The Ethics Bounty System Can Help Clean Up the Web

In May 2021, Twitter users Shared by @capohai a screenshot of a Google search for “what the terrorists wore on their heads,” which returned, as the first result, the Palestinian keffiyeh scarf. At the same time, the French senate recently voted to ban women under 18 from wearing hijab in public, and President Macron’s LREM political party garnered support from the candidate Sarah Zemmahi for wearing hijab in a campaign ad. How many others have asked Google the same question and taken its answer as validating their own biases or as an intentional statement of fact? How many more are hurt by the results?

Anger at Google’s tacit equation between Palestinians, headscarves, and terrorists has emerged from social media in the news, but if the same search is done now, keffiyeh is still the highest result.

It makes sense that @capohai went back to Twitter because it was one of the only options for most people who noticed the bad behavior of tech companies – privacy violations, continued hate speech and disinformation, bias behavior, etc.-is to post about it on social media. But as this example shows, the retaliation model does not work to correct ethical violations.

Looking at the bigger picture, there are calls for greater regulation in the tech industry, which is desperately needed, but legislation can take a long time to pass and be implemented and is often not enough to stop the unexpected. ethical failures endemic to technology. Because algorithms tend to express our (bad) values ​​in unexpected ways that require constant updating and tweaking to correct, regulations, whatever. quick and extensive writing, unable to overlook and stop all future issues.

But there is an option that does not rely on any social media outrage or new regulations. Tech companies really are that configured for handling measurement ethics issues. They just need to adjust their current bounty system.

Currently, hundreds of companies and organizations, large and small, are offering bounties ranging from thousands to millions of dollars to those who see vulnerabilities in their code that could be exploited by bad actors. Google’s bounty program even includes applications sold through its Play store. Apple, which recently started a bounty program (with fees of up to a million dollars for the most severe types of exploits) is taking a similar approach. In his program notes, the company says it will “reward researchers who share with us critical issues and the techniques used to take advantage of them,” giving the public recognition and matching of bounty-paid donations to charities.

Imagine how much better Silicon Valley products and services would be if these companies grouped ethical violations under “critical issues and the techniques used to take advantage of them” and started offering of corresponding gifts. After all, ethical violations can cause a lot of problems for a company and user as a bit of leaked code. The language above no longer needs to be changed. And the ethics bounty program can use the rest of Apple’s rules, which include: 1) You have to be the first to report it, 2) you have to clearly explain and show evidence of what happened, 3) you don’t it will be disclosed to the public in the past. Apple gets a chance to patch it, and 4) you get a bonus if the company inadvertently re-introduces a known problem with a new patch.

For users, a bounty system will encourage people to find ethical violations and report them more quickly. For companies, this system can help them find and solve problems before they cause harm to multiple customers, create negative press, and can damage governments. Granted, some companies may not be afraid of negative press, losing customers, and fostering prejudices, but they are likely to be motivated by the long-term stability and goodwill that such a program can offer. Having a public record of responding thoughtfully to ethical issues in the past can also help a company if it wants to recruit talented workers and grow in other markets and industries.

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