Built to code

Agency by design

This is a new principle for the internet, inspired by Kate Crawford, Christopher Wylie, Ronald J. Deibert, and Shoshana Zuboff. It boils down to software that bans dark pattern design. And it results in software that works for you, not against.

Achieving agency by design meant creating standards for our software and developers to live up to. It also meant committing to holding ourselves accountable to the trust you place in us by using our software.

We ended up with two codes: our software code for the overrarching software; and our developer code for the people behind it.

We're the first company to make agency by design official, and while this is no substitution for the changes to the laws and regulations we so desparately need, we hope it inspires companies to follow suit:

    Ban on dark pattern design Ban on surveillance society Use of friction and restraint People are not infrastructure Use of software/developer codes
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Software code January 1, 2021

The following standards are the minimum basis for ensuring that our software meets the requirements for our principles in agency by design.

These are the fundamental aspects for ensuring the agency and safety of people using our software.

Ban on dark pattern design

Dark pattern design is any written software (algorithm, architecture, or system) that "deliberately confuse, deceive, or manipulate people (or users) into agreeing to a feature or behaving in a certain way". Christopher Wylie

Dark pattern design also includes any written software (algorithm, architecture, or system) that deliberately addicts or poses consequential mental health issues.

We forever declare a ban on dark pattern design from our software.

Ban on surveillance society

We can have democracy, or we can have a surveillance society, but we cannot have both." Shoshana Zuboff

Surveillance society is all around us: from the cars we drive, airplanes we board, insurance policies we choose, baby monitors we trust, cups we warm our coffee with, video games our children play, phones we put in our pocket, computers we work on, apps we use, browsers we browse on, social media we turn to, tvs we watch, mattresses we sleep on, watches we wear, and search engines we believe.

We reject the use of surveillance software from other companies. If we cannot avoid using a service that participates in the surveillance society, then we will ensure that our customer data is rendered private and unusable through strong encryption.

We forever declare a ban on surveillance society from our software.

Use of friction and restraint

"We need to restrain what governments and corporations do with all the extraordinarily powerful tools of surveillance that are now in their hands." Ronald J. Deibert

Rather than facilitating the spread of "viruses" like Cambridge Analytica, or the ethnic cleansing in Myanmar, our software must be designed to prevent malevolent exploitation by governments, corporations, and other bad actors.

If prevention proves impossible due to unknown or future techniques and strategies, our software must, at the very least, create friction that reduces the incentive for the exploitation by governments, corporations, and other bad actors.

We forever declare that our software uses friction and restraint to limit, and prevent, what can or may be done with our software and customer data.

People are not infrastructure

"Terms like 'data-mining' and phrases like 'data is the new oil' were part of a rhetorical move that shifted the notion of data away from something personal, intimate, or subject to invidual ownership and control toward something more inert and nonhuman." Kate Crawford

Our software treats people's data as we believe it should be: personal, intimate, individually owned and controlled, and private. This means working to our best abilities to protect people-data from the rapacious appetites of the AI industry's extraction-at-all-costs mentality.

We design our software to not only respect and protect the data of our customers, but also to respect and protect (to the best of our abilities) the data of all people who come into contact with our services.

We forever declare that people and their data are not infrastructure, and that our software is designed to respect, protect, and preserve this fact.

Continue

Developer code January 1, 2021

The following standards are the minimum basis for ensuring that our developers meet the requirements for our principles in agency by design.

These are the fundamental aspects for ensuring the agency and safety of people using our software.

Be honest and responsible

We acknowledge and understand that the use of our software imbues us with a responsibility to ensure that the code we write lives up to the claims and values we make about it in public.

Futher, we pledge no discrepenacy between the public and private versions of both our claims and code. We understand the great trust and responsibility given to us by those who use our software (and therefore code), and certify that the code we have written is written to the best of both our abilities and knowledge.

If we discover errors in our claims or code, or if we are found to be in error, we pledge to hold ourselves accountable, to provide full and honest disclosure to those affected, and to rectify the errors quickly and skillfully.

We forever declare to be responsible for, and honest about, the code we write.

Be inquisitive and kind

We understand that the code we write is influenced by our selves. As extensions of our thoughts (and therefore biases), we understand the importance of the continued pursuit of knowledge.

We recognize that the continued expansion of our knowledge in areas beyond technology is pivotal to the quality, safety, and impact of our written code.

We understand that knowledge breeds understanding, understanding breeds empathy, and empathy breeds kindness. Further, we respect and desire to write code (and conduct ourselves) in a manner that supports, facilitates, and protects the necessary requirements for healthy and free societies: critical thinking, compassion, and empathy.

We forever declare to pursue knowledge and act with kindness.

Be guardians of autonomy

We recognize the power in our code's ability to give or takeaway people's self-governance. We certify that the code we write will always be in the service of giving and protecting the self-governance of those who use or are affected by our code.

We understand that this explicitly rules out the use of, or support of, code written by others that is in violation of this principle. This includes any code in service to surveillance capitalism, the attention economy, and their data pipelines.

In the event that we cannot avoid the data pipelines of surveillance capitalism, then we certify that we have used strong encryption to protect the data of those who use our code. Further, we pledge to find alternative routes and pipelines, as our ability and knowledge grows (in accordance with the above principle), to ensure the continued delivery of service in accordance with protecting people's right to self-governance of their minds and personal lives.

We forever declare to write code in guardianship of people's autonomy.

Be cognizant of our code

We understand that a healthy and functioning society (whether a company, country, or world) demands an empowered, informed, and participatory citizenry. We recognize that the software we write to the systems we build all play a role in our society, and it is our duty and responsibility to ensure that role is good.

This requires thinking about what it is we are actually doing, and what it is we are actually making. This means being aware of the consequences of our code and where it all fits into the bigger picture of our society and world.

For example, why was the "infinite scroll" created? To addict people and keep people on their device, so more of their data can be harvested (and in turn used against them at profit). What was the inspiration behind it? The addiction techniques from casino slot machines (variable reinforcement rewards). What are the effects on people? Addiction, disassocation, depression, focus loss, memory loss, empathy loss, and critical thinking loss (in addition to increased data extraction and increased behavioral modification).

We understand that writing code with this awareness often means confronting, and reconciling with, our past and present, but that we do so in the service of others.

We forever declare to be cognizant of our code and think about what it is we are actually doing.

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