Decision making

Ethical concerns of contact tracing apps

The apps mentioned above stormed into to our lives with the development of BLE (Bluetooth low energy) in 2009. Ever since the technology was integrated into mobile phones and independent gadgets, there have been numerous apps in the domain of dating, item tracing and games. The technology is not new, however, the concerns of the applications are recently increasing. In modern operating systems, BLE is an optional feature that needs users’ consent to actively work. In theory, users who do not enable the Bluetooth feature cannot be traced or found through contact tracing apps. Bluetooth feature is not the main tool to trace people. GPS is technically better option if some applications want to trance certain people and still GPS is not seen as a potentially immoral or unethical technology. In my opinion, people are scared of BLE and contact tracing apps because it is a relatively new phenomenon and like every new technology, it has come with the concerns and fears. However, the feeling of someone following and tracing our every step is uncomfortable and potentially dangerous. If these applications are forced to use by the governments or they are activated by the operating systems without users’ consent, it becomes an ethical problem and harsh invasion of privacy. This ethical dilemma is not limited to contact tracing apps, but also all social media apps and operating systems. Some users of digital tools are willing to be traced and followed by people and other users. This was the whole idea of social media. To be found and connected. In addition to social media platforms which allow people to be connected and found, some dating apps serve the same purpose of being connected with the people in close proximity. This, as well, works by user consent by design and they exist with leverage of supply and demand pair. I would like to look at the topic from the users’ perspective. If one is using a product ( e.g. a digital tool), he/she should understand how the product actually works and the purpose of it. For example, Instagram is a photo and video sharing social networking service and you use this product if you want to do networking through sharing photos or videos. If the core idea of this product creates ethical or security concerns, simply do not use it. This mechanism creates a natural selection in the digital evolution and leads to a better, safer and more ethical product development.

Digital accessibility

Digital accessibility means that websites, tools, and technologies are designed and implemented in a way that people with disabilities can use them as well. Digital accessibility aims that people with disabilities also perceive, navigate, and interact with the tools in the digital world. 

Web developers, for example, could add alt text descriptions to images to define images textually, thus visually impaired people can hear what the image looks like through voice over utilities. 

Web accessibility is a broad term and not restricted to only the visually impaired segment of the society. The Web usually offers people four fundamental operations. These can be abbreviated as CRUD operations (Create, Read, Update, Delete). Developers should aim for people with cognitive, neurological, physical disabilities to be able to perform CRUD operations. For example, a person cannot use his/her hand permanently or temporarily, however, he/she wants to use the mobile phone. It is definitely going to be difficult but with the help of artificial intelligence he/she can perform the operations through voice commands. Siri is a good example for this purpose. 

In addition to the people who have disabilities, people with low income or language barrier should access the content written in English language through auto translation options. On the other hand, people who do not own or have access to the state-of-art computers or internet connection should be able to access the Web content with the least effort. 

Digital accessibility is relatively new in the modern world, however, companies and organizations have begun to take it into consideration during the process of product and service development. Consumers should demand products and services in addition to the regulations of governments therefore, accessibility features can be adapted rapidly in the future. 

What is sustainable digital life?

We constantly strive to develop digital methods and strategies to enhance the quality of life and technological development takes place at a very fast pace in the modern world. How can people keep up with the development at a similar speed?

Sustainable digital life is gaining huge importance as technological singularity is becoming reality and it is vital to adapt the changes as mammals have done for millions of years. The emergence of new technologies, such as artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, and blockchain, and especially their convergence, will be the driving force of radical change. New policies and measures may be needed to steer this change into a direction that benefits humans as well.

A sustainable digital life should facilitate our normal everyday life while keeping our core human values. It is an undeniable fact that digital life makes communication, transportation, healthcare easier and faster, but can it actually slow down our brain performance and development? What if digital life makes us addicted to its ease and speed and as a result weakens our brain’s own natural performance?

What if a person’s natural self-confidence weakens due to the pressure produced by social media? Is it easier to bully people anonymously on social media than to share one’s rude opinion about another in real life with their own face and name?

Humans don’t have to spend their precious time mowing the grass when a robot can do it for us. Thanks to artificial intelligence, we also get lightning fast information about ourselves, how well we have slept, how well our body has recovered and how fast the heart has been beating during the previous night. Does human patience suffer from the ease and speed brought by artificial intelligence? Can we wait patiently in the slow-moving checkout line anymore without getting frustrated and feeling like things should somehow be done faster just because we are accustomed to it?

How can we design ethically, socially and environmentally sustainable AI and social media services not only for the highly-developed Western world but also low and middle-income countries in an ecological and accessible way?

As with everything, digital life also has many different perspectives on many things. Changes and developments in digital life happen so quickly that not all people can keep up with the changes at the so-called desired pace. That’s when doubts arise and confrontations about the benefits and harms of digital life.

Artificial intelligence has also made many incredible things possible that could not have been imagined hundreds of years ago. With artificial intelligence, we have self-service checkouts in stores, which means less employed human labor. You no longer have to drive cars and buses yourself, when artificial intelligence takes care of that for us. In hospitals, surgeons are supported by robots that do precise work to assist the procedure. At fairs and conferences, a person does not have to stand all day handing out coffee, instead a robot can dispense the coffee to customers.

