User Beware: Privacy Settings just a Facade

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By Brenda Curtis, Ph.D.

Social media platforms continue to improve and refine their privacy settings as the demand for advanced user protections increases. Although enabling catered privacy settings to online profiles allows users to indicate who they would like share personal information with, it does not necessarily protect them from the platforms – i.e. websites and apps – themselves. Since social media accounts provide users with a sense of control over personal data, users assume that their information is safe. However, no matter what settings or privacy protections are applied to personal profiles, users do not generally have control over the online platform itself. What this means is the website or app being used usually shares information from accounts with third parties like advertising agencies or other databases. This data sharing is widespread throughout the industry, but it is not generally known by the public. This is partly because the disclosure of this sharing is done in the social media platform’s “Terms and Conditions” Which are often skimmed over or ignored.

Aside from social media websites, there are several other websites and apps that access your personal information via this information sharing to create a single database for everyone in the country. This is generally called data aggregation. One such site that has been in the news recently is FamilyTreeNow.  FamilyTreeNow is explicitly a genealogy site, and compiles information from various legal online sources to create a database full of personal information for genealogical research. This site pairs information from public records such as police records and court documents with the information collected from social media and address databases to create a sometimes way too revealing profile. Not too long ago, most of this information would only be accessible after exhaustive research, but Now FamilyTreeNow makes this information as easy to find as a click of a button, and publicly accessible.

Although the website might be fascinating for someone with genuine curiosity about their own family tree, the danger of anyone having access to information to a person’s age, birth year, address, family members and even public records is something that cannot be ignored. In today’s world, access to this type of personal information makes crimes like identity theft much easier to conduct and can provide the basis for access to financial accounts, credit records and other accounts and assets. For years we have been cautioning users against posting too much information online, but increasingly, due to data aggregators like FamilyTreeNow, this information is being posted without our knowledge or consent on publicly accessible sites.

Continue reading “User Beware: Privacy Settings just a Facade”

Ethics & Society Newsfeed: February 17, 2017

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Politics

Trump Ethics Monitor: Has The President Kept His Promises?
To track Trump’s ethics-related promises, NPR checked debate transcripts, campaign speeches and press conferences

Trump’s South Florida estate raises ethics questions
Ethics questions and possible conflicts surrounding President Donald Trump’s frequent trips to his sprawling Mar-a-Lago property, especially in regards to the invitation of Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, over the weekend; a trip Trump pledged to pay for.

Should Jeff Sessions Recuse Himself From the Russia Inquiries?
Bruce Green, director of the Louis Stein Center for Law and Ethics at Fordham University, comments on whether Attorney General, Jeff Sessions should recuse himself from investigations involving former National Security Adviser, Michael Flynn and Russian hacking.

Trickle-Down Ethics at the Trump White House
Federal ethics guidelines forbid White House officials from using public position and power for their own private gain or to promote the private business interests of others. Trump Administration actions to be reviewed by the White House counsel and by the Office of Government Ethics.

Government Watchdog Presses Jason Chaffetz To Investigate Kellyanne Conway Himself
Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), Chairman of the House Oversight Committee, requested that The Office of Government Ethics (OGE) investigate Kellyanne Conway’s possible breach of federal ethics rules, indicating that the Chairman may be trying to take pressure off his own committee, which has the most authority to investigate the matter.

Ethics Watchdog Denounces Conway’s Endorsement of Ivanka Trump Products
Federal government’s chief ethics watchdog calls for White House adviser, Kellyanne Conway, to be disciplined after publically endorsing Ivanka Trump’s product line.

Bioethics/Medical Ethics

Scientists ponder future of gene editing to fight disease
Ethical issues surrounding breakthroughs gene editing to fight genetic diseases such as cystic fibrosis, muscular dystrophy, and cancer.

