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Assessing the teams behind products and technologies

One of the things that makes me proud to work at The 19th is our equity lens that pervades everything we do. While it's most obvious in our reporting, it touches every aspect of the org.

I’ve been writing a technology assessment framework that we can use when we’re evaluating services, libraries, and technologies that we might want to buy or install for use at work. (This is different to the one we use for tech we may want to build ourselves.) I haven’t been able to find one out in the wild that considers ethics as part of its rubric, but I feel strongly that it’s appropriate.

As well as details you’d expect, like cost, resources needed, and timing, I’ve been considering how to evaluate the team.

These are the questions I'm asking about the team - a subset of the whole that addresses the real people you're building a relationship with when you use their products. I'd love your feedback on them. What would you ask? What am I missing?

If you’re using a similar rubric in your place of work, would you consider sharing it?

Who

Who is the team behind this technology or product?

Is it a startup, a volunteer, a non-profit, etc?

Equity

Is the team representative of the audience we seek to serve?

Has the team made statements or endorsements that might make members of our community feel unsafe? (For example, supporting a known hate group.)

Do the terms of service allow the team to work with hateful groups and do they already?

Privacy

Is the team a good steward of our community’s privacy?

Have there been any known privacy violations? (For example, misusing personal information.)

Has the team made statements or taken action that might cause us to question its commitment to privacy?

Security

How does the team ensure the product’s security?

Have there been any known security violations? (For example, leaked data or known hacks.)

Has the team made statements or taken action that might cause us to question its commitment to security?

Democracy

Has the team undermined or influenced free and fair elections in the US or elsewhere?

Has the team’s leadership endorsed erosion of democratic rights? (For example, rolling back voting or civil rights, or endorsing neo-monarchist movements.)

Sustainability

Does the team maintain a known environmental policy? (For example, does the datacenter run on renewable energy?)

Has the team made statements that deny the impact of climate change?

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