It is important to emphasize the disadvantages of the elements in question as well. Artificial intelligence is artificially built, which means that its structures can potentially be hacked. This means that if a car that drives 100 km/h using artificial intelligence and gets hacked, the risk of a traffic accident can be much higher than if a person had been at the wheel of the car. Nowadays, we have to rely on the carrying power of artificial intelligence, but we may forget its great risks and disadvantages.

The first thing many people do when they wake up in the morning is look at their phone. People start their day by getting a quick dose of dopamine, which is provided by the information received from the phone. How many likes have come to the photo I published yesterday of a dog on the beach of a cottage, who has commented on my picture, who just saw and continued browsing. And what has happened in the world? Even information that comes from the other side of the globe is so easy to get these days. The brain does not need to use more energy to find information than it does to find the information it wants with a couple of google search words.

Many of us are addicted to dopamine without even realizing it. For some users of social media, their brains may increase dopamine when they engage with Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram or other social media platforms. When a user gets a like, a retweet, an emoticon notification, the brain receives a flood of dopamine and sends it along reward pathways. Giving the person a state of euphoria without even noticing, is proof of how well social media, digital life and artificial intelligence can affect our mind. One of the biggest problems of sustainable digital life is how to make it possible for digital life and so-called real life to coexist without one pushing the other away. It is important to stop everything for a second, be present and think critically about the benefits and damages of the digital tools we use. People should be able to break today’s “normal” and return to the basics or tradition.

Being aware of the differences between virtual and real life, understanding what is real and what is virtual have become a must for the young generation. In addition to this, following blindly the digital trend cannot always be the best thing for every person. Digital platforms and tools are simply products for people, and people should demand better products if necessary. For example, the same way customers do not buy useless clothing, they do not have to use the mainstream social media platforms if there is actually no use or benefit from them. Only because everybody is using Instagram, one does not have to spend certain hours in a day. On the other hand, the same arguments apply for social culture. When people are involved in the woke cancel culture, they can also critically think if it does purely good when people socially lynch the various segments of the society on social media on the name of cancel culture and human rights. While making the best use of digital tools, we humans should always remember that we are emotional creatures living in the reality called world.

Decision making in digital life

Good decision making has become crucial in the modern era. We are exposed to a great deal of data every day and filtering, digestion and remembering the useful information are becoming more challenging. Being aware of your intuitive bias and relying more on facts than your emotions are absolutely necessary to make a good decision. 

This essay discusses how we are influenced by the digital world when we make decisions. We are constantly exposed to various data in the digital world, which we need to process, degist and remember. Our decision mechanism on what we eat, who we vote and what we dress is heavily affected by the data we are imposed everyday. The Web has become the leading platform to publish random data without a factful filtering. Disinformation, misinformation, which are intentionally or unintentionally generated erroneous information are different public enemies of decision making. The question is if we can trust our intuitive decisions we make or should we give more importance to factful factors.

Important decisions

The judicial system is designed to be neutral and not biased against any race or gender. However, even judges’ decisions can vary based on the lunch they ate [1]. The research published in 2011 about the bias in judicial decisions demonstrated that judges’ decisions can vary up to ≈65% by what they ate for breakfast. This research naturally raises a question of credibility of decisions even at the highest levels of institutions. 

In 2011 among 500 respondents; 18 years and older; randomly selected from a national internet panel are asked which of the following influences your final decision when voting for/about political candidates and issues and 64% of the respondents said they are influenced by the television while 40% is influenced by the internet. The result gives a hint about how we are influenced by the programs and data sources we follow for making an important decision. [2]

Figure 1. The result of the survey done in 2011. Which of the following influences your final decision when voting for/about political candidates and issues?

Nigeria had cognitive biases against Western Polio vaccine a decade ago because of historical and cultural reasons [3]. The Nigerian religious community did not want to get any vaccine from the Western world believing that it is just another trick of a Western countries to damage Nigerian people. After a great deal of effort, the problem was solved and the anti-vaccine community was engaged in the Polio eradication initiative. The efficient use of the digital world could have prevented the death of children in the early stages of the Polio epidemic.

Fact check

Hans Rosling, the writer of the book called The Factfulness, claimed that chimpanzees score better than most educated people in a knowledge test [4]. In 2017, they asked nearly 12 000 people in 14 different countries to take a 13-question multiple-choice quiz. They included various segments of people in the experiment: medical students, teachers, university lecturers, scientists, investment bankers, journalists and senior political decision makers. Each question offered one of three choices. However, most of the respondents, even Nobel laureates and medical researchers, gave wrong answers to the questions. The results indicated that most people get the world dramatically wrong despite their high intelligence and intellectual levels. Here are some of the questions and the corresponding answers:

1. In the last 20 years, the proportion of the world population living in extreme poverty has…

A: almost doubled

B: remained more or less the same

C: almost halved

2. What is the life expectancy of the world today?

A: 50 years

B: 60 years

C: 70 years

3. There are 2 billion children in the world today, aged 0 to 15 years old. How many children will there be in the year 2100, according to the United Nations?

