Thursday, March 8, 2012

Ethics and Technology

Apparently, the Pakistani Telecommunication Authority (PTA) released a Request for Proposals (RFP) for the development, deployment, and operation of a "National-Level URL Filtering and Blocking System," calling on institutions to submit a feasible proposal that would allow the government to institute a large-scale filtering system. The RFP requires "[e]ach [filtering] box should be able to handle a block list of up to 50 million URLs with processing delay of not more than one millisecond." While content filtering and blocking has existed in Pakistan for the past few years, it has been executed manually and has thus been inconsistent and intermittent.

So far, five major information technology vendors have pledged not to submit proposals to the PTA RFP: Sandvine, Cisco, Verizon, Websense, and McAfee. Of the five, Websense issued the strongest statement of opposition: "We call on other technology providers to also do the right thing for the citizens of Pakistan and refuse to submit a proposal for this contract x x x Broad government censorship of citizen access to the internet is morally wrong."

What is happening to information technology in Pakistan right now and the reaction to that of the providers mentioned above is a perfect illustration of the nexus between ethics and technology. The refusal to participate in the RFP is an acknowledgment on the part of the firms of the ethical dimension of business. Here, their message was that they will not allow information technology to be used to curtail the right of the Pakistanis to information.

--Jan Nicklaus S. Bunag, Entry No. 12

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