August 23, 2020

Episode 32: Competing Perspectives on Data, Privacy & Ethics

From the vault of unpublished episodes comes with a fascinating conversation with Desmond Cox, an IT and software development professional who has a fresh and often competing take on Tommy's understandings and perspectives about data, privacy and ethics. During a trip to Germany in 2019, Tommy and his wife visited Des and Chrissy - good friends who moved out of Ontario to start new lives in Leipzig, Saxony, Germany. In this chat, Tommy and Des get to chat about their mutual passion for the politics of data and privacy, as well as their ethical complexities. What makes this conversation particularly important for Tommy is that Des has a radically different way of approaching and comprehending data, privacy and ethics - and rightly so. Des has over ten years of experience working on the inside of complex networked systems - in front-end and back-end development, coding in C#, Java, Python and JavaScript... whereas Tommy, has zero experience with any of this beyond his studies as a social scientist; there are considerable differences between social scientific and computer scientific perspectives on data, ethics and privacy. As we will come to find in this episode, this is largely due to the fascinating tensions between theory and practice. Should we be surprised that on certain large-scale issues, Tommy and Des agree almost entirely? Would it be any less surprising to find that micro-level issues strike a dissonant chord between the two? This episode covers a lot of micro and macro terrain: studying versus doing network surveillance and security, DeMorgan's Law, considerations of not just 'how' or 'where' but 'when' ethical questions ought to emerge around matters of data protection and digital privacy, the social and political dimensions of walled gardens, the privacy paradox - and even a contemplative dialogue between the two about a new way of conceptualization privacy itself: as the unfettered space necessary to 'grow'. 


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