Absolutely. The hacker community should not contribute to the knowledge of those who work to undermine privacy and feed the surveillance-industrial complex.
Discrimination is bad when it's about 'who someone is', never when it's about 'what someone does'. Providing work and support in exchange for money is very much 'what someone does'.
How do you decide if it's okay or not to discriminate against employees when the employer in question is legal? You say it's never bad. How do you know that?
Is it okay for the IRS to discriminate on the basis of one's employer? What about other arms of the government?
What is legal and what is ethical are not necessarily the same thing, hence laws changing to make slavery illegal, etc. Ethical considerations often result in the changing of laws.
Would discrimination against the employees of a legal employer in one's own state (country) ever be unethical?
Of course. Feel free to skip the leading questions and make whatever point you're working towards.
I believe that discriminating against someone on the basis of their legal employment is unethical and you don't, so I'm trying to determine when it's okay and when it's not okay.
What I've learned is that some people (including you) believe that sometimes it's okay to discriminate against people on the basis of their legal employment and sometimes it's not, and that it's up to whether the employment in question goes against your own personal ethical standards.
I'm not condemning this discrimination, only noting that it goes against my own personal ethics. People need jobs to survive, and even Snowden spent more of his life as a bad guy than as a hero. I'm fine with discriminating against work, but not against workers.
If you want to explore the issue in more depth, fine - maybe there are more nuances - but I understand if you're tired of it.
You had the choice of hacking for the good of people or you could join forces with 'The Man' and make a bunch of money. Maybe the choice isn't so binary, but nonetheless the choice is there. I could understand your statement, 'People need jobs to survive', if your profession was bricklayer, or shelf-stacker, but being a no doubt highly qualified individual in a booming field, as Snowden is, does not generally leave you scrambling to pay the rent and buy your groceries.
Present employers? Certainly. A number of business schools do this already in the selection process. If you run a gun school and a student comes to you to tell you he is using your training to rob a bank, it would be unethical to teach him. If you are doing training on hacking and you know the student will use this hacking for unethical and illegal wiretapping, it would be unethical to teach him. Again, it is fine to discriminate on what someone is doing.
Future employers? If the candidate is locked into the path - eg, he will use your training to rob a bank, then it would be unethical to teach him. However, as he has not done it yet, and people can change their minds, it would likely be ethical to teach him while also steering him towards the correct path. Ethical or not would depend on three factors: how likely you are to sway him; how much damage he would cause if you could not; and how easy it would be for him to find the training elsewhere, where he would likely not benefit at all from steering.
Past employers? This one is, unfortunately, much harder. If someone is a murderer and has not gone to jail, should you discriminate? If someone is a murderer and has gone to jail but is not repentant, should you discriminate? If he is repentant, should you discriminate? This one is difficult because it crosses the line of 'who one is' and 'what one does'. I'd say everyone will give different answers here based on a huge number of factors. It likely comes down to repentance and acknowledgment on whether what one does was wrong and believable agreement that it will not be done again.
Of coarse, sometimes we put our own safety above ethics, and people have differing opinions on whether that is right or not. There is no easy answer there.
Really I was just wondering if you have any examples of legal but unethical employers that you believe it's okay for a university to cite to discriminate against an applicant, in your home country. Perhaps the military?
Ding ding ding. Please keep this in mind at all times.
They not only can be, but unfortunately both often are.
Also, this is a bit off-topic, but "ding ding ding" is rather condescending. I believe you think I'm somebody that I'm not.
Regarding federal law, discrimination on the basis of race, sex, national origin, and a few other protected classes is illegal. Discrimination on the basis of other factors is generally acceptable, except where they collide with membership in the protected classes. (For example, a hacker conference cannot require that all participants have an uncovered head and demand observant Jews, Sikhs, etc. to take off their religious headgear, since there is no safety need for it.) Employment in a specific company is in general not a protected class.
Some states have additional restrictions on which discriminatory practices are not okay. In California, the Unruh Civil Rights Act says: “All persons within the jurisdiction of this state are free and equal, and no matter what their sex, race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, disability, medical condition, marital status, or sexual orientation are entitled to the full and equal accommodations, advantages, facilities, privileges, or services in all business establishments of every kind whatsoever.”
