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Cyberhealth: Viewing digital networks through the lens of the philosophy of public health

Michael Thornton

Currently, there is no over-arching framework for how to conceptualize the problems which affect digital networks. As a result, policy affecting digital networks is often created as an ad-hoc response to the latest crisis with minimal consideration for the ethical costs of specific technical interventions. Typical approaches, such as cybersecurity, frame these problems as primarily technical in nature, downplaying the potential human cost of network fragility. I propose that the philosophy of public health may serve as a useful framework for thinking about the normative justification for—and the ethical limits on—government involvement in cyberspace.

This approach encourages more public involvement in the security of digital networks and encourages international collaboration in the model of public health institutions like the WHO. In addition to being a useful way of thinking about network robustness, a public health model also helps one think through the ways in which network insecurity literally is a health problem with the potential to impact physical and mental wellbeing.

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