Corporate Fundamental Responsibility: What Do Technology Companies Owe the World?
74 University of Miami Law Review 898 (2020)
67 Pages Posted: 8 Jun 2020 Last revised: 16 Jun 2020
Date Written: May 9, 2020
In this digital age, technology companies reign supreme. However, the power gained by these companies far exceeds the responsibilities they have assumed. The ongoing privacy protection and fake news scandals swirling around Facebook clearly demonstrate this shocking asymmetry of power and responsibility.
Legal reforms taking place in the United States in the past twenty years or so have failed to correct this asymmetry. Indeed, the U.S. Congress has enacted major statutes minimizing the legal liabilities of technology companies with respect to online infringing acts, privacy protection, and payment of taxes. While these statutes have promoted innovation, they have also had the unintended effect of breeding irresponsibility among technology companies.
Against this backdrop, this Article offers a new lens through which we can deal with the ethical crisis surrounding technology companies. It puts forward the concept of corporate fundamental responsibility as the ethical and legal foundation for imposing three distinct responsibilities upon technology companies: to reciprocate users’ contributions, play their role positively, and confront injustices created by technological development. The Article further considers how these responsibilities could be applied to improve protection of private data and to encourage responsible exercise of intellectual property rights by technology companies.
The tripartite conception of corporate fundamental responsibility, this Article shows, is built upon the ethical theories of reciprocity, role responsibility, and social justice. Therefore, corporate fundamental responsibility paves the way for technology law to embrace ethics whole-heartedly, creating new legal and ethical guidance for the benevolent behavior of technology companies. In developing technologies, collecting data, and regulating speech, technology company leaders must act responsibly for the future of humanity.
Keywords: Responsibility, Technology Companies, Personal Data, Intellectual Property
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