I have a short piece at Slate, Do You Consent?, on ethical oversight of Internet companies’ experiments on users. My focus is on the two-cultures problem: academics and technologists have very different values, and experiments like Facebook’s blend them in ways that can undercut academic ethics. Here’s an excerpt:
Why the heat? In part it’s because when Facebook’s “data scientists” do empirical studies on users and publish the results in peer-reviewed journals, they’re acting like academics. Facebook, though, is a company, and its values are not the values of the academy. It’s hard to think of a slogan more antithetical to the careful and deliberative attitude of scholars toward their craft than “move fast and break things.” What is common sense in industry is crazy talk in the ivory tower, and vice versa. This isn’t just a case of disruptive innovation disruptively disruptifying everything in its path and leaving no survivors in its wake. It’s a case of two very different ethical worlds colliding.