If you’re a developer and you cannot make an app without riddling it with surveillance-based components and APIs by Google, Facebook, etc., you’re a really bad developer.

Stop being so careless, lazy, and thoughtless and learn how to make apps that respect people’s rights.

@aral either that or your job depends on doing it.

@zensaiyuki In which case, find a different job. “Just following orders” didn’t fly at Nuremberg and it doesn’t fly here. We are highly skilled and highly privileged people. Our only choices aren’t a six figure salary and stock options or starvation.

@aral maybe that’s true for you and if so, good job. not all of us do have choices. or six figure salaries for that matter.

@zensaiyuki If your only other option to making surveillance-based software is being homeless or starving then this doesn’t apply to you. You’re not being criticised here. And I hope your situation improves so you are no longer forced to make unethical software to survive. Until then, no one can blame you for doing what you have to in order to eek out an existence.

@aral @zensaiyuki There's something else I thought a lot about when I left the company I was working for (that turned to surveillance at that time and now they are closed haha I won this time):

I left a 23k€ salary in a city where houses are more than 300k€. I was paying 750€ rent.
I wasn't rich.

I thought at that time, and I think about it still, that if my life was in risk I would work in a different job rather than coding for surveillance capitalism, and there are few reasons for that:

@aral @zensaiyuki
1) I don't like to see my passion and being perverted and used to make this world a worse place.
2) Being a programmer (or an engineer, like my case) sometimes makes us have a larger ego than we should: other jobs are also important and can be even more fulfilling than ours.
3) If you can code, I'm sure you can do many other things that don't hurt anyone

Mostly I was just answering a question: If I just can avoid hurting people, would I let my ego prevent me from doing it?

@aral @zensaiyuki DISCLAIMER: I'm not saying this is anyone's case and I don't know about personal experiences: i'm just sharing my own.

@ekaitz_zarraga @aral @zensaiyuki I like the sentiment, but of course there's always complications. I work for a company that has some very principled privacy advocates working for it, that is, due to recent changes to legislation, required to implement processes that are really hostile to customer privacy.

I do not want to build this. My colleagues don't. But the choice for us is to build it in a minimally-compliant way or to let a competitor build it in a much more harmful way.


@kameleonidas @ekaitz_zarraga @aral exactly, at the end of the day if market pressures or the law want something to be built, it will be built by someone and shaming devs will do jack squat about that. if, as an individual you conscientiously object to say, building software that ICE uses, refusing to do work for them is admirable. but it won’t stop ICE from doing what they do.

@kameleonidas @ekaitz_zarraga @aral meaningful change happens somewhere else. refusing unethical work is only about feeling better about yourself.

@zensaiyuki @kameleonidas @aral I strongly disagree with this.

If *all* developers say they won't do that, that will never be done or they would have less resources to do it, or problems to hire people at least. Doing it just because others will do it if you don't *is* what makes you feel better in the short term while you are harming people.

Fighting against the reasons is not incompatible with telling developers to choose who they work for.

@zensaiyuki @kameleonidas @aral Doing both things at the same time is the most efficient way to change. Changing politics is a slow process, but if we can push them from the basis, everything will go faster.

There's also another battle to fight: as customers, demand only software that respects human rights. That's a really powerful vector for change too.

@ekaitz_zarraga @kameleonidas @aral if you are in a position to refuse to do unethical work, you should. what I object to is blaming developers lets the truly guilty off scott free. hey judge, those developers cheated emissions tests of their own volution! i didn’t tell them to do it!

@ekaitz_zarraga @kameleonidas @aral developers need guilds and unions so they have backup to make these ethical calls. if you have a family you might not only be concerned about having a job, you might get backlash too. it’s illegal, but tech companies collude to blackball developers.

@ekaitz_zarraga @kameleonidas @aral another aspect is licensing. a developer doesn’t necessarily know in advance that their software can or will be used in unethical ways.

@zensaiyuki @kameleonidas @aral I can understand that, but that's a small detail in a big picture of tons of developers that know what they are doing.

@ekaitz_zarraga @kameleonidas @aral to some degree making any technology and making it broadly available is inherently unethical. technology is a human amplifier- it amolifies the good AND the bad.

@ekaitz_zarraga @kameleonidas @aral a hammer can be used to build and it can be used to kill. if a creator is to take credit for the good they must take responsibility for the bad.

