Information ethics in the context of smart devices

Ethics and Information Technology 15 (3):183-194 (2013)
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In this paper, we employ Extended Cognition as a background for a series of thought experiments about privacy and common used information technology devices. Laptops and smart phones are now widely used devices, but current privacy standards do not adequately address the relationship between the owners of these devices and the information stored on them. Law enforcement treats laptops and smart phones are potential sources of information about criminal activity, but this treatment ignores the use of smart devices as extensions of users’ cognitive capability. In Philosophy of Mind, Extended Cognition is a metaphysical theory about the relationship between consciousness or cognitive activity and various external tools or aids that agents employ in the service of cognition. Supporters of Extended Cognition argue that mental activity must be understood as taking place both within the brain and by way of tools such as a logician’s pen and paper, a mathematician’s calculator, or a writer’s word processing program. While Extended Cognition does not have universal support among philosophers of mind, the theory nevertheless describes how agents interact with their “smart devices.” We explore the the implications of taking Extended Cognition seriously with regard to privacy concerns by way of a series of thought experiments. By comparing the differences in expectations of privacy between a citizen and the government, between an employee of a corporate firm, and between citizens alone, we show that expectations of privacy and injury are significantly affected by taking the cognitive role of smart devices into account



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Michael Falgoust
Tulane University (PhD)

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