core conversation:how not to be evil (even by accident)

I apparently am evil enough to need this session.

There is an intersection between what is ethical to do and what makes good business sense. Let’s find out! Free speech, civil liberties, and privacy online. There is a mismatch between intellectual property law and terms of online use.

Danny O’Brien – EFF
Eva Galperin – EFF
Sunday, March 15
Electronic Frontier Foundation
Best Practices for Online Services

You are going to set out to do really amazing, good things, and you are going to stumble into doing something evil. So how do we fix that scenario, and how can you set up a system where you don’t wander off into evilness.

Startups who lose control

You assume that at some point you can go back and fix it, and then control is taken away (a buyout, a change in business model where you change the original use of service/data, changes of terms of service, malicious ex-employee attack).

Things to do

Geeks tend to be packrats and debuggers (logs). As you collect more and more data, the risk of doing something evil with that data grows (i.e., government warrants). You should have a plan for how you are going to use this data before you store it. Start thinking about how to debug things without the giant honeypot of data. “What you do becomes business practice, and becomes law.” Lawyers are used to acting defensively rather than pro-actively.

Changing terms of service while making sure your users understand why you are changing the terms of service. Communicate the changes. Have a top-to-bottom conversation within your company about privacy policies and terms of service.

Idea: Version control and diff your terms of service, and place the changes into an RSS feed.

Idea: Ten principles to make a better terms of service.

When it all goes wrong

Your anticipation of what might happen and what your users are doing separate. You need an escape plan for your user’s data: it reassures users that if they put data in they can remove it / pull it back out.

These are notes from a session at sxsw interactive. My own take on topics are mixed in with what the presenters were actually saying, so do not assume all of this content is my own.