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  1. 1. The Ethics of User-Centered Design: From Minor Dilemmas to Life or Death Chauncey Wilson WilDesign Consulting
  2. 2. My Interest & Background in Ethics <ul><li>Member of an institutional review board while a grad student in social psychology </li></ul><ul><li>Lab manager on NIMH grant that involved extremely serious ethical issues </li></ul><ul><li>Chaired experimental design panel/human use committee at Army Human Engineering Lab </li></ul><ul><li>Participated in CHI2001 Ethics in HCI panel </li></ul><ul><li>Chair, UPA Ethics Committee </li></ul>
  3. 3. Topics <ul><li>Definition of ethics </li></ul><ul><li>Ethical issues in HCI </li></ul><ul><li>Stakeholders you need to consider making ethical decisions </li></ul><ul><li>Specific examples of ethical dilemmas </li></ul><ul><li>Support for ethical questions </li></ul><ul><li>UPA code of conduct </li></ul><ul><li>Questions </li></ul>
  4. 4. Definitions of Ethics <ul><li>“ The moral principles by which a person is guided” “The rules of conduct recognized in certain associations or departments of human life” (OED Online) </li></ul><ul><li>A rational, consistent system for determining what is right and wrong </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Costs/benefits analysis of impact on stakeholders </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Moral absolutism </li></ul></ul>
  5. 5. UPA Trial Code of Conduct <ul><li>Act in the Best Interest of Everyone </li></ul><ul><li>Be Honest with Everyone </li></ul><ul><li>Do No Harm and If Possible Provide Benefits </li></ul><ul><li>Act with Integrity </li></ul><ul><li>Avoid Conflicts of Interest </li></ul><ul><li>Respect Privacy, Confidentiality, and Anonymity </li></ul><ul><li>Provide All Resultant Data </li></ul>
  6. 6. UCD and Ethical Issues <ul><li>Ethical decisions are made every day </li></ul><ul><li>Design decisions can affect attitudes, behavior, health, financial security, and safety </li></ul><ul><li>New technologies present increased ethical demands </li></ul><ul><li>UCD practitioners face many issues when we design products and interact with stakeholders </li></ul><ul><li>Codes of conduct are a start, but don’t help a lot with conflicts </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Case studies are needed for training in how to handle ethical dilemmas </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Ethical training should be part of any HCI program </li></ul></ul>
  7. 7. Major Topics in Ethics
  8. 8. Who are the Stakeholders You Need to Consider in Ethical Decisions? <ul><li>Society </li></ul><ul><li>Participants </li></ul><ul><li>My Corporation, Client, Agency </li></ul><ul><li>Organization </li></ul><ul><li>You and me, the individual </li></ul>
  9. 9. Ethical Issues <ul><li>Informed consent </li></ul><ul><li>Privacy </li></ul><ul><li>Coercion </li></ul><ul><li>Physical, mental, or emotional stress </li></ul><ul><li>Poor treatment of participants </li></ul><ul><li>Deception </li></ul><ul><li>Risk of compromising situations </li></ul><ul><li>Increased exposure to the general risks of everyday life </li></ul><ul><li>Working with vulnerable groups </li></ul><ul><li>Reporting illegal or unethical behavior </li></ul>
  10. 10. Ethical Considerations <ul><li>Culture </li></ul><ul><li>Context </li></ul><ul><li>Time </li></ul><ul><li>Intended versus unintended </li></ul><ul><li>Predictable versus unpredictable </li></ul><ul><li>Legal versus ethical issues </li></ul>
  11. 11. Examples of Ethical Issues in UCD
  12. 12. Information Architecture <ul><li>Morville and the ethics of information architecture (2000, ) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>What gets seen and how easily you can find things </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Labels </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Granularity </li></ul></ul>
  13. 13. Procedural Ethics <ul><li>Limitations of methods </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Reliability/Validity </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>CUE studies by Molich and colleagues show that any particular inspector or reviewer is unlikely to find more than a minority of the usability problems </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Clear disclaimer in proposals and reports </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Number of participants </li></ul><ul><li>Choice of participants </li></ul><ul><li>Choice of tasks </li></ul><ul><li>Training of facilitators </li></ul><ul><li>Type of analysis </li></ul><ul><li>Choice of what to highlight in reports/presentations </li></ul>
  14. 14. Rewards for Participation <ul><li>When studies involve some type of payment or material reward there are a set of ethical issues </li></ul><ul><ul><li>What level of payment is reasonable? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Should you pay at the beginning or end of a study? </li></ul></ul>
