.
against the benefits of efficiencies and                  Decision-makers today must balance
access that will accompany the vast                    the infoethics tradeoffs and steer the
computing power, data accessibility,                   Information Society toward sound
and data storage of grid computing.                    grid computing choices.

As with other technologies, grid com-
puting itself is neutral, and it can be

                          Reading and Libraries: Two Notes133
                      David Weinberger134, Joho the Blog, March 6, 2006

      I can’t wait until we’re all reading on e-books. Because they’ll be networked, reading will
      become social. Book clubs will be continuous, global, ubiquitous, and as diverse as the
      And just think of being an author who gets to see which sections readers are underlining
      and scribbling next to. Just think of being an author given permission to reply.
      I can’t wait.
      As we put our works on line, we’ll only need one library…
      Why have more than one library when you can link to and aggregate whatever you need?
      Oh, the library will be distributed and portions will be replicated for safety’s sake – we will
      have learned something from Alexandria – but that’s just an implementation “detail.”
      When all our works are digitized, a local library will be nothing but a playlist.

      Licensed under a Creative Commons “Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0”
      license (for details, see http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/).

      Available at http://www.hyperorg.com/blogger/mtarchive/reading_and_libraries_two_
      David Weinberger is a Research Fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at
      Harvard Law School.                                                                               69
The Ethical Challenges of Emerging Technologies - Case Studies

                                                   communication is a limitation on
       New Computing                               computing power.

       Technologies                                By expanding computation into
                                                   three dimensions, this limitation can
       Moore’s Law holds that the comput-          be circumvented. Although it may be
       ing power of a single chip doubles          possible to achieve this augmenta-
       approximately every 18 months.135           tion with silicon-based transistors,
       Each time we appear to reach a limita-      other transistors may be better suited
       tion that would end this exponential        to a three-dimensional processor.
       growth, a new technology arrives            Nanotubes – i.e. cylinders formed of a
       that permits computers to continue          hexagonal network of carbon atoms
       to increase in capacity as the prior        – could be a more viable vehicle
       technology approaches its limits.           for three-dimensional computing.
                                                   However, this technology is not cur-
       There are several technologies that         rently available commercially, as
       offer the potential of expanding             manufacturing techniques to place
       computing capacity beyond the               nanotubes into a prearranged pat-
       capabilities of today’s integrated cir-     tern do not yet exist.
       cuits.136 This section touches on some
       of these technologies, and then ad-
       dresses their common consequence:           Molecular and Biological
       the continuing increase of comput-          Computing
       ing power.
                                                   Other new technologies seek to
                                                   displace the transistor – the core of
       Nanotubes and Three-                        modern devices – with completely
       Dimensional Computing                       new computing elements. Molecular
                                                   computers       utilize     individual
       Current integrated circuits are es-         molecules as computing devices, al-
       sentially two-dimensional; as chips         lowing data to be represented by a
       become more complex, with multi-            given configuration of a molecule,
       ple subcomponents, the constraint           and computations to be performed
       of operating in two dimensions with         by altering the molecule. Likewise,
       a fixed number of layers for interchip       biological computers use living cells

             See Wikipedia, Moore’s Law, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moore%27s_law (viewed
             February 26, 2006).
70     136
             See generally Ray Kurzweil, The Singularity Is Near, Ch. 3 (2005).
                  The Ethical Challenges of Emerging Technologies - Case Studies

as computers, with the cell’s own         One limitation shared by both opti-
DNA determining the computation           cal and quantum computing is the
that it performs. Research is currently   nature of the computations that they
ongoing concerning both of these          solve: Each is only efficient when
computing technologies.137                performing the same calculation
                                          on a very large data set. Thus, these
                                          technologies are clearly applicable
Optical and Quantum                       to certain problems – such as image
Computing                                 processing calculations that require
                                          each portion of the image to be
In a traditional computer, each ele-      processed – but are more difficult
ment performs one computation on          to apply to calculations on a smaller
one piece of data at any given time.      scale. However, the advent of grid
New technologies, however, can            computing may offer additional
allow a single computing element          opportunities to utilize massively par-
to work on multiple data pieces at        allel computing technologies such as
once.                                     these.