Most civil rights protections limit the prohibition to a list of discriminatory classes. The Unruh act is different because, quoting from the courts: “The Act expresses a state and national policy against discrimination on arbitrary grounds. Its provisions were intended as an active measure measure that would create and preserve a nondiscriminatory environment in California business establishments by ‘banishing’ or ‘eradicating’ arbitrary, invidious discrimination by such establishments.”
For example an ACLU lawyer was found to be in violation of the Unruh Act because in a 1980 California public meeting on police surveillance practices, where the police chief was invited but declined to come, one of the police officers attended in civilian clothes, and never announced that he was an officer. The ACLU believed he was an undercover agent, and kicked him out. The officer sued, and the courts found that that was arbitrary discrimination.
In any case, DefCon is in Nevada, which does not have a similar law. I don't know enough about California law to be able to say if this prohibition against Fed participation is arbitrary or not, were it to take place in California.
"In general usage ethical is used to describe standards of behavior between individuals, while moral or immoral can describe any behavior. You can call lying unethical or immoral, for example, because it involves the behavior of one person and how it affects another, but violating dietary prohibitions in a holy text can only be described as immoral."
> Although the words can be considered synonyms, morals are beliefs based on practices or teachings regarding how people conduct themselves in personal relationships and in society, while ethics refers to a set or system of principles, or a philosophy or theory behind them. (Principles, however, is itself is a synonym for morals.) One lives according to one’s morals but adheres to one’s ethics while doing so. Morals are the tools by which one lives, and ethics constitute the manual that codifies them.
which oddly conflicts with yours. This confusion is perhaps why I generally fail to make the distinction.
"Corporations are people, my friend".
If I apply to companies A and B, where A is ethical and B is unethical, but only B offers me a job, which I accept, have I freely chosen my employer? Let's assume these are the only companies available.
It may or may not be a good idea to do so, but the organizers of a private gathering may exclude whom they wish; the nature of ones employer is not an unethical standard for exclusion.
Not that I defend mass government surveillance, I'm just tired of that pseudo-argument.
It's simply a facile argument that weakens the real arguments against mass state surveillance.
For example, while I oppose it on philosophical grounds, I don't see an NSA operator exploiting my email credential for any personal purpose.
It's perfectly possible to be crushed by a system without any of those operating the levers knowing or feeling anything personally about you. Systemic exploitation, a corrupt system if you will, is hardly better than corrupt individuals within a system, and the most horrific things in history all were rather apersonal, that's kinda what allowed them to reach an otherwise impossible scale, ferocity and longevity.
People distrusting people while trusting faceless agencies is the problem, not the solution.
How on earth can you make that argument? Ostensibly, by giving him the credentials you trust something to keep your privacy private. With the feds, you have no choice.
Employers are kinda made up of the people that work for them. Any attempts to disassociate the two shall fail.
So yes, humanity is better when people actually have experience consequences for their actions -- instead of hiding behind other people, or symbols even, like "employer".
We're not talking about being mean to people because of their skin color, or not selling them ice cream because they're working for the Mafia. We're talking not selling them weapons, and not letting them buy you drinks and whatnot, because they're working for the Mafia. That's exactly appropriate.
What's next, not "discriminating" against people because they are running marathons for the Rapists Association, even though they're not rapists themselves? Boo-hoo, really.
You're making a mockery out of the word "discrimination" here. You're equating withdrawing support from those who do harm with being mean to handicapped people and whatnot: Fuck that, utterly and completely.
Can you leave free speech out of this.
Returning to the main point, the bigger problem with discriminating based on employer is that employers are very large entities. We cannot expect everyone to know everything their employer is doing, let alone be responsible or actively contributing to it. Also, as dalke points out, there is legal precedent precident that discrimination based on employers is discrimination (specifically the ACLU kicked out a non-uniformed unannounced police officer). Granted this was only a violation of (California) state law, but the law had a specific list of protected classes, and employer was not on it.
Maybe, if you could kindly explain what you mean by that, because I don't get it.
the bigger problem with discriminating based on employer is that employers are very large entities. We cannot expect everyone to know everything their employer is doing, let alone be responsible or actively contributing to it
There are over a hundred hours of Adolf Eichmann trials on Youtube. Watch any one of them, provided it contains him defending himself. So if the bigger problem is a complete non-issue, what does that say about the smaller ones?
Also, as dalke points out, there is legal precedent precident that discrimination based on employers is discrimination (specifically the ACLU kicked out a non-uniformed unannounced police officer). Granted this was only a violation of (California) state law, but the law had a specific list of protected classes, and employer was not on it.
