Design Ethics, A Framework @99U

Silka Sietsma
Sensory Design
Published in
8 min readMay 16, 2019


Co-presented with Phil Clevenger and Silka Miesnieks, May 10, 2019

Here are the speaker slides with links to resources as requested by they amazing 99U attendees.

Jordan Peele using AI to make Barack Obama fake news.

Key points:
Shit’s getting weird.
Technological innovation brings new ethical challenges.
None of us are experts, we all in this discussion together.

Pictured, Silka Mesnieks, brother & kids.

Meet Silka Miesnieks, Head of Emerging Design

I’m here today because it is critically important to make ethics unignorable in our design practice, business plans, and technical infrastructure.
Don’t Make Me Think by Steve Krug

Pictured: Phil Clevenger.

Meet Phil Clevenger, Snr Director of Experience Design.

“Tomorrow’s will create material to help the artist explore the space of possible solutions, without the burden of preconceived notions or a nagging inner critic”
Michael Russo, Adventures in Augmenting Creativity

Why Are We Here?

Early examples of the ‘Photoshop’ effect:

Josef Stalin had Nikolai Yezhov, head of Interior Affairs for Stalin erased from this photo, erased from life, and subsequently erased from the visual history.

Benito Mussolini had the horse handler ‘removed’ from the photo to look more powerful.

Adolf Hitler had Goebbels erased from this photo because he didn’t represent the ‘family values’ messaging of Nazi Party. He was rumored to be having an affair with Leni Reifenstahl.

We now know photos are fake, we’re getting to know customer service bots are fake, how will we know what we see, hear and touch is fake with Spatial Computing. I believe we can solve this problem. But more on this another time.

Why are {we} here?

We are here maybe to learn how we can prevent ethical disasters like the two following examples. What would you do if you were one of these projects?

Spatial Computing

Some of the best examples of Spatial Computer are seen in movies. For example ‘Her’ writer & directed Spike Jonze brings humanity and warmth back to technology that we haven’t seen.

Film reviewed by kaptainkristian

“Technology has advanced to the point where it no longer needs to prove its sophistication in its design. Phones don’t need to look like sleek apple products but instead cigarette cases or a 20’ business card holder.” kaptainkristian.

Spatial Computing in Advertising

Ridley Scott Associates created a voice petition to end malaria. We’ll hear David Beckham speak the voices of men and women from around the world, including malaria survivors and doctors fighting the disease.

Spatial Computing in Retail

Retail is expanding it’s footprint with AR virtual try on features. Customers can look at their friends shoes and see them on their feet and buy them instantly.

Spatial Computing in Collaboration as NYC startup shows us how ideas can be visualized as fast as they are thought.

Spatial Computing in Manufacturing

Microsoft CEO Satja Nadella (CEO) describes a Manufacturing use case during their 2019 keynote. Here are some more use cases.

An Ethical Framework



Let’s try to imagine the positive and negative impacts of the work but exploring ‘fake realities’ in Spatial Computing.

“The possibilities of telephony, remote communication and collaboration also really get me excited.” Adam Savage

Pokemon Go is AOL of the early days of the internet. “The real value of spatial computing will emerge from the trillion of unexpected successes and failures. Pokémon Go gives just a hint of this platform’s nearly unlimited capability for exploration.” Kevin Kelly

Foreseen Harms

Faking truth. We might believe what read, but always believe what we see. Spatial Computing can take advantage of this.
Hiding truth. Hiding what we don’t want to see reduces empathy and understanding of others different from ourselves.
Faking me. We show the ‘beautiful me’ on social media. When Spatial Computing enters our everyday lives more than our phones do today, will we loose our authentic selves? Will we loose our social muscle a little like we have lost our sense of navigating with when Google maps?

Potential Mitigations

Spatial code of ethics. Have you heard of the ‘Journalist integrity’, the promised to tell the truth agreed through code of ethics? Maybe we need a ‘Spatial code of ethics’ with some ‘Spatial integrity’ to show what is true or not in reality.
People’s Bill of Rights. We, the consumers, have the right to know what is fake and the intent behind it. Here is Josh Lovejoy’s take on a Bill of Rights for Personalization.
New success metrics. We need to determine our success not on short term wins measured by the ‘number of likes, views or visitors’, but on the long term wins measured by ‘length of a friendships’, ‘reduction of toxic behavior’ and ‘healthy emotional responses’. That’s a place I want to be.

UNDERSTANDING BIAS in Facial Recognition

Bias is always present, and is not inherently bad. Understand the bias, then mitigate as needed. Expand your use cases and think about challenges this may present to individuals outside of your lens.

Facial Recognition is machine learning software that can understand with is a face and potential to identify someone. This software is used broadly from phones, watches, security camera, to autonomous vehicles.

Facial recognition industry is worth $9bn by 2022, according to Market Research Future.

Fred Wilson, VC at Union Square Ventures who funds startups using facial recognition claims, “Facial recognition has come of age.“

Facial Recognition for Search

We all use it to search our image libraries. Adobe uses it for Lightroom, Stock and other apps. It’s saves us a lot of time. So if our images and search data is kept private then there’s probably no issue here, right?

Facial Recognition for Payment

We us it daily to unlock our phones, watches, and send messages with using animoji’s. It’s now coming soon to Android. No one seems to have problem with this, today.


Paying with your face is coming to china in big way. While we thinks this is a form of surveillance, most people in China don’t. Watch the video to learn more.

Facial Recognition for Security.

The Nation article
The Verge articl

US Customs and Border Protection

Foreseen Harms

No consent. If our face is captured and tracked without our consent, then the tracker can not be held accountable for misuse and we loss our “fundamental human right (to privacy)” Tim Cook.

Bring bias forward in bias data we use and in our bias attitudes empowers the bias. For example gender bias in customer service bots has been brought forward.

Here is an initiative to combat this issue.

Potential Mitigations

Use design methodology, ‘Backcasting’.

Test for unwanted bias with these tools
IBM released the “AI Fairness 360” open-source tool kit.

Google’s People + AI Research group (PAIR) released the open-source “What-If” tool.

Microsoft released fair, a Python package meant to help implement a binary classifier subject to a developer’s intended fairness constraint.


Spatial Computing will raise major privacy concerns. Our sensors can see, hear and track everything and everybody. We need to ensure ‘Privacy is a fundamental human right’ is preserved.

Timoni West, Director of XR at Unity looks at our spatial privacy through 4 circles of privacy.

Foreseen Harms

When our privacy lives become public without our consent it is venerable to misuse by advertiser, governments and thieves.

Potential Mitigations

Spatial Assembly


AINow Institute reports that are backed by a tonne of research, and ’Future Ethics’ by Bowles Cennydd to learn about to think clearly about ethics and design.


When facing ethical issues, create a clear point of view. Articulate that point of view early and often, driving conversation and awareness.

It seems that a designers role now is not just responsible for a design being beautiful, functional but also ethical.