“Our goal was never to upset anyone.”

-Adam Kramer of FB

This statement was offered in reply to uproar over the privacy violation of running a scientific study on people unaware they were being studied. It seems to be in violation of US ethics laws preventing people from being experimented on without their knowledge.

It’s easy to take issue with an excerpt. Despite that, I swipe this crumb from my t-shirt. The speaker expresses regret for how others felt about his and his teams’ behavior. I’d like to dissect this kernel of regret and reframe it.

He did establish that the team did not design the experiment and carry it out in order to upset people. This statement takes no responsibility for the action that caused people to be upset. This statement barely expresses any regret. Other statements the speaker makes indicate that he believes the wording of his research paper was the source of the public outcry.

Why did no one ask him why he didn’t feel it was a breach of everyone’s sovereignty, or the ability to choose for yourself whether to participate?

I’d like to make a comparison to my own life which may illuminate my decision to choose this battle. I once became impaired with beers. In the wake of a black-out, I pushed a close friend of mine with my behavior and words. That friend pointed out that when she took me to task, my main concern was that I had upset others. I was not concerned with my own behaviors, nor did I see their upset as a sign that I should examine myself. I saw it only as their misunderstanding me, and then only in regret that it should hurt my friendship with them. It became clear that I had no intention of taking their upset to heart, or taking it at face value as a true reaction to actions I was responsible for and that were actually worth it to examine and change.

To link these two instances, neither me nor Kramer meant to upset anyone. We didn’t plan to piss people off or make them feel insecure or angry. However, we did, because we chose to behave in ways that demonstrated our own ethics. Both of us were unconcerned in empathizing with our victims. Our only regret was the PR, the embarrassment of being called out for a behavior that others find unacceptable.

If those in power over our personal data, and sovereignty do not take responsibility for their actions, and for the trust we put in them as their customers and constituents, who will? If we are not for ourselves, who will be for us?