An important aspect of media and telecommunication ethics is related to the rapid expansion of new and traditional media into Asian-Pacific countries as well as worldwide. As James Popkin and Partha Iyengar affirm in IT and the East: How China and India Are Altering the Future of Technology and Innovation (2007), "the center of gravity"-not only for new media development, but also for traditional media consumer expansion, and for related ethical problems-has expanded, and possibly shifted, to the Far East.
Although "cloud computing" is a term which entered the IT world in 2007, Nigel Waters (2009) points to the origin of the term in the 1990s, and describes cloud computing as an "information process in which computing needs are provided [from elsewhere] as a service, including data and software applications." Cloud computing is a massive change from the earlier pattern of self-contained computers at one's location, but this language doesn't adequately picture its uniqueness. Imagine owning a giant Genie which can fulfill every digital wish-storage, retrieval, software, applications, online services, and much more- simply by paging the Genie with a device such as an iPod or Blackberry. Ultimately cloud computing, if pushed to the extreme, might make all electronic computing processes, non-secure data, and services available to everyone with any electronic portal device. Although Tara Seals, writing in Xchange magazine (2008), is among the many who feel "cloud computing suffers from a lack of definition," the term is increasingly used as if there is agreement about the spirit if not the letter of its meaning.
Since the notion of a "cloud system" did not just grow from one corporation to another, but also moved from North America and Europe to the remainder of the wired and wireless world, it also is valuable to consider what impact this migration might have in Asian-Pacific countries. In Badani's 2008 article titled "Cloud Computing Coming to Asian Market," SOA World announced that "In Japan...starting immediately, Net One Systems will offer cloud computing infrastructure and services...." Similar articles-and growth-have appeared in Korea, Singapore, and neighboring countries. Such expansion has not only magnified the availability of cloud computing amenities in the Pacific region, but is itself amplified by the immense increase in computer adopters who are expected to access the cloud. Predictions agree that the largest pools of new Internet users in the next decade will be China and India. The combined impact of cloud migration and increased adoption of technology in additional Asian-Pacific countries probably also will increase the kinds and number of accompanying ethical issues. But precisely what effects will this rapid and economically attractive growth have upon telecommunication and telecomputing ethics?
The Parade of Ethical Issues
By 1997 a list of 40 Internet-related ethical issues had been published in The Journal of Mass Media Ethics by the author (Cooper, 1997). By 1999, there were 52 Internet ethics issues in the Pacific area alone. More than a decade later, the number of ethical issues is more than 80. Also, by 2005 the Philippines librarian/ scholar Angela Verzosa had written that issues such as the digital divide, net neutrality, intellectual property, on- line pornography, invasion of e-mail and data privacy, and many more, had already reached global dimensions with strong implications for Pacific countries. To further complicate matters, the Internet is amalgamated from many national and other systems without an over-arching international consensual ethics code or universally accepted guidelines other than a minimum of technical standards.
Cloud Specific Issues
If a recent Pew "Internet and the American Life" survey is correct, almost 70% of Americans now use cloud computing for online storage or Webmail (2009). The survey also showed that such users were concerned about cloud ethics issues pertaining to privacy, marketing without permission, and hidden demographic research. Some specific end user concerns were that "service providers would share client data (91%), that stored data and photos might be used in marketing campaigns (80%) and that providers might analyze clients' use of services and then display ads to them based on such use (68%)."
Other identified issues included individuals being dehumanized by a marketer's composite of stored data, preferences, and psycho-graphics; magnified banking security risks due to remote storage; and the tracking of human mobility, including those persons visiting political rallies and doing private things in private locations. Moreover, despite some previous success by the International Telecommunications Union, how could a multi-cultural, multi-lingual, multi-legal, technologically and ethically complex cloud be effectively regulated in an era of rapid technical innovation?
"Green" and "Red" Ethics Implications
In 1986 Roy Peter Clark at the Poynter Center initiated the helpful dichotomy of "green light" and "red light" ethics. "Red" implied the traditional "thou shalt not" approach to ethics while "green" symbolized a more "thou shall" positive notion of what should be done to model professional ethical behavior (See vol. 3, no. 2 of this magazine, then called Media Ethics Update, for Clark's elaboration of "red" and "green"-terms I will customize for this essay). Although the term "ethics" itself often raises a "red flag" (or light) in some cultures, there are also "green," inspiring, pro-social humanitarian, ethical uses of technology which may counter-balance more negative use.
Among the negative effects of cloud computing in Southeast Asia, according to Kenneth Kraemer and Jason Dedrick (2002) and others, is the growing digital divide between rich and poor users. Other issues-copyright, patent and trademark infringement or "piracy," privacy, fraud, the right to reply, cultural erosion, conflict of interest, spam, data loss or destruction, monopoly, third-party interference, security, environmental waste, censorship, competing moral and ethical traditions, and obscenity-are widespread.
