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Investigating Consequences with Our Ethics Assessment

September 2020


Article credits
Lu Han
Eric Madar
Sara Aboulafia

In our increasingly complex world, ethical considerations are a challenging but essential aspect of design thinking and decision-making. The Spotify Ethics Guild created this ethics assessment as a self-service resource for teams around the company to investigate ethical questions relevant to their work. We hope anyone, including those new to this topic, can use it to surface important considerations when designing a product or service. Click above to download.

For background on how this project got started, we want to share some history behind Spotify’s Ethics Guild — a volunteer group that creates resources and facilitates workshops to help make ethical considerations more concrete. 

Lu Han: I started the guild in 2018 while designing for Ad Experience, a team of thoughtful people focused on making Spotify’s ad experience more user-friendly. After doing some research on examples of ethical trade-offs in the wild and diving into some insightful writing on the topic from folks like Cathy O’Neil, Joy Buolamwini, and Tristan Harris, I started to consider how we might apply these ideas of ethical product development in my own team.

Ethics is a lofty topic — millennia-old and subject to endless theorizing and debate. That said, we can take action by — at the very least  — recognizing and avoiding potential harm. We developed the ethics assessment with the aim of putting this basic principle into practice.

This assessment has been our labor of love, and is at the heart of the guild’s work with various teams at Spotify. We’ve also taken it on the road to conferences like Grace Hopper and Interaction 19. Each time we’ve facilitated a workshop, we’ve been moved and inspired by the thoughtful conversations that come out of simply asking the right questions. We hope it helps push the conversation on ethics forward for your team, too.

Collaborators: Christopher Carpita, Eric Madar, Izzy Zelichenko, Katherine Topping, Masha Westerlund, Lu Han, Mat Budelman, Sara Aboulafia, Scott Sheffield, Shmo Chuang


Lu Han

Product Manager

Lu Han is a Product Manager on a machine learning team and co-leads Ethics Guild. In her spare time, she likes to paint, go to the movies, and forage for mushrooms.

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Eric Madar

Backend Engineer

Eric is a full-time engineer and a part-time activist. They’re passionate about building great products, enhancing social good, and especially both at once!

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Sara Aboulafia

UX Writer

Sara Aboulafia is a UX Writer for Spotify Ad Studio and co-leads Ethics Guild. She's also a songwriter, maker of absurdist videos, and spoiler of her cats.

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