Continue reading “Ethics & Society Newsfeed: February 17, 2017”

Stoking the Flames of Competitiveness on an Overheating Planet

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STUDENT VOICES

By: Michael Aprea

This essay is in response to the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs video “Climate Protectionism and Competitiveness.”  

Steam put the world in motion. It lit up the night, and tightened humanity’s grasp on the forces of nature. Nature, however, has eluded the human race and has forced civilization to reconsider its power in the most fundamental sense. Scientist, politicians, and citizens now face the heat as they scramble to address a cycle of global warming spawned by the progress of the industrial revolution that threatens to unhinge the fragile balance of Earth’s ecosystems. Reducing carbon emissions has been the answer to the problem. This standard that has taken hold in developed nations has morphed into a global economic crusade against carbon emissions through regulation, taxation and sanctions seeking to curb the emissions of the developing world. Although consumer responsibility and global collaboration in an endeavor to reverse global warming trends are laudable, it is important to recognize the risks these steps pose on global trade, the citizens of developing countries, and the debt developed nations have as beneficiaries of the first fruits of fossil fuels.

The United States owes its status as an economic superpower to the progress of the industrial revolution; a revolution fueled by carbon emitting fossil fuels. The rapid growth of nations such as Unites States reliant on fossil fuels came at price–rising global temperatures. Carbon doesn’t only heat up cold economies, it also has the ability to raise average global temperatures as it gets trapped in the atmosphere and captures solar radiation. These shifts in temperature have precipitated evident changes in the environment. Recent glacial melting, super storms, and inflated and more rapid extinction rates can all be traced to these rising temperatures. In response, the United States and other developed nations have sought alternative fuels to reduce carbon emissions. These measures entail large investments of capital, and higher costs of production–a reality that makes production in underdeveloped nations more cost effective and foreign products cheaper. This reality, coupled with policies and regulations that seek to reduce carbon emissions through taxation and sanctions on developing nations still very dependent on fossil fuels, raises a host of ethical questions–particularly regarding the right and motive a developed nation has in enforcing such measures.

Continue reading “Stoking the Flames of Competitiveness on an Overheating Planet”

Ethics & Society Newsfeed: February 3, 2017

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Politics

Betsy DeVos’s ethics review raises further questions for Democrats and watchdogs
Betsy DeVos, Trump’s nominee to lead the Education Department, promised to divest from more than 100 entities to avoid potential conflicts of interest with her new job. Questions left unanswered.

Donald Trump warned over ‘unprecedented’ plan to appoint cabinet without ethics office checks, emails reveal
Disclosed emails from the head of the ethics office warn President aides staffing a cabinet with robust oversight is a ‘tradition evolved as a result of hard lessons’

South Dakota Governor Signs Measure Reversing Voter Ethics
Governor of South Dakota signed a bill Thursday overturning an anti-corruption measure passed by a majority of voters in November, to the consternation of government watchdog groups.

Trump And His Organization Lawyer Up For The Ethics War Ahead
President Trump and the Trump Organization are beefing up their legal teams against an expected surge of conflict-of-interest allegations.

Teaching Ethics In The Trump Era
Graduate-level professor asks how to tell students ethics is important when “nothing around them feels ethical” re: Trump administration and conflicts of interest.

Bioethics

Human-pig hybrids might be unsettling. But they could save lives.
A new study out of California unsettled a lot of people last week after revealing that scientists had, for the first time, made part-human, part-pig embryos — referred to as “chimeras.” Raises ethical questions.

Could changing the way doctors are paid help narrow health disparities?
A study suggests that changing the way doctors and hospitals are paid could narrow some of the health disparities between poorer and wealthier patients.

Trump’s Supreme Court Pick Could Shape Bioethics for Generations
Neil Gorsuch, nominee for the US Supreme Court, has spent his career weighing matters of life and death. His views on life—that it is sacred and “intrinsically valuable”—are likely to shape court decisions in areas from abortion to assisted suicide for decades to come.