  15. 15. Privacy <ul><li>How much personal information do we ask people to provide on a form </li></ul><ul><li>Opt-in/opt-out settings </li></ul><ul><li>Rules for communities about passing on information </li></ul>
  16. 16. Ethnography <ul><li>Reciprocal trust </li></ul><ul><li>Impact on the participants’ lives </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Short term impacts </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Long term impacts </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Deception (often passive) </li></ul>
  17. 17. Recording of Data <ul><li>Mackay (1992): “Ethics, Lies, and Videotape…” </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Entertainment </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Undue influence </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Inappropriate special effects </li></ul></ul><ul><li>New technologies present problems </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Video clips on CD/DVD </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Keystroke capture </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Favorite’s list </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Streaming video to observers </li></ul></ul>
  18. 18. Recording Dilemmas <ul><li>You can stream video of usability sessions to the desktops of anyone in your company. You can set up security for who can access video clips, but don’t know who is actually watching the sessions. </li></ul><ul><li>You put together a set of “entertaining” clips from usability sessions that show people having horrendous difficulty with different products. At the conference, people laugh hysterically at the clips. This is common. Is it ethical? </li></ul>
  19. 19. Persuasive Technologies <ul><li>Principles of psychology are being applied in the design of persuasive technologies </li></ul><ul><li>Persuasive technologies can be good or evil ( Berdichevsky & Neuenschwander, 1999) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Biased systems (Amazon reviews) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Surveillance systems </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Deceptive ads </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Encourage waste </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Persistent computers </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Fogg (2003) proposes that stakeholder analysis, be used to analyze the ethics of persuasive technologies </li></ul>
  20. 20. Stakeholder Analysis (from Fogg (2003, pp. 233-235) <ul><li>List all stakeholders </li></ul><ul><li>List what each stakeholder has to gain </li></ul><ul><li>List what each stakeholder has to lose </li></ul><ul><li>Decide which stakeholder has the most to gain and which has the most to lose </li></ul><ul><li>Determine how ethical the system is by examining inequities in gains and losses </li></ul><ul><li>Examine your values and assumptions in the analysis (objective self-awareness) </li></ul>
  21. 21. Conflicts of Interest <ul><li>You work with a single product team as their UCD person and will be reviewing and testing their products for the next year </li></ul><ul><li>A manager wants to watch his/her new team member in a usability test </li></ul><ul><li>You’ve done work for multiple financial companies and have signed non-disclosures with each of them. You have a chance for a major contract with a company that competes some of your former clients </li></ul><ul><li>You are a university researcher using students in your studies. Students get credit for participation </li></ul><ul><li>You are conducting a small set of field studies; during the interviews, the vice president asks how the interviews are going and presses for input on specific individuals </li></ul><ul><li>You have some sales reps watching a person using an online insurance site. During the test, the participant reveals that she had lied on a previous insurance claim. A sales rep runs out of the observation room to cancel her insurance </li></ul><ul><li>You rent out your lab to other moderators for testing. During a study you see that the external moderator mistreats participants </li></ul>
  22. 22. Support for Ethical Questions <ul><li>UPA draft code of conduct; APA, ACM, IEEE ethics codes </li></ul><ul><li>Case studies </li></ul><ul><li>UPA advisory board for questions and issues </li></ul><ul><li>More presentations at conferences </li></ul><ul><li>Bibliography of references and articles </li></ul>
  23. 23. Do you have any ethical issues, dilemmas, or questions? For a list of references on ethics, send email to
  24. 24. Thanks for your time! If you have any good case studies dealing with ethical issues or ethical questions, contact me at