1 in 5 snoop on a phone belonging to a friend or loved one

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In Snooping on Mobile Phones: Prevalence and Trends, a paper presented at SOUPS 16, computer scientists from UBC and the University of Lisbon show that a rigorous survey reveals that up to one in five people have snooped on a loved one or friend by accessing their phone. Read the rest

Can a sexbot be a murderer?

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Paolo Bacigalupi's new short story "Mika Model" is a detective tale about a murdering sexbot. Read the rest

How would you explain the difference between war and terrorism to a space alien?

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Author and former CIA officer Barry Eisler spoke at the Association of Former Intelligence Officers opposite ex-CIA and NSA director Michael Hayden on Monday. In front of about a hundred former CIA, FBI, and NSA operatives, Eisler talked about bulk surveillance, whistleblowing, and why intelligence professionals need to take especially great care not to let propaganda pervert their intelligence.

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Big Data Ethics: racially biased training data versus machine learning

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Writing in Slate, Cathy "Weapons of Math Destruction" O'Neill, a skeptical data-scientist, describes the ways that Big Data intersects with ethical considerations. Read the rest

The moral character of cryptographic work

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Phillip Rogaway, an eminent computer scientist and cryptographer at UC Davis, has made a stir in information security circles with a long, thoughtful paper called The Moral Character of Cryptographic Work. Read the rest

Call for papers: We Robot, a conference on robots, ethics, philosophy and regulation

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Michael Froomkin writes, "We Robot is a cool conference that brings together lawyers, engineers, philosophers, robot builders, ethicists, and regulators who are on the front lines of robot theory, design, or development. The 2016 editioni will be in Coral Gables, Florida on April 1-2, 2016 at the University of Miami School of Law. The main conference will be preceded by a day of special workshops on March 31. Full details at Read the rest

Why aren't ethicists better people?

Professional ethicists aren't any more likely to behave ethically than baseline humans who don't get paid to sit around all day and contemplate the difference between right and wrong. Read the rest

North Korean defector to Finland claims evidence of illegal human experiments

The researcher, "Lee," worked in Ganggye, Chagang, and escaped with what he says is 15GB of data detailing illegal human subjects biochemical research, which he is due to present to the European Parliament this month. (Thanks, Sulka!) Read the rest

On ethics in information technology

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Our field requires ethical frameworks we accept, instead of rules that remain technically unbroken while we hackers violate their spirit with as much ingenuity as we can muster.

Moral dilemma: rescuing the miners, rescuing the babies:

On Crooked Timber, Ingrid Robeyns presents a tough moral calculus: if you can save 50% of a group of trapped miners with 100% certainty, knowing the remainder will die; or you can try to rescue all the miners, with a 50% chance that they'll all die, which would you choose (And then: what if they were babies, not miners?) Read the rest

Facebook's massive psychology experiment likely illegal

Researchers from Facebook, Cornell and UCSF published a paper describing a mass-scale experiment in which Facebook users' pages were manipulated to see if this could induce and spread certain emotional states. Read the rest

Cold Equations and Moral Hazard: science fiction considered harmful to the future

My latest Locus column is "Cold Equations and Moral Hazard", an essay about the way that our narratives about the future can pave the way for bad people to create, and benefit from, disasters. "If being in a lifeboat gives you the power to make everyone else shut the hell up and listen (or else), then wouldn’t it be awfully convenient if our ship were to go down?" Read the rest

Pope blasts capitalism

In a new Evangelii Gadium, Pope Francis has condemned doctrinaire capitalism, "deified markets," trickle-down economics, and the finance industry. He decried the growing gap between the rich and the poor, tax evasion by the wealthy, and characterized ruthless free-market economics as a killer that was inherently sinful. Read the rest

Call for papers: Robots, Risks and Opportunities

Michael sez, "We Robot, the conference in which roboticists, lawyers, philosophers and many others meet to try to work out how robots will fit into the society of the future, will be meeting in the University of Miami School of Law in Coral Gables Florida Apri 4-5, 2014. The Call for Papers just went up, with abstracts due Nov. 4. This is the place where people go to discuss whether robot diagnosticians should be trusted even if we can't understand the reasons for their choices, what limits we should put on battlefield drones, and whether law enforcement can be mechanized. Last year's conference also featured a presentation from one of the creators of Futurama."

Call for Papers – We Robot 2014: Risks & Opportunities – April 4 & 5 in Coral Gables, FL (Thanks, Michael!) Read the rest

Placebos work, so how do we ethically use them?

The head of Harvard's placebo program is trying to figure out a good answer that question. Read the rest

When the octopus says, "ouch"

Given that people are going around doing things like cutting off octopus limbs in order to understand their distributed neuron processing system, it's worth asking some questions about how octopuses perceive pain, as well. That's more complicated than you might think. As Katherine Harmon explains, it's likely that octopuses have some kind of awareness of when they're touching something unpleasant. But just how that works, and how similar it might be to the way we vertebrates understand "pain", is a big mystery. Read the rest

A moving account of how hospitals negotiate complicated cases of patient rights

Yesterday, a story about human experimentation spurred an interesting discussion in the comments about patient rights — can somebody who is dying make the informed decision to accept a treatment that could lead to them dying sooner? At Scientific American today, an HIV doctor has written a moving account of dealing with a very similar question, as one of his patients made the choice to refuse food, and her family and doctors were faced with the task of deciding whether or not to feed her through a stomach tube. Read the rest

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