Tech is not neutral: How to make it better?

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People bring their biases to the tools they are building. they will not think about the consequences of the tech they build, nor the good ones nor the bad ones.

"In situations of injustice, neutrality favors the oppressor"

In librarianship there is the idea of professional neutrality. But tech is not neutral.

There are technologists that are building tools that are not neutral at all. See Palantir building tech used by ICE.

When we say that tech is not neutral there is the implication that it has biases?


  • Metadata. How they are organized in the search in the Library of Congress.
  • Not satisfactory gender fields
  • Having the privilege to learn to code
  • Name fields
  • Advanced encryption is not affordable. More secure smartphones (iPhone) are the most expensive

Are there things to think to about when you work as a software developer if you care about this? Are there best practices?

  • Bring empathy to your work
  • See concept of "radical empathy"
  • Diverse and inclusive user stories. Don't build things in a silos
  • Prioritize the security of marginalized communiites in development. Think privacy and security. A lot of tech, like Palantir, are built by white men to target marginalized groups.
  • Share your technical knowledge to mentor and build new leadership in your profession for less privileged folks. The end goal is to have way more software developers who are not part of the current privileged majority group
  • Codify a code of ethics. It can help with buy in.
  • See Zine Librarian Code of Ethics []
  • And keep maintain it. E.g. put it in a repo, and track changes.
  • More from "Diversity and Inclusion" to "Equity and justice".
  • See: "Language of appeasement" by Dafina- Lazarus Stewart.
  • Prioritize security and privacy
  • Think about responsible data
  • With data collection: less is more. Data minimization.
  • Prioritize accessibility
  • Prioritize localization
  • Be mindful of how your tool can be weaponized. A database is just database until you start tracking people.
  • Password management should be implemented in PII (personally identifiale informaiton)

What recommendations can be given to people to speak up in the project team?

And if the tehcnology is already built in a harmful way, what can we do?