Gods, I hate GamerGaters with passion but I couldn’t figure out better headline because I want to talk about ethics and morals in tech. And I don’t just mean gambling, spyware and black hat hacking. Actually I want to rant about surveillance and user tracking and being asked to be complicit in undermining human rights in similar way as Ivanka Trump. It might be exaggeration but I have no idea how influential she actually is.
Over the last couple of months more than handful of recruiters approached me about Front-End Dev positions at start ups that are creating tools for mass surveillance but they call it user tracking. I would be happy to work on such software but I have some conditions:
- it will be used only in-house
- or the start up will sell it to the corporate customer and the customer will run it on their own hardware
- or the start up has in founding document or similar document what exactly will happen to the collected user data
The reason why I want at least one of these conditions to be met is simple: I. Have. A. Conscience! Seriously while I was writing this article, it’s been in drafts folder for almost a week, I spotted two other articles about shitty, excuse my French, start ups selling their users’ data, one is about apps for period tracking and the other is about robotic vacuums. Both are creepy, I am not sure which one is creepier.
Usually I am able to scare away the recruiters without conscience with questions what happens to the collected users’ data. To this day not one got back to me and answered those questions and that’s great but it takes my time and my attention away from things that I would rather do. The sad thing is that they will find a developer who will be willing to sell himself, his family and the rest of humanity just because he sees it as an interesting technical problem or a career opportunity or whatever.
We as Developers, Back-End and Front-End alike, need to start asking ourselves if the things that we are building are worth building and if they don’t do any harm to others. Invading other people’s privacy is hurting people.