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Issue No. 022

Vol. 22 - December 2014
Ethics for the Internet of Things
edited by Hektor Haarkötter, Felix Weil

Many science fiction phantasies already claimed that one day machines will be superior to human beings and computers will finally take over. But unlike in Stanley Kubrick’s ‘2001’ or Asimow’s ‘I, Robot’ the latest developments in the Internet of Things (IoT) give reason to suggest that if this will happen it won’t be necessarily machines that physically resemble human beings with legs, bodies, voices etc. that will do the job (robots in the classical sense). If, then it will be more like in Matrix – the physicality of the necessary intelligence (i.e. computing power) will vanish as it will be incorporated into the physical world of our daily life itself. It won’t be separate machine entities that will dominate the human kind but it will be by the embedding of computing power into the ordinary things of our daily life and their being connected with each other to form a virtual pervaded living space. A living space that then could not only be paradise (optimized by the computing power embedded to the best for mankind) or hell (used to encage and enslave its inhabitants) but even more also a pure illusion (encaged and enslaved inhabitants that are made believe and even sense realistically that they are in paradise).

This is what philosophically the Internet of Things is all about: Things won’t be physical things anymore that are independent objects for the examination, exploration and manipulation of an equally independent subject. Things will be what is presented to the subject and the subject is what the computed presentation presupposes ‘on the other side’: a user, a monitored, a … . Thus, if the things change in the IoT we will change. And thus, the underlying philosophical subject-object paradigm has to change as well taking this interplay into account. Again, not only theoretically (as depicted in science fiction far from any possible reality) but very practically regarding our daily life: how we automate our homes, how we care for elder people, the way we monitor our children, the concepts we use to organize life in (smart) cities etc. For the good (of who), for the bad (according to what norm)? This is the ethical challenge raised by the IoT and this issue presents some very interesting answers to it and where not complete answers yet very helpful outlines for possible answers an ‘Ethics for the IoT’ can give and must give (rather sooner than later).

Sincerely yours,

the Editors.


Full Journal
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Ethics for the Internet of Things
by Felix Weil, Hektor Haarkötter
Language: English
pdf-fulltext (134 KB)

Towards the Epistemology of the Internet of Things
by Ori Freiman
Language: English
abstract:   This paper discusses the epistemology of the Internet of Things [IoT] by focusing on the topic of trust. It presents various frameworks of trust, and argues that the ethical framework of trust is what constitutes our responsibility to reveal desired norms and standards and embed them in other frameworks of trust. The first section briefly presents the IoT and scrutinizes the scarce philosophical work that has been done on this subject so far. The second section suggests that the field of epistemology is not sufficiently capable of dealing with technologies, and presents a possible solution to this problem. It is argued that knowledge is not only social phenomena, but also a technological one, and that in order to address epistemological issues in technology, we need to carefully depart from traditional epistemic analysis and form a new approach that is technological (termed here Techno-Epistemology). The third and fourth sections engage in an epistemic analysis of trust by dividing it in to various frameworks. The last section argues that these various frameworks of trust can be understood to form a trustworthy large-scale socio-technological system, emphasizing the place of ethical trust as constituting our commitment to give proper accounts for all of the other frameworks.
pdf-fulltext (136 KB)