What is legal or not might be an issue for the organizers, granted, but personally I care more about what is right and what isn't. So if they break the laws for this, more power to them; if they can find a loophole, also fine. Private clubs can invite whoever they fuck they want, for example; this wouldn't be very practical, but there's nearly always a way.
Presumably this is not the case if it is known what an employer is doing, although when it is not known what an employer is doing, discrimination based on employer would seem uncommon.
I know that I didn't make the distinction between legal and illegal until later on, so maybe you didn't see it.
In the US and the UK employment law descends from the masters and servants act - Note the term.
Ever since we decided "just following orders" isn't a valid excuse.
Can we stick to discrimination against the employees of legal employers in one's own state that one recognizes as legitimate and one is not in active rebellion against?
It's certainly not a good excuse to go ignoring important lessons in history. Nazi Germany is one of the better examples of why "just doing my job" is not a valid excuse for anything.
However, this seems to imply that all American hackers/entrepreneurs/etc.need to move to remote cabins in Montana and stop contributing to society, because anyone who contributes to society in America is directly supporting this system (albeit, 1 degree removed from those working directly for the government).
I currently don't know a way around this problem, and I don't actually want to stop being productive. I've had this on my mind for a while. Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated.
Build new tools to protect privacy. Advance encryption technology faster. Build new communication software to keep the NSA out. The list is practically infinite and applies to nearly every segment of web / internet / mobile / pc.
No it doesn't. He's making the same argument terrorists sometimes use to justify their actions. We're not innocent -- that by paying taxes, voting, and otherwise being a member of our society, we're culpable for what that society chooses to do.
You don't get to pick and choose what your taxes fund; in large part, that's the whole point of taxation.
When I am in a room, I contribute to the humidity of that room. Now imagine me turning on the faucet or boiling some water.... and then saying "I can't turn them off, it would make no sense, I would contribute to the humidity either way!".
I'll just go ahead and say if people can't think at all, so that they only know the difference between "nothing exists" and "everything is the same", then whatever they're building can't be that good, and chances are great we'd be better of without it.
I have thought long and hard about that underlying argument and at the end of the day I both could not find a flaw with it, and was subsequently compelled to become a globally nomadic anarcho capitalist, just to avoid being forced to contribute to what amounts to only a fairly tame by comparison lackey of the US.
I totally hear what you saying and as a matter of fact, I used to be very depressed by this. And maybe I'm being a coward. But I also think that billions of people need to be organized somewhat to live together, even millions or thousands. We need plumbing, we need roads, hospitals, and even taxes. To some degree, at least. I mean, come on, even though there are bad doctors, it's kinda cool that I can just look one up in the yellow pages and have a great chance of getting competent treatment. Or eat fast food without dying of salmonella or something. It's not perfect, but I don't want medieval times back either. Yeah, I'm probably a coward ^^
Still, to me the problem isn't so much that there is government, but that it's not a mechanism for people to govern themselves, but like something external we accept to be broken and our enemy, instead of us. That it's a shitty government, run by people who wanted to get in for all the wrong reasons - instead of by everyone, all the time. Mr. Taxman , who just lies to you before election and there is fuck all anyone can do.
As Chomsky said, governments have one "defect", they are theoretically democratic -- corporations have no defect, they're pure tyrannies. So unless you become some kind of super inventor / investor, and so rich that you and others of your calibre could really move things around, well.. you'd still have your voice I guess. And that might be enough, there are surely ways to not pay into the wrong hands and still affect people, so I'm not knocking it at all. If you can pull it off, good luck! And write a book/blog about it, too.
This is a really interesting story, and I'm going to be giving it a lot of thought. One problem for me is that I do computer science research (I'm a grad student), and I'd like to keep doing something somewhere similar after I graduate (but self-employed), but if you're working on generic low-level computer stuff that can be re-used by everybody ad infinitum, the state will use it. I'm not a Linux kernel developer, for example, but that's a good analogy. I don't see a good way to stop supporting the state without giving up on doing computer science research. I'd appreciate any thoughts.
So, you don't have to pay taxes (except for things like sales tax) to any state? As an American, I think I'd have to renounce my citizenship (they still make you pay taxes when you are overseas), which would probably have a number of negative impacts for me personally, such as possibly making travel difficult.