@zensaiyuki @kameleonidas @aral Do you really think this or is it just a weird way to try to discuss?

It's a nonsense.

First because your are not considering the fact that people has the individual responsibility to be good.

Second because hammers build much more things in human history than people they killed.

Even using your argument here: If bad is less than good, any technology you make than amplifies both will make good even more than bad.

bad < good
n · bad << n · good

@zensaiyuki @kameleonidas @aral So: the only thing we need is the majority being good.

But we need to REMIND PEOPLE they have the responsibility to be good.
Which is exactly what we are doing in this thread I think.

@ekaitz_zarraga @kameleonidas @aral my point isn’t to conclude “don’t make technology”

if defeating evil were as simple as deciding not to build a tool, then we should just refuse to make tools.

the real world is more complicated. take mutually assured destruction: should physicists have refused to help build nuclear weapons for the US? would the world be better off with russia as the world’s only nuclear superpower?

@ekaitz_zarraga @kameleonidas @aral to be honest I don’t know, and insisting there are simple obvious answers helps no one

@zensaiyuki @kameleonidas @aral But with this kind of thinking you are just diluting the message. The message is: there are many places you can work, many good products you can build, based on the principles of privacy and human rights. Don't work on those who don't respect the principles.

That's all. We can go around this thing as far as you want, but that won't help.

We are just reminding devs to reconsider their job and that's something everyone should do.

@zensaiyuki @kameleonidas @aral Of course many free software is in use for bad purposes, that's true. But many of it has to be rebuilt or altered because its principles are good and they are not designed to do harm.

Anyway, if there were no bad developers there wouldn't be a company thinking how to do bad things using software.

@ekaitz_zarraga @kameleonidas @aral i am diluting the message deliberately because

1. i broadly agree that if you can refuse to work on something obviously unethical, you should. and this has bigger effects than just making it harder for the people who want to do unethical things.
2. this argument has been twisted to lay the blame for evil things entirely on the shoulders of developers, and i seriously object to that.

@zensaiyuki @kameleonidas @aral I don't think any of us believes the second.
At least, I consider companies responsible and also consider they made a good publicity to make people want to work for them.
That's why I shared my experience and I give talks about the reality of our jobs, I want to revert that publicity. And it's a really hard job, and some people get it personally.

We are responsible of our part. Not the biggest part, but we are still responsible.

@ekaitz_zarraga @kameleonidas @aral go back to the very first post and tou will see that, it appears from his wording, that Aral ^does* believe #2.

@ekaitz_zarraga @kameleonidas @aral in aral’s view, it is not a company that asks a developer to make intrusive software. no, developers do this because they are bad.

@zensaiyuki @kameleonidas @aral I can't speak on what aral things but I think he just saw an independent project that inserted surveillance capitalism software just because that's what people does without thinking about the implications of it.

And that is as infuriating as he shared.

@ekaitz_zarraga @kameleonidas @aral if it’s a browser extension, this often happens because the original author sells the project (often under false pretences and misleading promises) to a company that injects the tracking as part of a broader operation. let’s not forget that maintaining free software is a hobby only a few lucky people get to do and luck can run out.

@ekaitz_zarraga @kameleonidas @aral i propose universal basic income for anyone actively maintaining critical free software, as an obvious national security measure.

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@zensaiyuki @ekaitz_zarraga @kameleonidas Aral might be able to articulate his view a little better, perhaps ;)

My view is (a) unethical companies ask developers to make unethical software (b) unethical developers say yes (c) ethical developers say no.

@aral @zensaiyuki @ekaitz_zarraga


(1) Things are not so black and white. Reality does not consist of a series of booleans and enums. Tradeoffs exist and context matters.

(2) Some software has unethical aspects to it, but that does not necessarily make it unethical as a whole.

(3) A company asking developers to build unethical software (components) is not necessarily unethical.

(4) Unethical components may be required by law.

@kameleonidas @aral @zensaiyuki
1) Yeah, and the point is?
2) Yes it does
3) It is
4) Yes, by unethical laws

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@zensaiyuki @kameleonidas @aral They took part on something illegal knowing it was illegal, aren't them guilty?

I think they are, but they don't have the same responsibility than the boss had.

Other thing is if they were forced to work on those things like being extorted (if you don't do it you won't eat this month) or whatever.

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