Philosophy Meets Internet Engineering: Ethics in Networked Systems Research. (GTC Workshop Outcomes Paper)

37 Pages Posted: 30 Sep 2015  

Bendert Zevenbergen

University of Oxford - Oxford Internet Institute

Brent Mittelstadt

University of Oxford - Oxford Internet Institute

Carissa Véliz

University of Oxford - Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics

Christian Detweiler

The Hague University of Applied Sciences

Corinne Cath

University of Oxford - Oxford Internet Institute

Julian Savulescu

University of Oxford - Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics

Meredith Whittaker

Google - Open Source Research

Date Written: September 29, 2015

Abstract

Internet engineering and networked systems research improves our understanding of the underlying technical processes of the Internet. Internet engineers therefore analyse data transfers on the Internet, typically by collecting data from devices of large groups of individuals as well as organisations. The designs of Internet engineering and research projects reflect human decisions and therefore may create new moral systems. This interplay of technology and society creates new practices that can impact the lives of individuals in many ways. These actions can raise new ethical dilemmas, or challenge existing ethics methodologies within the new and complex information environment presented by the Internet.

To further the discussion on Internet research and engineering ethics, the Ethics in Networked System Research (“ESRN”) project hosted a workshop at Green Templeton College, University of Oxford, on 13 March 2015. The aim of the workshop was to understand how different disciplines involved in Internet research approach ethical dilemmas and justify their reasoning. To this end, a group of 25 researchers and practitioners from two distinct groups of researchers attended the workshop: (1) Computer scientists, network engineers and other technical researchers who have faced ethical and legal dilemmas in their work, and (2) philosophers, practical ethicists, legal philosophers, and related disciplines who are interested in Internet engineering and the ethical dilemmas posed by the Internet, but may not be aware of the details, subtleties, and dilemmas of the field. Several computer scientists gave short presentations about their projects, which were then discussed in-depth by the workshop participants. The inter-disciplinary discussions led to some interesting confrontations of cross-disciplinary reasoning.

This is a perspectives paper, in which we present several of the cases discussed, as well as the reasoning applied by the different groups. The arguments made during the workshop reveal some underlying assumptions and values, which lead to some emerging themes that in turn uncover particular conceptual gaps between the disciplines. This paper is by no means intended to be a comprehensive overview of computer ethics or Internet research ethics, but merely an exploration of the themes that emerged during the workshop.

Keywords: Practical ethics, computer ethics, technology law, Internet engineering

Suggested Citation

Zevenbergen, Bendert and Mittelstadt, Brent and Véliz, Carissa and Detweiler, Christian and Cath, Corinne and Savulescu, Julian and Whittaker, Meredith, Philosophy Meets Internet Engineering: Ethics in Networked Systems Research. (GTC Workshop Outcomes Paper) (September 29, 2015). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2666934 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2666934

Bendert Zevenbergen (Contact Author)

University of Oxford - Oxford Internet Institute ( email )

1 St. Giles
University of Oxford
Oxford OX1 3PG Oxfordshire, Oxfordshire OX1 3JS
United Kingdom

Brent Mittelstadt

University of Oxford - Oxford Internet Institute ( email )

1 St. Giles
University of Oxford
Oxford OX1 3PG Oxfordshire, Oxfordshire OX1 3JS
United Kingdom

Carissa Véliz

University of Oxford - Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics ( email )

Suite 8, Littlegate House
St Ebbes Street
Oxford, OX1 1PT
United Kingdom

Christian Detweiler

The Hague University of Applied Sciences ( email )

Johana Westerdijkplein 75
The Hague, Zuid Holland 2521 EN
Netherlands

Corinne Cath

University of Oxford - Oxford Internet Institute ( email )

1 St. Giles
University of Oxford
Oxford OX1 3PG Oxfordshire, Oxfordshire OX1 3JS
United Kingdom

Julian Savulescu

University of Oxford - Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics ( email )

10 Merton Street
Oxford OX1 3JP
United Kingdom
+44 1865 276926 (Phone)
+44 1865 276932 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.practicalethics.ox.ac.uk/juliansavulescu.html

Meredith Whittaker

Google - Open Source Research ( email )

1600 Amphitheatre Parkway
Second Floor
Mountain View, CA 94043
United States

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