At the Center
Capturing the lively discussions, presentations, and other events that make up the daily activities of the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University.
Thursday, Sep. 27, 2012 11:24 AM
Characterizing the Federal Trade Commission as "the nation's premier consumer protection privacy agency," FTC Commissioner Julie Brill focused on new developments in Internet privacy at a presentation Sept. 20 at Santa Clara University. Her talk was part of the “State of the Net West” townhall series, in which federal policymakers meet with members of the Silicon Valley community to discuss technology policy.
Brill began by detailing consumers’ increasing reliance on mobile tools—noting, for example, that 52 percent of college students report that they check their phones before getting out of bed. She also highlighted disparities among various segments of the population, citing consumer surveys which show that 40 percent of people in households earning less than $30,000 per year go online mostly through their phones, as compared to 17 percent of households earning more than $50,000 per year. In addition, half of African-Americans and 40 percent of Latinos who access the Internet report doing most of their browsing through their phones.
As Internet access through mobile devices becomes widespread, Commissioner Brill said that app developers and app service providers are increasingly realizing that they have to think about consumer privacy, too. In the “diffuse ecosystem” of the Web, she said, which involves so many players, it is easy for each of them to believe that “privacy is somebody else’s responsibility.” However, if nothing else, a variety of FTC enforcement actions have demonstrated that both large and smaller players involved in data collection and analysis would be best served by “baking” privacy into their products.
Commissioner Brill praised the agreements reached by California’s Attorney General Kamala Harris and various platform providers (including Amazon, Google, and Facebook), which have agreed to provide app developers with tools that will allow those developers to give consumers clear information about their privacy policies. In general, Commissioner Brill urged app developers to limit the information that they collect from users to data that is necessary for the app to work; she also spoke of the need to then provide adequate security for that data.
A significant portion of the Commissioner’s talk, as well as of the question-and-answer period that followed, focused on the ongoing efforts to develop a “Do Not Track” mechanism through which consumers would express their wishes if they didn’t want to be tracked by companies online. Commissioner Brill sounded optimistic about the efforts of the W3C consortium, which has been holding meetings with key stakeholders in an effort to develop standards for the implementation of a “Do Not Track” signal.
Commissioner Brill noted that some stakeholders have called for exceptions that would allow continued data collection for “market research” and “product improvement” (even from consumers who request that they not be tracked), and she called on advertising networks to provide more input in defining those exceptions. She also called on the W3C to address the issue of data retention limits. She described limits on the amount of data collected, and on the amount of time that data may be held, as ways to enhance data security.
Finally, she warned that consumers who are concerned about online privacy and loss of control over their personal information might turn to self-help tools that would be “more blunt” than the ones currently being discussed in the W3C.
In response to a question suggesting that the vast majority of consumers would choose to opt out of tracking if given that option, Commissioner Brill argued that companies need to convey more clearly to consumers the benefits of behavioral (or targeted) advertising, and need to give people more “granular” choices about the types of ads they want to see. She noted that companies also need to explain to consumers that, in the absence of advertising revenue, providers would find it difficult to continue to deliver the sites or services that consumers are now enjoying.
Tuesday, Sep. 25, 2012 10:36 AM
Interviewed by the New York Times, Center Senior Fellow in Government Ethics Judy Nadler talks about making ethical decisions.
Monday, Sep. 24, 2012 4:33 PM
Ann Ravel, chair of the California Fair Political Practices Commission, speaks on the ethics of political campaigning at Santa Clara University Oct. 5 from noon-1 in the Weigand Room of the Arts and Sciences Building.
Prior to her appointment as commission chair, Ravel served as Deputy Assistant Attorney General for Torts and Consumer Litigation in the Civil Division of the United States Department of Justice.
Most of her career was as an attorney in the Santa Clara County Counsel's Office, ultimately serving as the appointed County Counsel from 1998 until 2009. As County Counsel, she represented the County and its elected officials, providing advice on the Political Reform Act.