Overall, I'm not so sure that I agree with your conclusions, but I'm still thinking about it. Yes, I am supporting the state, but not willingly, and not quietly (though I am not vocal about my opposition to the system in my corporeal life, which wouldn't do any good anyway in my work environment, and would probably do much harm). Actually, I'm the victim. Is a Jew working in a munitions factory in Nazi Germany morally obligated to commit suicide rather than try to ride out the war? I would say "no," and I would tentatively say that about the actual situation I am in, for the same reasons.
My bigger concern about supporting the system as I do is that it is self-defeating (of myself). In the limit (i.e., in communism), there is no possibility for productive labor, because 100% of your earnings will be taken by the government and used against you. We are not in that situation. Still, US government action seems to be moving in the direction of making it impossible to start and run small businesses; this is already the case in some sectors, like telecom. When all there are, are large corporate giants under tight regulatory control (which is literally the model adopted by Hitler and Mussolini), we are all worker drones; it would be equally (un)productive for me personally to work a a cashier at Wal-Mart as it would be to be a software engineer. (Because you get paid approximately the same in both cases and true innovation is illegal or impossiblein both cases.) I fear that we are not all that far from that situation.
If you disapprove of anything about a business, it turns out that you can actually choose not to support them economically. When you make this choice they lack the ability to send thugs in costume around to kidnap/torture/murder you.
Further, if enough people in a free market agree with your evaluation of that business, it will actually stop existing rather than grow larger and larger fuelled by continuously increasing external security threats and various other negative externalities provoked by the kinds of things that aggravated you about it in the first place.
Fascinating stuff. These incentives for behaviour are responsible for some amazing feats throughout history, too. When you can't just kill people for refusing to support you, you often end up needing to provide actual value.
Not always mind you, some particularly unscrupulous businesses can become joined at the hip with the state and feed from the same larcenous trough, but at that stage it's hard to actually distinguish where they end and the state begins, thus your normal actions to avoid support to the state hit this particular shambling hybrid just as hard.
That's actually the difference between state and non state actors typically speaking, one you don't get to tell you're not interested in without risk of death. Mindblowingly complex stuff I know.
But you have already stated that you oppose even indirect contributions to government. Why the contradiction? Do you oppose indirect support to things that take actions you disapprove of, or not?
Knowingly or unknowingly, willingly or unwillingly... these lay on difference axises.
I could excuse those who unknowingly willingly contribute to an atrocity (Paul Stabenow of the Tesch & Stabenow corporation is arguably an example). The unknowing unwilling are similarly hard to blame. Examples for this escape me at the moment though I am certain that there are examples in history of people compelled to work who did not know what they were contributing to. If I had to guess, I would say that workers for the Tesch & Stabenow corporation in the company's later years could perhaps fit this category.
Examples of the knowing unwilling could be the workers at Mittelwerk. They knew what they were contributing to and were forced to continue. Knowing willing could arguably include Wernher von Braun, though some would (mistakenly, I think) put him on the edge of knowingly unwillingly.
Likewise blissful ignorance is no excuse (in an indirect world) for being unaware of the reasonable impact or influence of your allocation of capital. Otherwise there's no reason to complain of indirectly helping the government by paying taxes, for all I know every single penny of my tax money could have gone to provide food for the needy and beds for the homeless and it's just your taxes that are going toward funding guns and NSA.
The whole idea that one must know that some corporations are shadier than others belies the very question I asked, since one could willingly contribute to only those aspects of government which are considered good and to none of the other ones (which are considered bad, knowingly or unknowingly).
OP has rejected that argument in its entirety though; there is no way to claim unknowing and unwilling support of bad government in that view, so why should it be permissible to unknowingly and unwillingly support bad corporations?
It's a collective pool to which you contribute which is used for both purposes, you bear some responsibility for both actions by extension.
> since one could willingly contribute to only those aspects of government which are considered good and to none of the other ones (which are considered bad, knowingly or unknowingly).
No, they couldn't, your option to contribute to the state is violently coerced and the allocation after it is violently coerced is out of your hands. You can play games imagining your money went to a nurse instead of a CIA black ops mission to overthrow a popular foreign leader and prop up the interests of your state in the region, but at the end of the day that's all that is, a game.
> so why should it be permissible to unknowingly and unwillingly support bad corporations?