Optical computing permits this par-
allel processing by encoding data in      Ramifications and Concerns
a stream of light. By use of a prism
technique, these streams of light can     Although most of the technologies
pass through the same device at the       discussed in this section are not likely
same time without interfering with        to exist commercially for a few years,
each other. A single optical com-         they suggest promising alternatives
puting element – which performs a         to the existing method of computa-
calculation by altering a stream – can    tion. Each presents its own technical
thus process several data elements at     challenges that must be overcome in
the same time.                            order to make the technology viable;
                                          however, none of the challenges
Quantum computing uses the non-           appear insurmountable, and it is all
deterministic quantum nature of           but certain that at least one of these
particles to represent every possible     technologies will serve to allow the
state of the particle, eventually gen-    continuing increase in computing
erating a particle in a specific state     power.
that corresponds to the solution to
the problem.

      Id.                                                                            71
The Ethical Challenges of Emerging Technologies - Case Studies

       These technologies, taken as a            make sense of enormous quantities
       whole, suggest that the Information       of data gathered by search engines,
       Society is nowhere near the limits of     ISPs, video cameras, financial inter-
       its capacity. Computers will almost       mediaries, and other data collection
       certainly continue to grow smaller,       points. Here again, surveillance
       more powerful and more networked          could put a severe dampener on the
       in the future, and the Internet’s ex-     practice of human rights, particularly
       plosion from curiosity 15 years ago       those instrumental in preventing the
       to dominant paradigm today signi-         abuse of power since surveillance
       fies only the very beginning of the        could be used to thwart privacy, as-
       Information Society.                      sembly, and dissent.

       Such computing power could go             These technologies could also disrupt
       far in achieving infoethics goals. For    geo-politics as entities enjoying early
       example, high-powered computing           access to them would have a signifi-
       could enable translations on a wide       cant “first mover” advantage. As such,
       scale, helping to bridge people of dif-   the technologies could be used to
       ferent language groups and promote        threaten the right to life, liberty, and
       diversity. So, too, these resources       security of person and other rights;
       could boost access to communication       of course, or they could also be used
       by providing computation muscle for       to usher in changes that improve the
       computing grids – enabling people         exercise of these rights.
       with cheap, low-powered devices
       to access information generated or        To prepare for these seemingly
       stored elsewhere.                         overwhelming technologies, the
                                                 Information Society must consider
       Cutting in the opposite direction is      today’s relatively small programmes
       the potential increase in surveillance    that will pave the way for such power,
       capabilities. While today such intel-     and make every effort to ensure that
       ligence may seem far-fetched, this        machines are coded with a language
       technology could have the muscle to       of respect for human rights.

                   The Ethical Challenges of Emerging Technologies - Case Studies

Table: Summary of Infoethics Concerns

Technology          Possible Positive Effects              Possible Negative Effects
Semantic web        • Expands access to information;      • Could make it easier to block
                    • Could cause polarization              people from receiving various
                      and lack of public discourse,         content;
                      though this is debated.             • Could make it easier to prevent
                    • Brings efficiencies (boosting           people from imparting content
                      the economy and with it the           (e.g., thwarting certain content
                      standard of living, which some        or competition supplied by
                      people see as directly related        new entrants);
                      to the right to life, liberty and   • Could put people on the same
                      security of person).                  level as objects.
Digital identity    • Could enhance privacy and           • Could allow collusion and
management            security;                             profiling by identity providers
                    • Could bolster freedom of              and relying parties;
                      assembly by helping people          • Could easily be converted into
                      identify others with similar          a government-centric system;
                      interests;                          • Could enable discrimination;
                    • Could bring efficiencies and          • Could cause humans to be at
                      set web services free (boosting       the mercy of machines tasked
                      the economy and with it the           to act as agents;
                      standard of living, which some      • Could intensify security risks of
                      people see as directly related        compromised computers.
                      to the right to life, liberty and
                      security of person).
Biometrics          • Could bring accountability,         • Could be coupled with digital
                      which some people see as tied         identity management tools as
                      to the right to life, liberty and     a pre-requisite for participation
                      security of person.                   in Information Society
                    • Could increase government’s           activities;
                      capacity to provide the public      • Could lead to international
                      with governmental services            system of central
                      (e.g., speedier passport checks       administration, but
                      at airports). Some people             international bodies are not
                      would view this as promoting          equipped to prevent the abuse
                      the right to life, liberty and        of power;
                      security of person.                 • Could enable extensive
                                                            surveillance, thereby hurting
                                                            privacy, freedom of association
                                                            and freedom of expression,
                                                            among other freedoms.
The Ethical Challenges of Emerging Technologies - Case Studies

