legal and societal implications of ICTs are one of the three main priorities of
UNESCO’s Information for All Programme and UNESCO was recently designated as
the Facilitator for the implementation of Action Line C10 “Ethical Dimensions
of the Information Society” of the Geneva Action Plan adopted by the World
Summit on the Information Society.
Moreover, UNESCO encourages the definition and adoption of best practices and
guidelines addressing ethical issues for decision makers, media and information
professionals, and all major stakeholders concerned by the issue of
It aims at providing an outlook to the ethical implications of future
technologies in the area of information and communication as well as at
alerting to the increasing power of these emerging technologies and draws
attention to their potential to affect the exercise of some basic human rights.
entitled “Ethical Implications of Emerging Technologies” has been
prepared by Mary Rundle and Chris Conley of the NGO Geneva Net Dialogue at
This report can
give all of us some idea as to what the future may hold, and what our
respective governments have in mind for us collectively and individually. This
scares me just as much as reading the European Commission documentation.
The report can be
read in full here.
The piece below, located
in the report and written by Wendy Seltzer struck me as being a warning that we
must all heed.
Anonymous expression has a
long and distinguished tradition. Voltaire and George Eliot wrote under
pseudonyms. Support for the ratification of the U.S. Constitution was procured
through anonymous articles in the Federalist Papers. Modern-day bloggers and
mailing-list contributors may not use the same flowery language and elegant
pseudonyms, but their freedom of expression is no less important.
The technology they use can
facilitate either identification or anonymity – and that will affect the range and content of
Anonymity can make possible
or enhance many expressive activities. The freedom to impart information thus
includes the right to speak anonymously; freedom of assembly includes the right
to associate without giving a name or without revealing group membership to
outsiders; and the freedom to seek and receive information includes the right
to listen, watch, and read privately.
Protections for anonymity are
vital to democratic discourse. Allowing dissenters to hide their identities
frees them to express minority views critical to an informed democratic
discourse. Otherwise, fear that their identity may be uncovered and that they
may be persecuted on account of their speech, may prevent those in political, ethnic,
religious, or other minority groups from speaking at all.
That silence in turn deprives
the whole public of access to those ideas.