A: 4 billion

B: 3 billion

C: 2 billion

4. The UN predicts that by 2100 the world population will have increased by another 4 billion people. What is the main reason?

A: There will be more children (age below 15)

B: There will be more adults (age 15 to 74)

C: There will be more very old people (age 75 and older)

5. How did the number of deaths per year from natural disasters change over the last hundred years?

A: More than doubled

B: Remained about the same

C: Decreased to less than half

The correct answers:


The percentage who answered the first question correctly is 25% and Sweden shares the first place with Norway with this score. Only 2% of people in Hungary answered this question correctly.

How would chimpanzees score? If you throw a bunch of bananas to a group of chimpanzees and each banana is marked with either A, B, or C that correspond to their multiple-choice options. Then every time chimpanzees eat a banana, they mark down a letter on the banana a chimpanzee chooses to eat. If, ever, some researchers conducted this experiment thousands of times, the chimps would score about 33 percent correct on each three-answer question, meaning their results would be random. Humans’ score worse than chimpanzees because of the intuitive bias influenced by the media, the internet or people around. Because disaster stories are more interesting, we pay more attention to an airplane crash, a murder, a celebirty interview or a political scandal. Digital media is diverse and obviously more independent after the epic social media disruption. However, we still perceive the data selectively and dramatically. 

Figure 2. Illustration image for the dramatic attention filter. 

Data and decision

An individual has been described by a neighbor as follows: “Steve is very shy and withdrawn, invariably helpful but with little interest in people or in the world of reality.  A meek and tidy soul, he has a need for order and structure, and a passion for detail.” Is Steve more likely to be a librarian or a farmer?

The association between Steve’s character and stereotypical librarian hits everybody without any doubt. Nevertheless, the number of farmers in the U.S is about 3.2 million [5] and the number of librarians is around 170 thousand [6]. Therefore, statistically speaking, Steve is more likely to be a farmer than a librarian. In an experiment, the participants disregarded the statistics and completely went with their stereotypical views by answering the question above as Steve being librarian. The researchers proposed that their reliance on heuristic (mental shortcut which uses emotion to influence the decision [7])  caused predictable biases (systematic errors) in their answers [8].

Importance of data collection

Data collection for creating AI models is crucial because it affects the accuracy of decisions AI makes. For example, if you are building an AI model that decides if an object in a picture is a dog or something else, firstly you need to train the model with proper dog pictures. After the training, the software can decide if a given picture is a dog picture or not. The better data set is used to create the model, the better accuracy the software annotates dog pictures. Therefore, the data set collection and preparation directly affect the accuracy of the decisions of AI software. 

How do we prepare a good dataset to train the AI to make better decisions? We filter out irrelevant data from the data chunk and keep the dataset clean. It is like the physiology of the human body, the nutrition intake is hugely important and affects the entire body functionality. Naturally, we can use the same analogy for data and decision mechanisms. The more we feed our brain with factful and healthy information, the better decisions we can make. 

Filtering out irrelevant information

Contrast with “misinformation,” which refers to misleading people unintentionally.  The media companies have attempted to address this issue. Information overload from the Internet will make it increasingly difficult to separate fact from fiction. Speaking of misinformation, Twitter announced  a pilot program called Birdwatch, a community-based approach to fight against misinformation [9]. The community-driven approach allows people to give feedback about the Tweets they think are misinformative. Users can write notes that provide informative context to prevent spreading disinformation. 


The bias of intuition can drastically vary based on the digital data we process throughout our lifetime. Do not trust fully intuitive decisions, try to take the facts into account while making a decision. People who are privileged or conscious about accessing the factful data and make their decisions accordingly, shouldn’t blame the ones who do not have luxury or environment for factful data but help them to find the simplified factful data. Every human has the right to access facts and should demand to access factful data.


1. Extraneous factors in judicial decisions Shai Danziger, Jonathan Levav, Liora Avnaim-Pesso. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Apr 2011, 108 (17) 6889-6892; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1018033108

2. Media influencing final decisions about politics in the U.S. in 2011. Statista Research Department.

3. Nasir SG, Aliyu G, Ya’u I, Gadanya M, Mohammad M, et al. (2014) From Intense Rejection to Advocacy: How Muslim Clerics Were Engaged in a Polio Eradication Initiative in Northern Nigeria. PLOS Medicine 11(8): e1001687.

4. Rosling H., Rosling O. (2020)., Rosling Rönnlund A. Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World–and Why Things Are Better Than You Think

5. United States Department of Agriculture National Agricultural Statistics Service (ACH12-3/May 2014). Farm Demographics U.S. Farmers by Gender, Age, Race, Ethnicity, and More. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services,

6. Number Employed in Libraries. ALA Library Fact Sheet 2 [Fact sheet]. American Library 


7. Heuristic. In Wikipedia.

8. Daniel Kahneman (2011). Thinking, Fast and Slow.

9. Keith Coleman. Introducing Birdwatch, a community-based approach to misinformation.