Silicon Valley is well known for being the tech capital. However, the area faces a variety of ethical challenges. These have led to lawsuits, high turnover rates, walk-outs and more. Solving these challenges is the only way for Silicon Valley to reach its full potential.
Profit Before People
While it’s not just a Silicon Valley ethics problem, some of the top offenders are headquartered in the area. They often put profits before people. These companies often collect data without informing users of exactly what’s being collected, how it’s being stored and how it’s being used. Instead, they track users across the Internet in order to sell the data off to advertisers all over the world. In Facebook’s case, the Cambridge Analytica scandal really helped open users’ eyes to a major ethical issue.
Hiding the Truth
When things go wrong, Silicon Valley ethics fly out the window. Some companies release new versions of software, apps and tools with known bugs. In some cases, the lies even endanger peoples’ lives, such as with Theranos. The blood-testing startup was doctoring the results to make the company look better. It wasn’t until two employees reported what was happening that the owner, Elizabeth Holmes, was held accountable.
Silicon Valley is well known for discrimination. Women are especially discriminated against as many see the tech industry as a man’s world. They might get passed over for promotions and sexual harassment claims may be ignored. It’s an all too common theme that victims are finally speaking out against.
While it’s still an ethical issue, the companies are being held more accountable than before. Silicon Valley whistleblowing is helping to reduce this issue.
Innovation Comes Before People
Much like profit, Silicon Valley ethics aren’t a concern when it comes to innovation. With everyone trying to be the first to create the next big technology, companies often don’t test their technology enough to ensure it’s safe and appropriate. For example, algorithms may show bias or discriminate. Critical bugs may make it easy for hackers to spy on users.
Facebook was at the heart of a major scandal during the 2016 Presidential Election. With fake news running rampant, Facebook controlled what data users saw based on algorithms that used collected data. For example, a Republican would always see more Republican-biased news and vice versa.
Facebook isn’t the only Silicon Valley company trying to control what users see online. Google collects data about users, even if they’re not logged in, to customize search results, limiting the information users are able to find.
Silicon Valley ethics need a makeover. However, it’s up to employees and users to speak out against these ethical challenges and force Silicon Valley to make ethics a priority.