The “silence of the chips” concept: towards an ethics(-by-design) for IoT
by Caroline Rizza, Laura Draetta
Language: English
abstract:   In this position paper, we would like to promote the alternative approach positioned between the two extreme positions consisting in refusing any innovation or in adopting technology without questioning it. This approach proposes a reflexive and responsible innovation (von Schomberg, 2013; 2011; 2007) based on a compromise between industrial and economic potentialities and a common respect of our human rights and values. We argue that the “silence of the chips right” (Benhamou, 2012; 2009) is timely, relevant and sustainable to face ethical challenges raised by IoT such as protecting privacy, trust, social justice, autonomy or human agency. We believe this technical solution may support establishing an ethics of IoT embedded in the technology itself. Our position is not ‘technocratic’: we do not agree with discourses arguing technology can fix problems. Through the responsible research and innovation approach we promote the idea that only human agency and user empowerment constitute a valid answer to the ethical, legal and social issues raised by IoT.
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Reclaiming the Ambient Commons: Strategies of Depletion Design in the Subjective Economy
by Soenke Zehle
Language: English
abstract:    The vision of an internet of things, increasingly considered in the context of the “internet of everything”, calls for an ethics of technology driven less by the philosophical search for the essence of technology than by a transversal curiosity regarding processes of constitution. If growing interest in enhanced and expanded media literacy approaches facilitates ethical reflection, the scope of such reflection is related to the extent of our attention to and awareness of the immanence of our agency, our capacity for relation in machinic assemblages that structure and sustain our communicative existences far beyond the sphere of signification. While the positions from which such reflection occurs are necessarily multiple, we can still respond to the distribution of agency with an aggregation of responsibility and the creation of a commons with greater attention to the vastness of the spatial and temporal scales of our situation. The idea of depletion design is both a concrete set of design strategies and an attempt to establish an experimental institutional object to facilitate and frame such ethico-aesthetic practice, an architecture for commoning that situates and affirms our ethical agency under the conditions of mediation.
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Using a Social-Ethical Framework to Evaluate Location-Based Services in an Internet of Things World
by Roba Abbas, Katina Michael, M.G. Michael
Language: English
abstract:   The idea for an Internet of Things has matured since its inception as a concept in 1999. People today speak openly of a Web of Things and People, and even more broadly of an Internet of Everything. As our relationships become more and more complex and enmeshed, through the use of advanced technologies, we have pondered on ways to simplify flows of communications, to collect meaningful data, and use them to make timely decisions with respect to optimisation and efficiency. At their core, these flows of communications are pathways to registers of interaction, and tell the intricate story of outputs at various units of analysis- things, vehicles, animals, people, organisations, industries, even governments. In this trend toward evidence-based enquiry, data is the enabling force driving the growth of IoT infrastructure. This paper uses the case of location-based services, which are integral to IoT approaches, to demonstrate that new technologies are complex in their effects on society. Fundamental to IoT is the spatial element, and through this capability, the tracking and monitoring of everything, from the smallest nut and bolt, to the largest shipping liner to the mapping of planet earth, and from the whereabouts of the minor to that of the prime minister. How this information is stored, who has access, and what they will do with it, is arguable depending on the stated answers. In this case study of location-based services we concentrate on control and trust, two overarching themes that have been very much neglected, and use the outcomes of this research to inform the development of a socio-ethical conceptual framework that can be applied to minimise the unintended negative consequences of advanced technologies. We posit it is not enough to claim objectivity through information ethics approaches alone, and present instead a socio-ethical impact framework. Sociality therefore binds together that higher ideal of praxis where the living thing (e.g. human) is the central and most valued actor of a system.
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Ethical Consequences of Bounded Rationality in the Internet of Things
by Sandrina Dimitrijevic
Language: English
abstract:   One of the main challenges that the arriving paradigm of Internet of Things brings to society is providing and securing individual privacy. There are lots of obstacles which prevents us from successfully confronting such a challenge. In this paper we are going to deal with one such obstacle, and that is the bounded rationality of humans as participants in the environment of Internet of Things. We argue that the ethical approach to the vision of the Internet of Things has to include the notion of bounded rationality. Bounded rationality of users impedes the possibility of giving informed consent. Informed consent is required when getting permission for collecting and using somebody’s personal information. Lastly, we discuss the need for a paternalistic approach of maximum possible default privacy settings without asking for consent, given the seriousness of all potential risks.
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Ethical Aspects of the Internet of Things in eHealth
by Kashif Habib
Language: English
abstract:   While the current Internet has brought comforts in our lives, the future of the Internet that is the Internet of Things (IoT) promises to make our daily living even much easier and convenient. The IoT presents a concept of smart world around us, where things are trying to assist and benefit people. Patient monitoring outside the hospital environment is one case for the IoT in healthcare. The healthcare system can get many benefits from the IoT such as patient monitoring with chronic disease, monitoring of elderly people, and monitoring of athletes fitness. However, the comfort may bring along some worries in the form of people’s concerns such as right or wrong actions by things, unauthorised tracking, illegal monitoring, trust relationship, safety, and security. This paper presents the ethical implications of the IoT in eHealth on people and society, and more specifically discusses the ethical issues that may arise due to distinguishing characteristics of the IoT.
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Ethische Überlegungen zu Smart Home
by Bernhard Stengel
Language: German
abstract:   “Smart Home” is used as a buzzword to term a wide scope of home automation. In this paper the focus is on systems connected to the internet, being primarily operated by mobile ICT devices. When viewing systems already available, those being available in Germany take centre stage. In a general point of view the new human interface to devices is compared to that of old-fashioned devices. Regarding social togetherness, the topics of multi user mode and monitoring of homes are discussed. It is not sure that all persons living in the home get fair access to the new technology. Furthermore, when persons being present at different locations are able to operate the same device, there is the task to synchronize the actions. The main focus of monitoring is on suspect strangers approaching from outside, but it also could be applied inside in a questionable manner. Control of home infrastructure by algorithms raises questions of paternalism.
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D-waste: Data disposal as challenge for waste management in the Internet of Things
by Burkhard Schafer
Language: English
abstract:   Proliferation of data processing and data storage devices in the Internet of Things poses significant privacy risks. At the same time, faster and faster use-cycles and obsolescence of devices with electronic components causes environmental problems. Some of the solutions to the environmental challenges of e-waste include mandatory recycling schemes as well as informal second hand markets. However, the data security and privacy implications of these green policies are as yet badly understood. This paper argues that based on the experience with second hand markets in desktop computers, it is very likely that data that was legitimately collected under the household exception of the Data Protection Directive will “leak” into public spheres. Operators of large recycling schemes may find themselves inadvertently and unknowingly to be data controller for the purpose of Data Protection law, private resale of electronic devices can expose the prior owner to significant privacy risks.
pdf-fulltext (142 KB)


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