After Ravel's public lecture, she will meet with the Ethics Center's Public Sector Roundtable, a group of locally elected and appointed officials who address ethical issues in government
Thursday, Sep. 20, 2012 12:55 PM
A series of seven introductory videos on business ethics in China created by Liu Baocheng, director of the Center for International Business Ethics in Beijing (CIBE), and Kirk O. Hanson, director of the Markkula Ethics Center, highlight a collection of resources on Business Ethics now available from the Ethics Center.
Liu and Hanson discuss intellectual property protections, cultural attitudes toward gifts and bribes, labor and environmental standards, and fair trade.
Video resources also include a series of interviews with Stephan Rothlin, general secretary of the CIBE, as well as businesspeople with experience in the Chinese context.
Articles and podcasts are also available.
Friday, Sep. 14, 2012 1:53 PM
The Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University is looking to fill a new position: Assistant Director of Campus Ethics.
The assistant director shares in the core responsibilities of the Campus Ethics Program: creation and management of public events on campus; supervision of undergraduate fellows; management of a research grant program; and an assortment of related responsibilities with students, staff, and faculty across campus.
We're looking for someone with at least a master's degree in ethics or a related subject. Apply now.
Wednesday, Sep. 12, 2012 7:51 AM
Tom Reese, S.J., research fellow at the Woodstock Center at Georgetown University, referred to the topic of his recent lecture at SCU--"Religion, Ethics, and the 2012 Election"---as the kind of thing one isn't supposed to talk about at the dinner table but the subject everyone wants to talk about.
In his recent presentation, Reese, the former editor of America magazine, began with an analysis of religious voting patterns in the 2012 Republican primaries. Reese pointed out that the two Catholic candidates in the primary, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich, received between them about 60 percent of the evangelical vote, while the Catholics went 50 percent for Romney. Similarly, while only one third of evangelical voters think Mormons are Christians, two thirds of Catholic voters think they are.
Reese speculated that these numbers reflect "more about culture than religion." Republican Catholics tend to be better off, better educated, and live in the suburbs, and "Romney looks like one of their neighbors or the boss who hired them," he observed. By contrast, evangelicals tend to be lower income, less educated, and come from small towns. "Romney looks like the boss who fired them," Reese said.
Reese stressed that Catholic clergy do not come out in favor of one candidate or another, unlike many of their evangelical peers. They do, however, take positions on the issues, one of which, during this campaign season, has been religious liberty.
Religious liberty issues have been part of the discussion on the state level for some time, Reese explained. For example, he cited the decision by the Massachusetts and Washington D.C. dioceses to withdraw from the adoption field when state and district law required that they place foster children with gay married couples. In D.C., Catholic Charities also decided not to continue to provide spousal benefits for any of their employees because if they did, they would have had to provide them for gay married couples, as well.
On what is traditionally thought of as the more liberal side of the ledger, the Church has opposed efforts by some of the states to outlaw transport, shelter, or other aid for undocumented immigrants. The Church, Reese said, was guided by the idea of the Good Samaritan and did not want to have to ask people about their immigration status before giving them a spot in a homeless shelter or taking them to Mass. Cardinal Mahoney of Los Angeles went so far as to tell his priests to break the law and accept going to jail rather than refuse services to the undocumented.
This was the atmosphere in which the controversy over the contraceptive mandate in the Affordable Care Act exploded in January. Twenty states, Reese pointed out, already had such contraceptive mandates, and Church institutions had variously responded by dropping drug coverage, self-insuring, or complying. This year, the federal government decided to include contraception as one of the preventive services of the Affordable Care Act, for which no copayments can be required.
There was an exemption for religious employers, which defined "religious employer" as
• An employer that has inculcation of religious values as its main purpose
• An employer that primarily employs persons who share its religious tenets
• An employer that primarily serves people who share its religious tenets
• A religious organization that is not required under the Internal Revenue Code to file a 990 information return
Reese believes that if the administration had stuck with just the final part of this four-part definition, the controversy would have been avoided, but the other elements raised hackles, not only among the bishops but also among both conservative and liberal Catholics. They were interpreted as the government telling Church institutions to violate their beliefs.
