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Ethics aspects

"The field of ethics (or moral philosophy) involves systematizing, defending, and recommending concepts of right and wrong behaviour."

Fieser, J.: Ethics, in: Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy IEP, 2009.

Generic ethics aspects#

Security research should heed fundamental ethics aspects just as all research should. These for example include the following:

  • How was the project chosen?
  • Are the goals of the project worth reaching?
  • Are the means used to reach the goals of the project appropriate?
  • Does the project conflict with projects other individuals or groups are pursuing?
  • Is the project self-defeating?

Ethics aspects related to security#

In addition, security research has to address a couple of specific challenges that security interventions pose. These include the following:

  • Address ethics aspects in an investigative way: Decisions about how to increase citizens' security may have ethics dimensions that are sometimes hard to see.
  • Critically address requirements, including identified legal and culture aspects of security, in the light of ethics aspects: For example, security by design should be checked against risks of de-constructing security as a public good (such as common accessibility of public space, etc.).
  • Identify risks of reifying uneven distribution of security in society: Security-enhancing measures and technology may unconsciously contribute to selective delivery of security, contributing to making secure or wealthy citizens more secure, and vulnerable or less prosperous citizens more vulnerable.
  • Actively contribute to limiting potential for abuse (e.g., criminal or terrorist) of sensitive planning information and data.
  • Involve citizens in planning decisions: This not only increases legitimacy of planning decisions, but it is also a requirement from basic principles such as ownership and community goals.
  • Consider the various situations, perceptions of (in)security and risks, needs and perspectives of men and women: Such consideration should inform all aspects of urban planning, which should actively identify and respond to gender-specific perceptions of security and needs for protective measures.

Fundamental ethics issues in security research#

Moreover, security research itself, as a practical activity, has its fundamental ethics issues, such as the following:

  • Evolutionary and moral ethics of security
  • Privacy and security by design
  • Effects-based/smart approaches and their political and societal acceptance at home and abroad
  • Respect for privacy and fundamental rights to determine requirements of technological solutions to security problems and assure compliance and citizens’ acceptance
  • Respect for human and societal needs in definition of requirements/respect for citizens as the ultimate end-users of Security Research
  • Implications for fundamental citizens’ rights, freedom of expression and data privacy issues that arise from a more robust infrastructure for capturing, storing, processing, and visualizing very large social media datasets
  • Independence of/degrees of freedom for research
  • Communications research and possibilities of manipulation
  • Fostering compliance for policies vs. individual responsibility
  • Behavioural models of individuals, groups, crowds, populations and issues of intrusion and manipulation
  • Perceived reaction of society to security measures and issues of intrusion and manipulation
  • Cultural differences in judging security measures and related ethics issues
  • Development of common standards for approaches to address ethics issues in security research
  • Technology opportunities/possibilities vs. citizens’ needs
  • Technology utility-based model for safety–security maximization with minimal rights violation
  • Interactions between infrastructures and human rights (e.g., rights to access and supply)
  • Consequences of a more robust infrastructure for capturing, storing, processing, and visualizing very large social media datasets for citizens’ fundamental rights, freedom of expression and data privacy issues
  • Ethics aspects of technology superiority
  • EU intelligence and ethics
  • The ethics of security economics

For the Security theme and other themes in FP7, a series of ethics criteria/checklists to evaluate research proposals has been developed.


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