Transparency seems to be the only word when talking about ethics. 

In a world where trust seems to have vanished, all want transparency, believing, often rightfully, that hiding nothing puts an end to malfeasance and lies. 

Certainly, hiding nothing prevents some wrongdoing (or makes it more difficult), but we should consider these questions: 

  • Is transparency the systematic solution to all ethical problems? 
  • What kind of transparency are we talking about?

We should investigate further and go beyond common preconceptions. Is transparency entirely beneficial? Can transparency be unethical? Can it have negative effects?

As these questions imply, not everything is perfectly clear in the realm of transparency.

Before proceeding, we should remember that being transparent means letting light in; it is a way of doing things that is intended to thwart manipulation or dishonesty, with trust as an outcome. Applied in this way, transparency is good and is one of the tools of ethics used to build trust.

But, like any tool, transparency can be abused: it can be used for aims that are contrary to its natural purpose and can even become a means of manipulation by creating not trust, but the illusion of trust. 

When it comes to light, there is a significant difference between letting light in and directing light elsewhere so that one can remain in the shadows oneself. The second alternative only wreaks havoc while serving the interest of the one shining the light. 

As is the case for any tool, transparency has its bright side, which seeks justice, and its dark side, which manipulates to circumvent justice, thus demonstrating that a worthy tool can be used for nefarious ends.

Nowadays, there are unfortunately many examples of transparency being used as a strategic distraction to compensate for weak arguments. We invoke transparency only when it helps our cause or when it can harm the other party. « Though I know I’m wrong, I will still try to prove that my opponent isn’t right! By putting extra light on him »

For transparency to serve its true purpose and not become just an illusion of trust, it must never be used for unethical ends or for revenge, with benefits that are strictly personal.

Although illumination is good, attacking your rival with a spotlight is not.

Revenge has never been a stand-in for ethics.