Do tech consumers care how the workers who make their gadgets are treated?

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Technology consumers the world over are waiting for details on Apple’s third-generation iPad tablet and a new generation of Macbook Pro laptops. They will no doubt be further examples of the American ingenuity and cultural dominance that have made the California company more financially secure at times than the entire United States federal government.

But this innovation hasn’t come without a cost — and it’s a cost borne not by those who are using and benefiting from these devices.

If you haven’t already done so, read The New York Times’ reporting on the human costs that are built into an iPad for Chinese workers. If you’re anything like me, it will make you think hard about the choices you make as a consumer. I say this not to be preachy or holier than thou — indeed, I recently purchased two second-generation iPads for my department at work, and find myself more and more enthralled by the tablet and its nearly limitless applications. And I know few who are immune to this effect. But I believe that it’s as healthy to question the origins of the tools we use as it is the food we consume, the air we breathe and the media we subscribe to.

This sort of scandal is, of course, nothing new, and it’s not unique to Apple. But with the recent death of the company’s iconic co-founder Steve Jobs, an unimpressive product rollout for the iPhone 4S and now this international outrage, it’s not unreasonable to ask whether Apple’s best move at the next press event wouldn’t be to raise product prices as much as would be necessary to guarantee that the next generation of must-have devices can be used with a clear conscience all around.

Would you pay even more for these already-extravagant devices if it meant better wages and working conditions for their manufacturers?

Update: (AP) — Apple said Monday that an independent group, the Fair Labor Association, has started inspecting working conditions in the Chinese factories where its iPads and iPhones are assembled.

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