James Bamford pointed out in The Shadow Factory (back in 2008), that much of the "surveillance-industrial complex" is outsourced and that much of this bleeding edge tech is in fact coming from private companies (Narus, companies originating from Israel, etc). Should DEFCON setup a review board to ban employees from private companies they also don't agree with?
If you want to make a case for an "ethical system" in which mass surveillance is good for humanity be my guest (and PM me your email login credentials while you're at it: I promise not to use them irresponsibly).
The NSA is made up on individuals like you or me and Edward Snowden has made the case that there's little preventing any insider from accessing what they want on whomever they want. As the surveillance state becomes an accepted part of modern society there will be those who seek involvement in it expressly for the purpose of abusing or exploiting their power.
They are individuals, yes (though they are certainly not random people), but they still operate within a structure that shapes their actions. For example, while I oppose it on philosophical grounds, I don't see an NSA operator exploiting my email credential for any personal purpose. But some random guy on HN - who knows? He might just post them on 4chan for the lulz.
It's simply a facile argument that weakens the real arguments against mass state surveillance.
It's not a bad argument, there's just better ones.
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.
Certainly, yes. Is it not ok to discriminate against someone who has joined a terrorist group and is actively helping them? Is an army medic not rightly discriminated against by the other side if the medic's side loses the war?
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'.
I'm trying to understand how your mind works, I'm not making a specific point or leading you in a certain direction. It doesn't help when you don't answer questions directly, it looks like you're trying to avoid answering them - this could have been less painful. For my part I could have been less obtuse and aggressive.
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.
In the case where you are able to make a choice about which job you take then yes you definitely should be held to account for that choice. Because it is a moral one.
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.
Let's break it down into whether it is ethical to reject based on past/present/future employers.
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.
I forgot to put the word legal before employers like I did upthread. I'm sorry if that changes your answer and you feel like you wasted your time, because basically what you wrote about illegal employment makes sense to me. Thanks for the thoughtful response.
Ah, if you put the word 'legal' there, then there is no discussion and nothing to talk about: legal is whatever it says in the law of your country. I'm not in USA, so I have no idea what is or isn't legal, and don't actually care. Legal has nothing to do with ethics and whether something is right or wrong, and doing something that is ethical but illegal is always preferred over something that is legal but unethical. It would always be an ethical imperative to attempt to change an unethical law as well.
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.
I am surprised to hear that laws and ethics have nothing to do with each other. Is it a random chance that murder is illegal and unethical just about everywhere?
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?
He needs to stop playing devils advocate. It's painfully obvious you are right. Why on earth would you want someone to leech information from a hacking convention to be used against those very same people? Fuck that. Ban whoever you need to ban.
By "okay" do you mean "legal" or "ethical" or "moral"? In this case it looks to be completely legal.
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."
Thank you for clarifying the distinction. I prefer this definition:
> 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.
I don't see how this can be in question, if the employees chose their employer freely. How can one seriously oppose a corporate entity if one may not oppose the people who comprise the corporate entity.
It may be what you meant, but it wasn't what I read. Anyway, fine.
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.
Yes you freely applied to work for a company you believed to be unethical. But if there are only two companies available to work for and one is unethical you should probably move elsewhere. Just to be clear, my statement was aimed at educated people in countries with some choice of employment. It wasn't intended as an arch right-wing statement. If poverty or political circumstances remove your freedom to choose then that would invalidate what I said.
There is truth to the fact that we can't completely choose who we work for. But none the less, you are responsible for the choices you make. If a man is repeatedly raped and abused as a child we still hold him accountable as a man who rapes someone.
I basically am against discrimination on the basis of one's employer for the same principles behind any individual freedom. I might not like your work, but I respect that you are a taxpayer in the same state as me and as such contribute to our ability to meet in relative peace in the first place, and I won't condone organized discrimination against you on the basis of your legal work. If anything, I will petition the state to make your work illegal.
I disagree. It's dangerous to let people slide because "they're just doing their job". People "just doing their job" are the enablers. Without them, none of the really serious man-made tragedies of history would have been possible.
Well, they are partly for helping you choose your employer. Job interviews are 2 sided and I personally take the attitude that any employer who thinks otherwise has failed the interview process and is therefore ineligible for the position of employing me.
When is discrimination against an individual based on his or her employer detrimental to the good of humanity?
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.
>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.
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.
I think you might be reading into my words a bit too far. The Mafia is not a legal employer. Requiring someone to have a legal employer in order to buy a legal weapon makes sense. (Perhaps. Maybe it makes sense for them not to have an illegal employer.) At any rate the Mafia do not generally buy legal weapons. As for not letting somebody buy me a drink, that's not exactly organizational discrimination - it's more like personal discrimination - but not letting a certain class of individuals enter a bar based on their legal employment is. Personal discrimination is a lot murkier, and everyone does it to some degree.
I know that I didn't make the distinction between legal and illegal until later on, so maybe you didn't see it.
Actually Godwin only said that the longer discussions on the internet get, the greater the chance of someone making a comparison to the Nazis. Various groups decided that if this event occurred it was an indicator that the person who made the comparison had lost the debate and that the discussion was over.