Disclosive Ethics and Information Technology: Disclosing Facial Recognition Systems

Ethics and Information Technology 7 (2):75-86 (2005)
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This paper is an attempt to present disclosive ethics as a framework for computer and information ethics – in line with the suggestions by Brey, but also in quite a different manner. The potential of such an approach is demonstrated through a disclosive analysis of facial recognition systems. The paper argues that the politics of information technology is a particularly powerful politics since information technology is an opaque technology – i.e. relatively closed to scrutiny. It presents the design of technology as a process of closure in which design and use decisions become black-boxed and progressively enclosed in increasingly complex socio-technical networks. It further argues for a disclosive ethics that aims to disclose the nondisclosure of politics by claiming a place for ethics in every actual operation of power – as manifested in actual design and use decisions and practices. It also proposes that disclosive ethics would aim to trace and disclose the intentional and emerging enclosure of politics from the very minute technical detail through to social practices and complex social-technical networks. The paper then proceeds to do a disclosive analysis of facial recognition systems. This analysis discloses that seemingly trivial biases in recognition rates of FRSs can emerge as very significant political acts when these systems become used in practice.



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Lucas Introna
Lancaster University