SIGNAL, and the danger of privacy at all costs.

Some time ago, the Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey passionately advocated in a blog post the view that neither Twitter nor the government nor any other company should exert control over what participants post.

''It's critical,'' he said, ''that the people have tools to resist this, and that those tools are ultimately owned by the people.''

Mr. Dorsey is promoting one of the most potent and fashionable notions in Silicon Valley : that a technology free of corporate and government controls is in the best interest of the society.

To that end, he announced he would give $1 million a year to SIGNAL, a text messaging app.

Signal is pushing against businesses like Meta that turn users of their social media platforms into the product by selling user data.

But Signal within itself a rather extreme conception of privacy, and scaling its technology is scaling its ideology. Signal's users may not be the product, but they are witting or unwitting advocates of the moral views of the 40 or so people who operate Signal.

There's something somewhat sneaky in all this [ though I don't think the owners of Signal intend to be sneaky ].

Usually advocates know that they're advocates. They engage in some level of deliberation and reach the conclusion all a set of beliefs is for them.

But users of apps like Signal need not have such beliefs. They may merely [mistakenly] think, ''Here's a way to message people that my friends are using.'' Signal's influence doesn't necessarily hit us at the belief level.

It hits us at the action level : what we do, how we operate, day in and day out. In using this technology, we are acting out the ethical and political commitments of the technologists.

PERHAPS the technologists are right that Big Tech and Big Government cannot be trusted and are beyond repair. Still, that wouldn't settle whether these technological solutions and the people who create and deploy them are any better.

If one of the complaints about Big Tech and Big Government is that they are insufficiently accountable for their misdeeds, can we not levy the same critique against the technologists?

It's true that the crowd at Signal aren't government officials, and they don't work for Fortune 500 companies. They are a small group of people who govern these powerful tools, and they are not accountable in the way that, say, a democratically elected government is.

Whether law enforcement should tap our phones on the condition that a warrant is obtained is, at the very least, worthy of public discussion. Signal has unilaterally decided for us all.

So, I am not convinced we are really getting more freedom and ''for the people by the people'' by way of our technology overlords.

Instead, we have a technologically driven shift of power to ideological individuals and organizations whose lack of appreciation for moral nuance and good governance puts us all at risk.

The World Students Society thanks Reid Blackman for his opinion. He is the author of ''Ethical Machines'' and an adviser to government and corporations on digital ethics.


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