There also are many benefits attributed to cloud computing. As Oscar Mondragon (2008) notes, one may access the cloud from even remote internet cafes in Mexico (or Samoa or the Cook Islands for that matter). Thus it may be argued that such a cloud increases inexpensive remote access, and hence reduces rather than increases the digital divide. Indeed, the increasing sustainability, security, scalability, reliability, lower cost, and multi-tenancy of the cloud could be advanced as reasons that it 1) is customer friendly, 2) increases service to the "have nots," and 3) is potentially friendly to democratic process and universal service. Looking at this "green light" potential, one may argue that the "cloud" is a step toward widely available encyclopedic resources, greater humanitarian relief and projects, omni-access, remote health and education, wide-spectrum applications and services, "on-demand" information and, in general, Mill's "greatest good for the greatest number."
Hence, as is the case with most communication technologies, counter-balancing arguments may be made for both the pro-social and anti-social use of cloud computing in the Pacific.
Types of Issues in the Pacific
Since its initial public use in the Asian-Pacific region during the early 1990s, the Internet has been a subject of debate in different countries to different degrees. Hence the ethical (and political/legal) issues of censorship, government intervention, regulation, and freedom of information have been widespread, while having different application in each country.
Vietnam, for example, has been an example of tight control of the Internet by the government, as reflected in its Decree No. 55, "On the Management, Provision, and Use of Internet Services" (2001, English translation) and more recent documents issued by the Ministry of Information and Communications. Verzosa (2004) has tracked much additional government intervention into Internet service such as the 1995 disconnection of all but one Internet provider in Hong Kong by police for "failure to obtain licenses," China's 1995 requirement for users and ISPs to register with the police, and Singapore's requirement that both religious and political providers register with the state.
Such issues as censorship, affecting both the state and society, have been augmented by a host of other issues. An article in The Business Times Singapore (2008) titled "More places to look for love" notes that there are both pros and cons to Internet dating. The cons include such dangers as misrepresentation, on-line stalking, cyber- seduction and on to rape and homicide, as well as more mundane technical glitches leading to mismatches. From Korea Times comes an example of a very disturbing cyber-abuse issue:
The suicide death of iconic actress Choi Jin-Sil has policymakers moving quickly to strengthen identity verification at websites to discourage cyber bullying and malicious online messages.
The 40-year-old Choi, one of the country's most popular entertainers of the past two decades, was found dead at her home in southern Seoul Thursday in an apparent suicide, and family members and friends claim she had been distressed from harassment on the Internet (Korea Times,"More limits planned on Internet anonymity," Oct. 3, 2008.)
Hence many of the issues formerly identified with the West-cyberbullying, cyberstalking, anonymity violations, spam, privacy, fraud, harassment, security problems, obscenity, defamation, etc.-are now as haunting to individuals in the Pacific as issues of Internet content limits and regulation are to Pacific governments and religions.
Similarly, "green light" applications in which the Internet may be a "friend" to governments and individuals have already appeared. During tsunamis, monsoons, earthquakes, and other emergencies, the Internet (including e-mail and texting), in conjunction with satellites and other communication distribution media, has been used to save lives. Sometimes profit is sacrificed for service in these situations (See Cooper, et al., 1989).
Many philosophers dealing with technology (e.g., Louis Mumford, Lyn White, Jacques Ellul, Siegfried Giedion, Marshall McLuhan, and Harold Innis) have suggested that each new technology has profound affects upon society. Indeed Marshall McLuhan went so far as to say that there are "laws of the media" that take the form of a four-step process in which each new medium or technology 1) enhances or amplifies a previous one, 2) retrieves or brings back an older form, 3) eventually "reverses" or flips into another form, and 4) makes obsolete a previous medium or service (Eric McLuhan, 2005).
I wish to focus particularly upon McLuhan's first step, which might be called the "law of amplification." Ethical issues which exist in one technology such as print, TV, or the Internet, are largely amplified (in scale or size, scope or volume, or impact) and transformed when introduced to other media or technologies and services. For example, content which is being censored in one culture or country may leave the jurisdiction of that country when stored in the "cloud," and may be quickly replicated, manipulated, and distributed to multiple countries and cultures and then recycled in another package or medium back into the censoring country. Inaccurate information retrieved from the cloud may also be magnified and distorted so that someone who is falsely accused in one news story in one country, may quickly become a criminal, suspect, hero, or villain in other stories in other countries in which the subject is completely unknown. Information which is already subject to theft, tainting, reframing, virus infusion, and sabotage multiplies and may marry new platform partners in the cloud.
The character of the Internet already lends itself to the magnification of multiple ethical sub-areas such as privacy invasion, data fabrication, widely distributed libel, hacking/theft, and fraud. However, once data are transmitted to the cloud, it is subject to further errors, motives, appropriation, deception, duplication, and secret distribution by third parties. For example, those who "park" their credit card data, political secrets, health records, and shopping trail in the cloud are more likely to anticipate greater security risks, hidden deals with telemarketers, profiling, identity theft, and much more.