        Technology        Possible Positive Effects                Possible Negative Effects
        RFID              • Could bring efficiencies in             • Could impinge on freedom
                            the supply chain (boosting              of religion if implants were
                            the standard of living, which           necessary for participation in
                            some people see as related life,        the Information Society.
                            liberty and security).                • Could enable extensive
                          • Could increase security by              surveillance, impinging on
                            augmenting enforcement                  privacy and other freedoms.
        Sensors           • Could serve as life-saving            • Could breed uncertainty
                            devices (directly related to the        regarding the public domain
                            right to life, liberty and security     and access to information and
                            of person);                             the means of communication;
                          • Could help optimize                   • Could cause governments to
                            production and distribution             have sovereignty and security
                            (contributing to efficiency and           concerns.
                            thereby life, liberty and security    • Could enable extensive
                            of person).                             surveillance, impinging on
                                                                    privacy and other freedoms.
        Geospatial web    • Could be viewed as helping            • Could hinder privacy through
        and LBS             people to exercise their right to       the tracking of location;
                            associate;                            • Could allow discrimination
                          • In extending the availability           and the blocking of assembly
                            of emergency services, could            and expression through the
                            enhance the right to life, liberty      tracking of location.
                            and security of person.
        Mesh networking   • Could disrupt content                 • Could concentrate power in
                            restrictions (e.g., filtering or         Internet-backbone connection
                            bandwidth allocation);                  points;
                          • Could help poor regions               • Could give rise to
                            have access to means of                 authentication that carries
                            communication.                          similar side effects as digital
                                                                    identity management tools
                                                                    (especially privacy).
        Grid computing    • Could provide computing and           • Could enable extensive
                            data storage and retrieval for          surveillance, impinging on
                            the poor.                               privacy and other freedoms;
                          • By allowing resources to go           • Could allow discrimination and
                            where needed, would offer                other restrictions given access
                            efficiencies.                             chokepoints.
        New computing     • High-powered computing                • Could enable extensive
        technologies        could allow translations and            surveillance, impinging on
                            bridge people;                          privacy and other freedoms;
                          • As computation behind                 • Could disrupt geo-political
                            computing grids, could boost            balance (e.g., by enabling
                            access.                                 decryption).
                                        The Short
                                   Story Revisited

As noted, the semantic web will          in the contextual terms of “frequent
give computers metadata to help          renter of cars,” or “high insurance risk,”
them sift through the enormous           but rather in terms that express what
amounts of information that have         is sacrosanct, or not to be violated
been generated and made available        – such as the right to seek, receive
via the Internet. At present humans      and impart information. In this re-
are helping to develop this meta-        spect, digital identity management
data, but as the Information Society     tools could be used to assert rights
moves into the future, machines will     and seek automatic redress in case
increasingly create the vocabulary for   they are violated.
themselves. Metadata linguistically
can equate a person with an object       If machines are programmed to treat
– for example placing a human and        human data with an extra high degree
a piece of luggage in the genre of       of care, they will automatically process
things to be tracked through airports    fingerprints, an iris pattern, or a walk-
– but it can also order the world so     ing gait differently than they would
as to make its wonders accessible to     digitize, say, mud, a car engine, or a
people in a way they will enjoy – for    dog running. In this way, biometrics
example labeling photos for easy         can serve to protect privacy and the
sharing among friends. Programming       right to associate freely rather than
computers so that they will put data     to act against these freedoms. The
pertaining to humans on a higher         technology can be used for good, for
plane than that of objects could         example helping people recognize
prove important down the line.           each other and enjoy access to a
                                         multitude of domains.
Digital identity management
offers a test case for this fleshing out   Similarly, RFID, sensors, the ge-
of what it means to be a person. In      ospatial web and location-based
the early stage of computers’ lin-       services have potential to hem
guistic development, it would seem       humans in as they make purchases,
essential to describe humans not just    exhibit emotional reactions, and             75
The Short Story Revisited

