Is it ethical to lionize Snowden and Assange?March 10, 2014
The South by Southwest Interactive Festival, the tech industry’s annual conference, opens in Texas this week. The program will focus on a predictable list of hot IT topics: online privacy, virtual surveillance, computer watches and the like. It’ll also feature many famous speakers, including WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and NSA leaker Edward Snowden. They won’t appear in person because both are in hiding after being charged with various crimes. Instead, they’ll appear by video from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London and Russia respectively.
Frankly, I have a problem with that.
The charges pending against Assange and Snowden are hardly minor. Theft and release of classified government documents doesn’t just embarrass whatever political administration happens to be in power. It puts the lives of agents and their families in danger and undercuts authorities’ legitimate efforts to prevent terrorist attacks. All pretty serious stuff.
The legal system will catch up with Messrs. Assange and Snowden eventually, and their guilt or innocence will be established then. They’re not not my concern of the moment, however. I’m much more troubled that the festival’s organizers invited them to speak. Those men are famous because of their alleged illegal activities. They’re not rock stars, and they shouldn’t be as such. In my opinion, it’s downright unethical to encourage illegal use of technology by idolizing people who’ve been charged with cybercrimes.
I recognize that many people view the virtual world as the “last frontier” where lone heroes can stand up against corrupt institutions and speak truth to power, but there’s nothing romantic or noble about putting innocent lives at risk. There are plenty of people out there employing the latest technology to make the world a safer, healthier and more comfortable place. They, and not Messrs. Assange and Snowden, are the ones who deserve our attention and applause.
This entry was posted in Business Ethics, corporate responsibility, ethics, Legal Ethics, Personal Ethics, Social Ethics. Bookmark the permalink. ← Does TV teach tweens to lie? Is BP Better than Exxon? Maybe… →