Examples of Cloud Amplification Issues in the Pacific
One of the most basic issues in media ethics is the notion of fairness. One way to promote at least the appearance of fairness is by some law, code or policy which guarantees the "right to reply" to those who are "accused, attacked, defamed, or given a one-sided mediated account of an issue." (Asia Media Forum, in EyeOnEthics, March 13, 2009) "The right to reply is among the ethical principles reporters and other media practitioners, especially editors, should recognize and honor..." In keeping with this spirit, the Philippine House of Representatives approved a "right to reply" bill in 2009.
Although we don't yet know whether this bill will be enacted into law, it seems reasonable that publics will support the idea of national justice systems and media providing those who are attacked or accused in the media with a fair means of response. However, once rumors, malicious attacks, fabrications, and accusations are circulated on-line, it is impossible for the accused to track and respond to each of them. Within the cloud, once a one-sided report or unethical allegation is stored within or broadcast, it may be cloned, retouched, retrieved, sold, manipulated, and circulated to millions, even many years later, without the accused ever knowing the multiple conduits of distribution nor the numerous variations, if not fabrications, of the initial story.
Technical errors within the cloud may further complicate such issues. If you think you have problems with accidentally deleted and lost e-mail, imagine what it was like for Ylastic, a company which is involved in the management of Amazon Web Services (which impacts millions of customers), to tell clients that it could not recover their lost data. In his article "Dark Side of the Cloud," Rick Turoczy calls such cloud malfunctions "cloud bursts," and adds:
Who was at fault? Amazon? Ylastic? Truly no one. It was simply a combination of issues. A perfect storm in the cloud, as it were. And that perfect storm resulted in data loss for Ylastic and its customer base (Richard Turoczy, 2008).
Such problems are not limited to "rights to reply," more frequent technical error and magnified defamation, but also include recent instances of on-line "Pied Piper" (i.e. large groups of victims blindly following a charming or persuasive scam artist) fraud in Sri Lanka (Gunawardene, 2008) and cyberplagiarism and false advertising in the Philippines (Verzosa, 2004).
Whatever the issue-an unconfirmed report, an ad which makes false promises, confidential information which is not fully secure although advertised as such, stolen data, inaccurate information, state secrecy extremes, pirated entertainment, child pornography, plagiarized texts, libelous accusations, biased reporting, or laundered money-once it is in the cloud, it can be distributed, distorted, concealed, lost, fabricated, sold, replicated, leaked to third parties, and repackaged in new ways. Although in some countries there may be recourse in the courts for victims, the first line of defense is in the ethical standards of the sources of content and the media themselves.
And, let's not forget that the cloud may also be used for benign and ethical purposes.
1) Before new technologies and applications are implemented, there should be "presearch" by teams of scientists, sociologists, civic leaders, parents, and others to help predict and prevent specific anti-social effects.
2) Similarly, before any technology or application is imported from one country to another, presearch should be conducted by new teams which include cultural representatives to determine the likely compatibility of the new product or invention with the potentially impacted culture.
3) Education at all levels should include understanding of the newest technologies, software, and applications, and should encourage thinking about their possible social effects. The best ethical thinking from all cultures should be included. For example, the Cadet system of Australia, the ombudsman intercession of Scandinavian countries, the Peace Journalism paradigm which Warief Basorie of the Soetoma Institute in Indonesia advocates (Eyeonethics.com, 2008), the press councils of more than 20 countries, and the proportional political advertising concept of Chile are all worth considering.
4) Netiquette and other positive Internet courtesy which Verzosa (2004) recommends in the Philippines should be supported.
5) Wherever we are, our own ethical training, standards and practices must be increased.
6) There should be universal ethical instruction at all levels (from entry to CEO) of all businesses, organizations, and agencies in computing and communications. This instruction should be enhanced as new technologies, systems and issues develop.
7) All organizations, agencies and NGOs should be encouraged (and supported) to have conferences, workshops, panels and other meetings about the ethical effects of technologies.
8) Delegates from Asian-Pacific countries and cultures should convene conferences to discuss the migration of specific technologies and products into other countries and markets and to consider new media impact.
9) Specific "ethics officers" or ethicists within each telecommunication and computing corporation, agency, country, and institution should flag, evaluate, and publicize ethical issues when they first arise, and keep ethical training and standards at the forefront of each possible national and corporate agenda.
In short, an ethics culture should be built which prioritizes the ethical implications of innovation and expansion within every social entity from governments and corporations to schools and other institutions and organizations.
At every stage-initiation, research, implementation, refinement and upgrade, marketing, expansion, and merchandising- ethical considerations can and should be evaluated as well as planning and profit projection, not only in the Pacific but worldwide. Unless such steps are taken, this new computing environment's social value will appear not only to be "red" or "green," but also (whether ironically or tautologically) to be ambiguous-giving the word "cloud" another meaning.