In February, the administration revised the mandate: Religious institutions would not be required to pay for insurance with contraceptive coverage, but insurance companies would be required to provide this insurance for free, on the theory that it was more cost-effective anyway for the companies to pay for birth control than to pay for labor and delivery.
That revision has not pleased the bishops, for a number of reasons. They see it as an accounting gimmick rather than a solution. An attorney for the US Council of Catholic Bishops also suggested that the exemption should extend to anyone with a moral objection to the mandate, not just religious employers. "If I quit this job and opened a Taco Bell," he said, "I'd be covered by the mandate," implying that it would be unfair to ask him, even as a private employer, to participate in a public program that violated his beliefs.
The Catholic Health Association at first welcomed the administration's revision and said it was willing to work with the administration on refining it. But later, CHA proposed a total exemption from the mandate for religious hospitals and universities, with the federal government picking up the tab for contraceptive coverage.
Reese suggested another approach to the controversy. Even in pre-Vatican II days, Catholic moral theologians have made a distinction between formal cooperation with evil and material cooperation with evil. If people cooperate formally, it means that they agree with the goal of the evil person and their action is in service of that goal. Formal cooperation is never acceptable. In material cooperation, a person does not agree with the goal, but might be under coercion or compulsion. A classic example would be the bank teller who stuffs the stolen money into the robber's sack because the robber is holding a gun to her head. In that case, the cooperator is not seen as guilty. Church institutions, Reese argued, could frame the contraceptive mandate issue as one where they are being compelled to material cooperation.
Reese is a distinguished visiting scholar at the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University. He is a frequent commentator on Catholic issues, with recent appearances on NPR and "The Colbert Report."
Tuesday, Sep. 11, 2012 12:20 PM
The Santa Clara Valley Water District is the latest in a group of California special districts to draw press scrutiny for its spending of taxpayer dollars. An NBC Bay Area news segment reports that members of the Water District Board collected fees for attending meetings that had, at best, a dubious connection to the business of the district. Member Patrick Kwok, for example, took fees to attend the city of Sunnyvale Chamber of Commerce awards, San Jose State University’s Engineering Banquet Awards, and the Asian Pacific Resources Group Lunar New Year luncheon.
To Kwok's claim that the charges were reasonable because constituents might approach him at these meetings about Water District issues, Center Senior Fellow in Government Ethics Judy Nadler responded:
The presumption that when you go out in the public someone will, A) Recognize you are a water board member and B) will have a pressing issue that they want to discuss at a social event, I think it’s actually unlikely. You are not necessarily paid to show up, you are paid to do your job.
If the gist of the discussion is not at all about water issues I would question why you would be in attendance.
Tuesday, Sep. 11, 2012 10:58 AM
Federal Trade Commissioner Julie Brill will visit Santa Clara University Sept. 20 for two events co-sponsored by the Ethics Center and the High Tech Law Institute.
From 8:45 to 10:30 a.m., she will hold a town hall meeting in the Williman Room of the Benson Center. From noon to 1 p.m., a "Conversation with Julie Brill" will be held in Bannan Hall, Room 127.
Brill has worked actively on issues most affecting today's consumers, including protecting consumers' privacy, encouraging appropriate advertising substantiation, guarding consumers from financial fraud, and maintaining competition in industries involving high tech and health care.
This event is part of the Tech Forum Series on IT, ethics, and law.
Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2012 11:27 AM
What is the proper role of sports in higher education? That question is the focus on the third annual Sports Law Symposium September 6, sponsored by the Ethics Center's partner organization, the Santa Clara University Institute of Sports Law and Ethics.
For that event, the Ethics Center prepared a set of resources that map the basic issues in sports ethics. Center Executive Director Kirk O. Hanson developed the resources with Matt Savage, a 2011-12 student fellow at the Center, whose project was a blog, Savage on Sports, about ethical issues in college athletics.
Monday, Aug. 13, 2012 4:35 PM