In the last blog, I wrote a few things that software is for:

  • putting people on the moon
  • safely deploying airbags
  • making my bank account add up
  • making sure Mom gets my texts
  • video editing and animation
  • drawing in 10 million colors
  • ebikes

But it’s also used for:

  • surveilling protesters
  • bombing weddings
  • tracking Uyghurs
  • helping Nazis track Jewish people

We often fail to reckon with this as an industry. (And yes, IBM punch cards are very much part of our history). Actively giving the Nazis an extra data column for “Jewish? (y/n):” to win business is just unbelievably craven.

Much of this software is developed by nation states, or their wholly-dependent defense contractor subsidiaries, but some of it’s not. Consider NSO Group, who has sold their hacks to anyone with an open wallet. How many people are dead because of them? How many people are arrested because of awful ShotSpotter systems, “predictive” crime AI, and faulty face recognition?

And even if software is state-sponsored, some professional designed and wrote that software under whatever ethical umbrella they constructed for themselves.

Consider very carefully how much data you need to have; be even more careful about what you build and for who.