In an age of surveillance capitalism and hyper personalised data driven marketing, consumers have to protect their selves, their identity and their integrity to their moral standards, while also protecting the integrity of the goods that are purchased.

Two subfields of ethics are required for a consumer to make a moral decision. On one hand that is value chain ethics, to preserve truth and quality in the supply chain and to provide the consumer with the information needed to make a moral decision. On the other hand there is consumer privacy ethics, to protect the consumer from surveillance capitalists and parties with wrong intentions while immersing in a system built to make this moral choice. Because a moral choice requires a wealth of information from both consumers end to suppliers end, protection of this information is important.
But what is a moral choice? What is ethical? What values underlie our stance of what is moral or ethical?

How to different political and ideological paradigms influence these values? In what way can we create consensus about what is ethical while there are multiple parties at stake with different social and cultural influences? How to weigh educated opinions against uneducated opinions? How to identify biasses, assumptions and subjectivity and how to tackle these?

What is our goal here? Do we want to provide parties with a quick and dirty or thorough and thoughtful assay of their ethics (bottom-up)? Do we want to manifest ethical issues on a broader societal level (topdown)?

Shot from Solaris (1972).
Alignment issue
I’d say our first priority is what I would call the alignment issue. Alignment of our moral values and societal ethical values to our day to day actions. To successfully act in the way we want or should act, we need to be clear about what that constitutes, so this is testable. Secondly we need to know the full implications of our action, to test this against our own moral and ethical set of values.

Since finding out what your values are precisely and how to prioritize them is a very complex task, I think we need to trust experts. Following political or ideological experts to assist you with unraveling what your values are, would certainly be a way to make this daunting task less complex, but is of course accompanied by gradual centralization of power to experts.

To know the full implications of our actions, a qualitative phenomena, we need to divide this wholesome action into separate parts. What is for example the effect of your action on the environment, on financial systems, on political power or on the people that are involved in the value chain? When these parts are identified, a clearer view on circumstances and issues is possible, which can be used to test against your moral and ethical set. This also is a daunting task with many social, cultural, political, physical and ideological barriers experienced in the collection of reliable information.

Sovereign individual identity problem

The second priority, tightly bound to the first one, is the protection of the sovereign identity of the individual.

Based on western values like individualism and freedom, EU broad laws like GDPR have come into play protecting this individual sovereignty. Hyper personalised data driven marketing strategies challenge the ability of the individual to judge the integrity of products, which is overwhelmed by obscure and un-nuanced marketing input.

Surveillance capitalists should not be able to monetize the judgement of individuals or sell the moral choice.

To preserve a clear judgement, data identifiable to the natural person need to be protected, so it can not be used to mislead. Individuals need to own their data, need to be able to access, delete and change it at all times, in combination with for example being in control of who can access the data.
Blockchain can in an array of situations serve as a suitable solution to problems as Centralization of power, Obscure value chains or Data vulnerability. Data ownership, Access, Security, Verification and
Authentication, Governance and Identity are the main pillars important for ethical implementation of blockchains identified by Beeck Centre for Innovation at Georgetown University. Within these topics lies a wide array of ethical considerations (Lapointe, Fishbane, 2018).

Moving forward

To conclude, it is clear there is a need for focus on ethics. But how are we to tackle this in this fast paced landscape, with little governance itself? Please let me know your ideas on how to get everyone on board on this topic.

You can email me at research@thefork.online or find me at twitter @mykemmer.

Thanks for reading.