        move about the physical world – with      may fear competition and others may
        this data becoming as manageable          deem uncontrolled communication
        and searchable as other digitized         a threat, the sharing of information
        content, subject to possible collec-      through these networks can help
        tion, analysis, and use by unknown        democratize the Information Society.
        entities. It could prove difficult for      So, too, this kind of connectivity can
        a person to know what forces he is        open the gateway for diversity of
        subject to, or to refute data when so-    content on information networks,
        ciety gives it credence over a person’s   facilitating communities based on
        testimony. Looking at the technolo-       shared culture and enabling people of
        gies from another angle, there are        different cultures to understand each
        beneficial uses – for example with         other better. In this way, mesh net-
        RFID tags promising to bring down         working technology has potential to
        a company’s costs of doing business,      maximize the benefits of educational,
        with sensors helping to ensure that a     informational and cultural content
        water treatment plant is safe, and LBS    by expanding access to information.
        and the geospatial web bringing a         Indeed, technologies such as mesh
        lost child home. These technologies       networking can extend the reach
        also promise to let new forms of con-     of the Internet and make universal
        tent flower. To ensure the Information     access to information a reality.
        Society takes the right direction with
        respect to these technologies, the        As lightweight devices connected
        key will again be in designating how      to mesh networks and ever more
        different types of data should be          powerful computers all plug into
        treated, with the end goal being to       the grid, they may face different
        promote the exercise of freedoms.         constraints depending on whether
                                                  they are contributing or consuming
        With mesh networking, these               resources. What will be important
        same possibilities reach the develop-     here is that people all enjoy the right
        ing world, where new connectivity         to equal access and are not discrimi-
        promises to end the marginalization       nated against in the authentication
        of economies and the people living        and authorization processes based
        in them. While incumbent companies        on criteria that are unrelated to


     Emerging technologies open many new opportunities and avenues for action
     for UNESCO and its partners to fulfill their respective mandates and engage
     proactively in the development of the Information Society, as shows the fol-
     lowing non-exhaustive list of recommendations.


          1.1.   Establishing an Advisory Board

                 International work on the ethical implications of emerging
                 technologies should benefit from regular insights by an Advisory
                 Board. Policymakers and people generally are interested in what top
                 technology experts have to say, and there are complementarities in
                 the interests of UNESCO and the programmes of certain academic
                 institutions focusing on technology – both of which embrace goals
                 like respect for human rights and access to knowledge. Therefore,
                 having a special Advisory Board on infoethics would allow UNESCO
                 to harness the knowledge of top technologists and to benefit from
                 the respect accorded them.

                 Such a group could help UNESCO continue to engage in the
                 types of collaboration pursued during the World Summit on the
                 Information Society (WSIS), while avoiding the politics that weigh
                 down large, high-profile forums.

                 To ensure the group’s findings are adaptive and forward-thinking,
                 this Advisory Board should include children and youth from around
                 the world, as well as experts in technology and infoethics.

                 In addition, UNESCO could collaborate with academic institutions in
                 hosting brainstorming sessions to consider pressing issues of the future.

        1.2.     Establishing a Community of Technologists to Protect
                 Personal Data

                 As noted in the survey, the control of personal data flow will prove
                 pivotal for the exercise of human rights and access to information
                 in the Information Society. This factor is one of the most important
                 identified in this survey of “Ethical Implications of Emerging
                 Technologies” as technology will increasingly have potential to be
                 used to wield control over people’s existence.

                 Because digital identity management will serve as the base
                 component for other technologies dealing with the flow of personal
                 data, and because industry is preparing to release new tools in the
                 coming months, this particular technology is suggested here as a
                 subject for special collaboration.

                 Substantive work on personal data protection would fill a void in
                 the international system. At present, there exists a critical need for the
                 protection of personal data. This need is recognized by the international
                 group of Data Protection and Privacy Commissioners, who in September
                 2005 adopted the Montreux Declaration calling for multilateral
                 principles in this area. The need is also recognized by computer scientists
                 – especially leading figures in the Identity Gang industry group and in
                 the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), who see their work as carrying
                 great potential for harm or good, but who are looking for guidance as to
                 what principles they should design code to support.

                 Of course, the topic of personal data protections is not new: To
                 counteract the possibility of personal data being mishandled in
                 the information age, the Organization for Economic Cooperation
                 and Development (OECD) and the Council of Europe (COE) each
                 developed rules more than two decades ago.138 Together, these
      OECD members adopted the Guidelines on the Protection of Privacy and Transborder Flows
      of Personal Data in 1980. The COE adopted the Convention for the Protection of Individuals
      with Regard to Automatic Processing of Personal Data, CETS 108, in 1981. Subsequent
      instruments by these organizations have reinforced these ideas.                              79

                      initiatives comprise a solid list of protections. OECD principles
                      include collection limitation, data quality, purpose specification, use
                      limitation, security safeguards, openness, individual participation,
                      and accountability. Article 6 in the COE Convention adds an anti-
                      discrimination provision.

                      However, the OECD rules are non-binding, and those of the COE
                      hold only for signatories.139 Even if adopted on a binding basis
                      throughout the world, these instruments are legal only and as
                      such are impractical for guaranteeing the proper treatment of
                      personal data by machines located around the world. Working
                      with W3C and academic institutions, UNESCO could help the
                      technology industry to develop tools to enforce personal data
                      protections where law falls short.


              2.1     Examining the Possibilities of Preparing a Code of Ethics

                      It is recommended that a Code of Ethics be prepared as a worldwide
                      point of reference for ethics in the Information Society. A primary
                      objective of the instrument would be to sensitize stakeholders to
                      the shared responsibility of actors in the Information Society to
                      promote infoethics goals.

              2.2     Preparing a Study on Network Neutrality

                      It is recommended that an examination be conducted of the way
                      different regimes regulate their networks (whether they impose
                      neutrality rules, etc.) and the resulting networks these regulations
                      produce. The Organization could watch to see when international
                      rulemaking or standards setting might upset the principle of network
                      neutrality, and it could intervene with appropriate contributions to
                      discussions. Academic institutions could be asked to assist in this

80    139
            Signatories include 38 European countries, 33 of which have ratified the Convention.

        2.3     Publicizing Infoethics Aspects of International
                Rulemaking and Standards Setting

                While the composition of an Advisory Board and the brainstorming
                groups should remain relatively small to enable effective
                discussion, substantive points should be made available to the
                public via a web site, with summaries also available in written
                form for distribution to interested areas in the world that are not
                yet connected to the Internet. Meetings can be conducted via
                IRC and, if in person, can be webcast.


        Other substantive work could focus on (a) whether the public has a right to
        know what the state of technology is; (b) if so, how this right can be given
        effect; and (c) how people can learn to understand technology’s workings
        and respond in a way that respects each other’s human rights in a crisis.

        UNESCO should meanwhile support open standards and protocols that
        are generated through democratic processes not dominated by large

        The use of OpenDocument Format and other open formats should also be
        encouraged as they help mitigate lock-in to certain technologies.140 Other
        initiatives to consider include pursuing free and open software, as well as
        the “Roadmap for Open ICT Ecosystems”141 developed last year.

        To further these movements, UNESCO should become involved in
        standards-setting organizations and consult with technical experts, both to
        broaden its own understanding of the issues and to lend further strength
        to its actions.

      More information may be found at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/OpenDocument, viewed
      March 15, 2006.
      See, e.g., http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/epolicy/roadmap.pdf.                         81
     ANNEX: A Democratic
     Information Society
     (Summary of an Interview
     with David P. Reed)

