NetMission Insight: What does ethical technology mean to you?

Written by Jenna Fung

Ethics is based on standards of right and wrong that prescribe what one ought to do in terms of rights, obligations, fairness, or specific virtues. (Velasquez et al., 2010) To describe a person who is being ethical generally means someone who is behaving as “right” in a moral sense and following the “good” moral standards. Ethics in a traditional sense is an endless topic, as people of different cultures hold different morality and their interpretation on “ethics” might vary, so let alone ethics in a constantly evolving environment like the Internet and the development of technology.

Ethics in technology is the foundation of technology development since it is the principle to govern and regulate the benefits and burdens of technology. And apparently, principles are necessary when we are dealing with ethical problems at different levels, including individual, social and global.

Boundaries in cyberspace are vague, global computer-based communications cut across territorial borders, which creates a new realm of human activity and undermines the feasibility and legitimacy of applying laws and regulations based on geographic boundaries. Ethics is essentially important as it guides the governance of technology development and its risk management. More importantly, it safeguards the rights of individuals in such circumstances.

Our lives are heavily influenced by technology, and we have become more dependent on the Internet especially during and after the pandemic. With the arising ethical issues on the use of technology, it is time for everyone but not only governments to raise their awareness about the importance of ethics in technology.

Ethics in technology does not only imply emerging technologies like artificial intelligence but also data usage and other technologies. Especially during the global pandemic, digital surveillance has been brought to the forefront of public discussion (Janiszewska-Kiewra et al., 2020). We are in the “honeymoon” phase of technology, where we are experiencing all the benefits and conveniences of the Internet and technology. However, we can never underestimate the potential threat brought by the Internet and technology if we underrate the importance of ethics.

Asia is a cradle of new technologies and full of innovations. The region is developing rapidly, so is technology. As we begin to become more aware of the potential threats posed by different technologies such as artificial intelligence, Asia is at the forefront of dealing with these very important issues around different emerging technologies and their impacts on the digitalization of humanity.

Taking the China region as an example, industry experts and decision-makers are undertaking different measures with several approaches to alleviate the risk of technologies overpowering humanity. One of the most direct approaches is to control the Internet or whatever there will be for the general public. In a simpler sense, the measures that have been undertaken by China will be government intervention, which is an approach that is less likely to happen in America or Europe. The most well-known example will be the “Great Firewall”. Such measures might not be universally accepted, though, the firewall does genuinely protect children on the Internet. 

Whether it is ethical or not depends on the perception, norm, and standards in one’s culture, which makes this topic even more challenging. It is a must to find a common ground to develop a set of standards that are universally accepted everywhere because ethics in technology is the foundation of our future built on top of technology and digitalization.


About the writer

Jenna Fung is the community engagement lead of DotAsia Organisation. She initially joined NetMission.Asia in 2017 as NetMission Ambassador. She is passionate about data privacy and protection, surveillance, social innovation, and cultural exchange and highly interested in youth mobility. She has been interned in different fields including business management, company secretarial services, and marketing and public relations in Beijing, Hong Kong, and Seville. In her personal life, she enjoys language learning, reading, and traveling.