Continue reading “Ethics & Society Newsfeed: February 3, 2017”

Diagnosis at a Distance Continues to Undermine Public’s Ability to Evaluate Trump Policies

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President Donald Trump’s first week in office was spent signing executive orders regarding the Dakota Access and Keystone XL Pipelines, visa and refugee programs and a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, all which sparked nationwide demonstrations and protests. Since the beginning of Trump’s campaign and more frequently over the past week, media outlets and select “experts”  have been gaining attention by diagnosing Trump with various mental or personality disorders. However, is it ethical for experts in psychology and psychiatry to offer professionals diagnoses of Trump and what are the political implications?

A recent article published in U.S. News & World Report titled, “Temperament Tantrum,” featured a professional assessment of the 45h President from John D. Gartner, a practicing psychotherapist who previously taught psychiatric residents at Johns Hopkins University. Gartner told U.S. News & World Report that Trump has “malignant narcissism,” an incurable narcissistic personality disorder. Despite the Goldwater Rule, in Section 7.3 of the American Psychiatric Association’s (APA) Ethics Code, which cautions against offering a professional opinion about an individual in the public eye who has not been formally evaluated, Gartner argues that in the case of Trump, he can “make this diagnosis indisputably” and the breaking of the [Goldwater Rule within the] ethics code is warranted.

According to Dr. Celia Fisher, Professor of Psychology and Director of the Fordham University Center for Ethics Education, however, such misleading statements by mental health professionals “helps the Trump administration hide their strategic intent to undermine traditional democratic principles under the guise of a President whose impulses often get the better of him.”

Now Accepting Applications: Fordham/Santander Universities International Student Scholarship in Ethics Education

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The 2016 Fordham/Santander Universities International Student Scholars

The application period for scholarships to attend Fordham University’s intensive three-day interdisciplinary ethics graduate course is now open! The course, or workshop, will be held May 23 – 25, 2017 at Fordham University, New York City, USA!

The Fordham/Santander Universities International Student Scholarship in Ethics Education provides direct financial support for international students who wish to pursue graduate-level study in Fordham University’s Master’s in Ethics and Society program.

Students who apply to the program through the scholarship complete the workshop titled, “CEED 6100: Theories and Applications in Contemporary Ethics” which is designed to provide cross-disciplinary perspectives on moral theory and applied ethics. Using a team-teaching approach, this course brings together faculty from at least six different disciplines to integrate foundational knowledge about moral theory from the humanities and sciences with contemporary applications and social issues.

The scholarship covers:

  • Tuition: The cost of tuition for the graduate courses and administrative fees.
  • Travel: Applicants may request funding for travel to New York City Applications should include estimates of costs, including the source for the estimate (e.g., airline website, travel agency).
  • Lodging: As part of the scholarship, housing may be provided to funded students at one of Fordham’s graduate student housing facilities.

Applications for are due March 15, 2017.

Continue reading “Now Accepting Applications: Fordham/Santander Universities International Student Scholarship in Ethics Education”

‘Goodness of Fit Ethics’ to Promote Health Research for LGBT Youth

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This past November, Public Responsibility in Medicine and Research (PRIM&R), a non-profit organization dedicated to the study and advancement of the highest ethical standards in the conduct of research, held its annual Advancing Ethical Research (AER) Conference featuring Dr. Celia B. Fisher, Director of the Center for Ethics Education and HIV and Drug Abuse Prevention Research Ethics Training Institute at Fordham University. She, along with Janet L. Brody, PhD and Eric Kodish, MD, were panelists on Panel III: Research With Children and Adolescents: Who and How Is the Decision Made to Participate?

Discussing her NIH-funded research on ethical issues in research involving LGBT youth, Dr. Fisher discussed the “interfamilial, regulatory and ethical tensions” that emerge in HIV prevention studies striving to recruit sexual and gender minority adolescents under 18 years of age.

Continue reading “‘Goodness of Fit Ethics’ to Promote Health Research for LGBT Youth”