     According to David Reed,142 a computer            information the group was interested
     scientist who has been heavily influen-            in and who had the privilege of shar-
     tial in the development of the Internet,          ing information with whom.
     “Ubiquitous computing and ubiquitous
     connectivity are the synergy of interest          In early days of computing, 30 or
     – these technologies together would               40 years ago, decisions concerning
     allow large-scale information-sharing             many systems were made in this type
     systems.” This section details an exten-          of hierarchical setting or culture. So,
     sive interview with him.                          for example, computer security was
                                                       defined as: “What’s good for the organ-
     The Legacy of Hierarchies                         ization as a whole should be allowed,
                                                       and what’s not should be disallowed.”
     Ubiquitous computing until recently               Meanwhile, there was no democratic
     was affected by where computing                    definition of what was good for the
     originated – i.e. in a small sector of            organization as a whole. Security
     society (including large-scale or-                in the military context was heavily
     ganizations like the military or big              worked out in computer systems as
     business since they could afford the               non-discretionary access control – in
     early versions of the technology). This           other words, it was not within a per-
     small sector was using the technology             son’s own discretion to decide with
     primarily for computing and record                whom to share information. The idea
     keeping. The technology is thus taint-            was to require individual decisions
     ed with the bias toward supporting                to be in line with overall goals, with
     what large-scale organizations share:             these goals implemented according
     that is, a “command and control” cul-             to top-down rules, manuals, and
     ture of overall vision with a boss and            policy systems that were passed out
     hierarchical structure, with this limited         to people who had no choice but to
     set of decision-makers defining what               follow them.
           An interview with David P. Reed, Adjunct Professor at the MIT Media Lab. Reed co-
           developed the Internet design principle of “end-to-end” (with MIT Professors J.H. Saltzer
82         and David D. Clark) and set out “Reed’s Law.”
                                                ANNEX: A Democratic Information Society
                                             (Summary of an Interview with David P. Reed)

The business world was a more                  computers to follow a rigid set of pro-
heterogeneous environment. The                 tocols or procedures.
question of information flow focused
on boundaries, with each company               System designers have been assuming
having its different set of goals. Within       that the myth of how people communi-
a company the goals were shared,               cate is the way they actually do, and
and information flowed between and              they have tried to build into computer
within different divisions. However,            systems the enforcement of the way
cross-organizational information flow           society thought it communicated:
was to follow rules defined by a select         They try to apply this myth to com-
set of people. (In other words, this           puters, for example, in the way that a
system was hierarchical but more flex-          desktop machine relates to a printer.
ible than the military.)                       Every time coders try to enforce such
                                               hierarchies, there is a universal lesson
That way of thinking about informa-            that the story that society is telling
tion sharing was not viable: When              itself is wrong.
computerized, the military failed to
work. The reason was that in practice,         Our society tends to think the most
people had always bent the military            valuable information is in the most
rules; they were empowered enough              expensive computer or in the bosses’
to break the rules in the real world, and      heads. Not so – actually those in the
this discretion allowed the organiza-          center have almost no information.
tion to function. The same was true            There may be some good judgment
in companies, where word-of-mouth              or wisdom, but most information is at
information was flowing across or-              the ends or throughout the culture.
ganizations irrespective of what was           As society moves computers out into
supposed to flow. Trade secrets were            that space, it frees that information to
not strictly enforced. This flexibility al-     be more usable … and discovers that
lowed companies to cut deals because           the most useful information is not
people had a sense of valuations.              what is stored in the center. The “myth
                                               of where the valuable information is” is
Ubiquitous computing is here today             being corrected.
to the extent that nearly every com-
munication that touches a computer             Ubiquitous computing and ubiquitous
or goes through a network does so in           networking represent the containers
a way that the information is modified,         for the most valuable information and
or filtered, or facilitated. The system         the most important decisions – that is,
works despite the fact that designers          the distributed ones that in aggregate
of computer code have asked the                make the world go around.                  83
ANNEX: A Democratic Information Society
(Summary of an Interview with David P. Reed)

