Ethical Dragons’ Quest – 13 June 2022

How do you maintain an ethical approach when you are consorting on the internet with bad guys, pretending to be one of them, and hoping to gather their secrets?  Do you restrict yourself to passive intervention, and where, in any event, is the boundary between passive intervention and the agent provocateur? What, if any, use do you make of information accidentally gleaned about the subject of an investigation when that person has been up to no good, but the particular bit of no good has nothing to do with what you are investigating? How much do you tell the client? Do you report criminal activity to the law-enforcement authorities? What about bigamy? How do you square active investigation with the subject’s right to privacy? How do you avoid sweeping innocent bystanders up into your investigation? What do you do to protect the mental well-being of your employees? How do you tell if the prospective client is himself a bad guy? If so, what do you do about it?

These and many other questions were addressed in the Ethical Dragons’ Quest held on 13 June in Information Technologists’ Hall and online. The man in the hot seat was Kevin McMahon CEO and Founder of Cyjax, a private security company which provides threat intelligence and related services for businesses and law enforcement, integrating information from various sources including the dark web. The Dragons who interrogated him were: Dr Nneka Abulokwe OBE, the founder of MicroMax Consulting and involved in NED Capita, and Davies Group; Professor Victoria Baines , the Chair of the WCIT Security Panel, newly-appointed Professor of IT at Gresham College and formerly of Facebook, Europol, and the Serious and Organised Crime Agency (so likely to know a thing or two about bad guys!); Nicholas Beale, the Panel’s Chair and the lead author of An Unethical Optimization Principle and Chris Rees, the Former President of the British Computer Society and co-author of From Principles to Profit. 

The Dragons, aided and abetted by members of the audience, threw all manner of difficult questions at Kevin, who, in spite of it all, emerged with a clean bill of ethical health.  Thanks to Kevin and all the Dragons for an excellent debate.