It isn't; you are responsible for the repercussions of that 99c hamburger, act accordingly. You're right that's the only consistent position, and you're right that it implies that people are responsible for the actions of the entities and organisations which they support.
If you simply ignore material reality and obvious facts so you can ignore having to deal with the cognitive dissonance that comes from contributing directly to behaviour you despise, then you're once again just playing games. It's your responsibility to make your decisions and your responsibility to examine the repercussions of those decisions, I understand that the concept of personal responsibility is completely alien to the vast majority of statist humans in existence, but that doesn't stop it being the only path I am able to accept.
The knowingly or unknowingly bit gets slightly harder however since it's not completely beyond the realm of imagination that you might trust a party with which you choose to do business to behave in accordance with your expectations and standards. However, the difference there is, once it becomes clear they've violated that trust, you retain the option to cease your dealings with them.
No matter how many times the state violates that trust, you do not acquire that option, your option is the same as it was to begin with, serve or die.
You do have options though. Go somewhere that has no state, convince the people to disestablish the state (oh, and somehow prevent them from re-establishing one), or go somewhere that has a state that you would be willing to serve.
Hey if you don't like your gang just join another one. Or convince all the other gangsters to quit the gang and all people everywhere to never start a gang again. But don't think for a minute you can stop following orders from the Don.
I wish I could tell you the world was different, but it's not. We live in a real world, not an utopia. No matter where you go there will be some variant of the 'despot with a stick', whether they call themselves guv'nah or not.
Actually, I'm not making that argument. This may be a subtle difference that is not important for this discussion, though.
My argument is that as a victim of the US government, it doesn't make sense to keep supporting the system that is victimizing me. All the work I do in my life will be approximately 1 step forward, 1 step back.
(Quite literally, as the tax rate is probably roughly around 50% in all, though I don't really mean it in that sense.)
Sort of. I illegally decided to refuse to pay my taxes to the federal government, and instead payed extra taxes to my state government.
Now if your government finally does take a stand on the banking issue and tells US authorities to take a hike I would be more inclined to have similar faith in your nation as you do.
Imagine you're in a room you can't get out of. By the nature of aerobic respiration, you're slowly transforming all the oxygen into carbon dioxide. Now imagine there is a running car in the room with you. Do you first shut off the car to prevent it from filling up the room with exhaust and carbon monoxide, or do you give up because there's no point in life?
You can either give up by selling all your belongings and begin to live on the street as a non-tax paying citizen, or you can do something to stop the things that are taking away your freedoms and liberties, or at the very least, do something to make it harder for those that want to take away your freedoms to do so.
I suffer from depression and have had times in life where suicide is a real option, yet I can't imagine how anyone can think "welp, I better give up now because there isn't a point in trying!" There's always an option. Exercise that option.
False dichotomy, there are other options that both don't lend any legitimacy to the state and allow you to live a pretty good life these days. Especially for people with technically advanced skillets. The world is much bigger than the tax farm you were born in which claims dominion over you, and outside the borders of that farm, its powers are greatly diminished.
 Obviously there are exemptions for foreign earned income, but if you're in country with lower tax than the US (of which there are a fair amount) you could end up paying the US taxes on money that has literally nothing to do with them. Worse, if you're married to a native of that country and must file jointly in the new country then the US expects you to file jointly with them too and pay taxes on your spouses earning.
Like what? (Last time I asked this question on HN I got about 5 answers that said "Call your Congressman," which I don't agree with.) I honestly don't believe there's anything I can do that would change things meaningfully, even if I dedicated my whole life to it, short of maybe starting a major political movement, which I highly doubt I'd be able to do.
Even simply refusing to join these organizations doesn't help as much as you might think. NSA can teach smart people to program if it comes to that, so there's always someone to fill the seat. Only now, the person filling that seat has ethical norms even farther away from yours.
Also, for what? So the rest can hide behind them? Because that's what effectively happens. Very little change, very great excuse. We couldn't even discuss police brutality here without some people moaning about how some cop or other is a decent person, as if generalizing to make a point is somehow worse than shooting unarmed people.
Not that I don't hear the point you're trying to make, I used to think that too, I don't anymore. When something is past the point of return, just throwing people at it won't turn it around, it just wastes perfectly good people. I'd rather lean on the assholes who currently work for assholes, to stop being assholes, than send non-assholes into that grinder.