       UNESCO probably has its own myth                    business process, but rather the value is
       that it should not challenge strong                 seen in education: This ICT is being dis-
       authority.                                          tributed to children. The focus is not on
                                                           accessing some distant web site, but
       By way of example: A government                     rather on enabling a group of people
       whose leadership prefers the con-                   to communicate amongst themselves
       centration of power and secrecy is                  on a more local and useful basis. The
       harmful to its country. The powerful                goal is to facilitate individual expression
       end up isolated from the very thing                 and sharing, to allow collaboration. It
       that makes the world work – that is,                may result in a hierarchy, but not one
       information. There is a risk that the               that was imposed, and not one that is
       information they have at the center                 permanent.
       is wrong – after all, anything that is
       secret is unlikely to be calibrated                 Fixed hierarchies historically existed
       against reality.                                    because it was difficult to form them
                                                           in the first place; but now setting up
       Computing is Extraordinarily                        ad hoc groups is easy. This principle
       Inexpensive                                         is at the heart of Reed’s Law, which is
                                                           a mathematical way of expressing a
       Computing is extraordinarily inexpen-               less mathematical point: If you make
       sive, and it is difficult for people to               group formation or relationship form-
       comprehend that it is going to be even              ing lower cost, and it is a valuable
       cheaper. Take, for example, the $100                thing to do, you’ll be doing a lot more
       Laptop Project. It does not matter if it            and capturing a lot more value.143
       is that project or others – the genius is
       in recognizing that in a couple of years            As Ronald Coase has noted, firms
       computers will be that cheap. The                   were set up for avoiding transac-
       magic is it is the first computing device            tion costs.144 Now they are not so
       specifically designed not to be another              necessary. Now organizations can
       office computing platform – rather,                   be temporary, efficient, and low cost.
       the $100 Laptop is designed to be a                 As technology changes to enable a
       medium for human expression – thus,                 more efficient form of these virtual,
       these devices constitute “networked                 technological affiliations, pieces of
       expression machines”. ICTs are no longer            society can organize themselves to a
       primarily concerned with automating a               task much more efficiently.
             For the mathematical derivation of the number of possible subgroups, see http://
             en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reed%27s_law (as viewed on March 14, 2006).
             “The Nature of the Firm” in Readings in Price Theory, Stigler and Boulding, editors. Chicago,
84           IL: R. D. Irwin, 1952.
                                              ANNEX: A Democratic Information Society
                                           (Summary of an Interview with David P. Reed)

Moreover, groups can form efficiently          society went from long-distance to
across a larger scope – for instance,        proxi to mobile communication.
the Internet allows planetary-scale
groups to form efficiently.                    Internet architects had a grand view of
                                             unifying all communication networks
Long Distance to Proxi to Mobile             so that they would all be interoper-
                                             able. Much of the value offered by
In addition to the dismantling of            the Internet was cheap long distance
transaction costs for group organiza-        as people could log into computers
tion, ICTs have witnessed another            across the country. Indeed, the web
trend relevant here: As networking           was accessing data from around the
technology covers local areas more           world. Now growth is happening in
efficiently, “proxi-com” sets in, and          the local area Internet. The value a
telecommunication – “tele” (far) “com”       person gets from a broadband con-
(communication) – is not necessar-           nection still includes being able to
ily an accurate way of describing            access sites elsewhere in the world,
communication. Rather, nearby com-           but newly popular activities like set-
munication on the community scale            ting up a wiki tends to correspond to
are more aptly called “proxi-com”.           local space. People care more about
                                             what is local, and those values are
In early days of telephony there were        being moved onto the Internet.
many little networks within towns,
long-distance networks between               For telephony, mobile communica-
towns, and even international calling        tion became important when people
networks. The phone companies fig-            who were accustomed to local com-
ured they could charge a good deal           munication began moving around
for long distance because people             while communicating. Now the
could not walk to their neighbor’s           Information Society is getting mobile
house to have the conversation.              Internet. Once local areas have been
Since the phone companies could              covered with connectivity, the result
not make much money off local calls           is mobility. People can move about
(as people would walk), they set flat         and plug into the network.
rates for local service. These flat rates
led to ever more phone lines for local       This last stage of the mobile Internet
purposes, with the costs funded from         has not really started yet. It corre-
long distance service. Next telephony        lates with more mobile computing
moved to cellular networks that had          platforms. The $100 Laptop Project
mobility – meaning industrialized            is interesting because it is mobile, an
ANNEX: A Democratic Information Society
(Summary of an Interview with David P. Reed)

