Hacker News new | comments | show | ask | jobs | submit login

>How do you decide if it's okay or not to discriminate against employees when the employer in question is legal?

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.

So ethical things can be illegal, unethical things can be legal.

Would discrimination against the employees of a legal employer in one's own state (country) ever be unethical?

>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'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.

So is it ethical for universities to reject applicants on the basis of their past/present/future employers being unethical in the selection committee's eyes?

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?

How did we get into employment? Is it legal to reject neo-Nazis from a parade?

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.

> So ethical things can be illegal, unethical things can be legal.

Ding ding ding. Please keep this in mind at all times.

They not only can be, but unfortunately both often are.

It's interesting to me that you thought this was the first time I'd encountered this idea. I guess I need to work on my communication skills.

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.

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact