Value-Sensitive Design requires designers of technology to firstly start with a value, technology, or context. Friedman et al. use the Mozilla Web browser example to show the use of informed consent as a value, but it is less obvious how one might use Value-Sensitive design starting with a technology or context; they simply suggest that through inspecting the technology or context, value issues will arise [Friedman et al., 2006]. The design pattern then requires the identification of stakeholders, both direct (such as a customer or client) and indirect (such as the community or shareholders), and then the benefits and harms for each stakeholder group, with particular attention to differing levels of competence that different groups may have (such as the elderly, or children). The authors have admitted that this could lead to some stereotyping, so that it is important to interact with the groups by having representatives for the affected groups involved in the design process. It is then required that the benefits and harms derived from the previous step be mapped over to the corresponding values, for example, ``a harm that is characterised as an invasion of privacy maps onto the value of privacy'' [Friedman et al., 2006]. This is, I believe, a particularly tricky part for their design process - as they admit, it is not always obvious to determine what might be a harm or benefit, and harms and benefits may have many values to which they correspond [Friedman et al., 2006] which, although not necessarily problematic in itself, could cause problems with prioritising or, at the very least, would significantly complicate the design process. Another issue is that benefits and harms may have links to values with varying levels of importance, or values that overlap: invasion of privacy may map to privacy and identity, but could also map in a lesser way to physical wellbeing (in certain cases).
Problems also occur when talking about values. Friedman et al. provide a table of some values, and their `definitions', that are offered as suggestions for consideration, but many of these also overlap in ways that are not necessarily complementary: human welfare, one of the values suggested, may conflict with environmental sustainability, or privacy to varying degrees. None of these complex interactions between values is considered by the underlying theory behind the design pattern. Friedman et al. attempt to minimise this problem by identifying value conflicts as ``constraints on the design space''3.3, or suggesting that discussion between stakeholders can sort out any conflicts [Friedman et al., 2006]. This solution, though, is not suitable for a practical design implementation: a good comprehensive design pattern should have a strategy for resolving such conflicts, not simply leaving them open to discussion. Ultimately Friedman et al. wish for the value considerations derived from the processes above to be integrated not only into the project, but into the company structure. Although this is a worthwhile aim, it is not the purpose of a project design pattern to dictate the way the company should be run, just the way the project should be framed. Admittedly, the sorts of companies that are interested in developing using the Value-Sensitive Design process are likely to be the sort that would be open to suggestions for a greater value focussed company effort, but this should be outside the scope of Value-Sensitive Design and instead part of a business ethics framework (if only for instituting a good business ethics model outside this specialised information technology environment).
Value-Sensitive Design aims to improve the design of technology by focussing on the values inherent in the technology and the context in which the technology is going to be used. This is a noble goal, but it appears to miss the point when developing the concept of values, because its conception of values is far too broad to be particularly useful without some sort of mechanism to facilitate decisions about which values are more important than others (within the context), or some limitation on the sorts of values that should be considered, that is, such a design pattern should be expected to have a more rigorous method for determining value hierarchies.
Even if Value-Sensitive Design were to achieve all of its aims, I would argue that it still would not be appropriate to consider informed consent a value suitable for this sort of project, since Value-Sensitive Design is more suited to dealing with non-instrumental values by treating the values it focuses on as ends to be reached, or something to be preserved, rather than to be incorporated into the design process as a means or method for enabling these goals to be met. Informed consent, on the other hand, is one of these enablers. It is a means to a particular end, and should not be an end in itself. As Brownsword elaborates, warning of the ``cult of consent'', informed consent is implicated in the right to values, and should not be considered an aim unto itself, lest the community become ``fixated'' by it [Brownsword, 2004]. Such fixation would mean a particular emphasis on gaining consent, even if consent is unnecessary, or where lack of consent-gaining does not mean there is a wrong (such as in civic duty cases, self-defence, or emergencies). The potential problem of treating informed consent as an end needs to be carefully considered in a theory of informed consent in information technology, because it can greatly affect the concentration and number of consent requests, thus contributing to distraction of and numbness caused by frequent small consent requests (such as with cookies or software installs). Treating informed consent as an end simply leads us back to the poor informed consent procedures that are currently used, with consent-requesters doing the minimal required for informed consent as an end, caring little about the integrity of the process outside their particular consent request.
Thus, although Friedman et al.'s account of Value-Sensitive Design could be a useful tool for embedding values in technology, it needs further refinement and greater consideration of the constitution of values. It particularly needs to have its value definition rethought, since informed consent should not be considered a value in and of itself in the design pattern. Instead, informed consent should be an instrumental mechanism by which non-instrumental values (possibly identified by Value-Sensitive Design) can be respected and maintained. This also allows for informed consent to be used only where necessary, rather than as an end that needs to be attained with a lesser focus on the values that underlie the need for informed consent.