Insights about how to address ethical dilemmas can be gleaned by viewing different scenarios through the eyes of film-makers
This article was first published in the October 2019 UK edition of Accounting and Business magazine.
To celebrate ACCA’s quarterly theme ‘the power of ethics’, ACCA has reviewed a number of films that showcase real-life ethical challenges. Here are a couple of highlights.
The Defenders takes a behind-the-scenes look at four notorious cyber attacks and champions those with the job of keeping institutions safe from the evolving threat.
The 2014 cyber attack on Sony Pictures (blamed on North Korea by the FBI) was a game-changer, and resulted in the company releasing the film The Interview as a digital download only. ‘The next war will be fought without a single bullet being fired, with one country shutting down the power grid in another country,’ warns Sanjay Sarma, vice president for open learning at MIT, in the film.
Like accountants, cyber defenders rarely get credit for keeping society and its systems ticking over. Only when something goes wrong do they hit the headlines – for all the wrong reasons.
The film does a good job of giving an insight into a complex and jargon-filled subject, including defining the term ‘hacking’ – first coined back in 1955 in the monthly minutes of MIT’s model railway club. Members were told to turn the power off to avoid blowing a fuse when ‘working on or hacking’ the club’s electrical system. The stakes have certainly got higher since then.
Terms and Conditions May Apply exposes the erosion of online privacy and what information governments and corporations are legally taking from citizens each day. (The first 500 ACCA members who view the film on the Vimeo platform before 31 October can use the code ACCADISCOUNT to get a 50% discount.)
It is a compelling and deeply unsettling film, packed with details that will have you exclaiming under your breath.
We’re all guilty of blindly ticking boxes that say we agree to terms and conditions when buying a product online or booking a flight. In 2009, the UK’s GameStation store inserted the following sentence in its online small print for a day: ‘By placing an order via this website, you agree to grant us a non-transferable right to claim, now and for ever more, your immortal soul.’ It was an April Fool’s Day joke, but 7,000 people fell for it. You can hardly blame them, though – it has been estimated it would take a month every year to read everything to which the average user agrees.
Frank Heidt, CEO at Leviathan Securities, uses the old amphibian metaphor: ‘Put a frog in boiling water and turn the heat up slowly, and it won’t know it’s boiling to death. We’ve been opting in to all this a centimetre at a time, but pretty soon we’ll look behind us and wonder how we got here.’
The film may leave you feeling disturbed. While governments and enterprises need a certain level of information about their citizens and customers to protect and serve them properly, you may well conclude that they have gone too far.
Dean Gurden, journalist