       “expression machine” that is also de-       vehicle for cultures to express them-
       signed to work outdoors rather than         selves. Wires and digital-ness are not
       in an office. Using straightforward           the culture itself, but the means by
       Wi-Fi technology, along with soft-          which culture may be expressed.
       ware allowing people with laptops to        Culture is not implemented with raw
       send files – a group can have a music        connectivity, but with users. Culture
       jam session. This Wi-Fi technology is       is exogenous not endogenous.
       the first instance of a very flexible,
       high-speed mobile network – and             Things that Take Off, Scale, and
       it represents viral communication, a        Reinforce Themselves
       category of networks that work with-
       out preexisting infrastructures. Such       Ubiquitous computing and mesh
       a network could cover the whole             networks allow the creation of
       planet, with the devices themselves         big effects. There is one problem,
       forming this network.                       though: The technology can am-
                                                   plify anything, good or bad; it is like
       The technology has reached the point        a biological epidemic – a process of
       where to use very efficient radios does       amplification of viruses. The technol-
       not require a lot of money. Historically,   ogy is good the way it allows people
       the slow evolution of culture has been      to form groups, to reach out, and to
       the brake. “Viral” communication is         spread the word about good things.
       like viral marketing – it grows by word     But the same dynamics happen with
       of mouth… excitement… people                computer viruses and spam: When
       teaching other people. Technological        someone wants to use the network
       changes require synchronization             for ill purposes, there is a great deal
       with cultural values to be successful.      of possibility.
       (Again, the military has not been the
       key driver of viral communication           Large-scale network defects could be
       because they have repeatedly wanted         curbed either by dampening them
       hierarchy, where they add a layer to        (that is, slowing their growth) or by cre-
       reduce connectivity. Current Chinese        ating a counter virus that could chase
       efforts to block communication are           the whole phenomenon and kill it. This
       based on the same misconception.)           latter approach carries the danger of
                                                   being a cure that turns out to be as bad
       Communication media are not in and          as the disease – like using DDT to kill
       of themselves that cultural – rather,       mosquitoes but then having the side
       cultures will overlay themselves on         effect of killing birds. So the network is
       the Internet as it provides a new           not a force for good only.
                                              ANNEX: A Democratic Information Society
                                           (Summary of an Interview with David P. Reed)

The best hope is education in a deep         like that. There are huge benefits and
sense – to bring every participant           shared risk.
in the Information Society up to the
level where he understands how the           To a greater extent than before because
system works and people can act              of technology, organizational heads do
collectively on it. Society dealt with       not represent the best knowledge to
disasters of old through a command-          address problems. There is a systematic
and-control structure. Now people            bias to ask only the heads to be in the
must understand the system they are          room for decision-making. However,
part of – so they can benefit from local      children aged 0-20 are much more
decision-making when undergoing              aware of cultural and technological
catastrophic failures. The potential         issues than older people are. They are
from proxi-com is thus in allowing           more knowledgeable about evolv-
more local and resilient recovery –          ing cultures than older people who
but, again, humans must understand           assume the children will resemble
how it works. The Information Society        them. (They will not.) Therefore it is
needs education on this front.               important to incorporate children in
                                             decision-making processes more. If so-
In short, society needs to educate           ciety cannot let them vote, it should at
people about the systems them-               least listen to what they are saying and
selves. This is a cultural challenge.        honestly try to understand the people
                                             who are adjusting to new technologies
Conclusion                                   at a rapid pace. Places where de novo
                                             adoption is occurring are the places to
The most important part of coming            learn. Those people are appropriating
to terms with this “far more con-            new technologies without prior con-
nected, global computing and                 straints – and they may show the rest
information-sharing” paradigm that           of the Information Society what is pos-
the Information Society is entering          sible or what is useful. The $100 Laptop
is that (1) everyone must understand         is a nice example: It will teach about
it, and that (2) each piece ultimately       cultural adaptation to technology.
shares responsibility (a) for the suc-
cess of the system as a whole, and           The Information Society must recognize
(b) for the fact that a person’s actions     that the scale of things is larger and the
have ramifying and amplifying effects         reach of things is longer systematically.
on people far away that he might not         People need to learn to focus not just
even see. It is a challenge to educate       on local phenomenon but on global
all people to be able to live in a world     phenomenon.

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