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Ethical and Social Issues in Information Systems

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What ethical, social, and political issues are raised by information systems? What specific principles for conduct can be used to guide ethical decisions? Why do contemporary information systems technology and the Internet pose challenges to the protection of individual privacy and intellectual property? How have information systems affected everyday life?

Understanding Ethical and Social Issues Related to Systems
Principles of right and wrong that individuals, acting as free moral agents, use to make choices to guide their behaviors Information systems and ethics
Information systems raise new ethical questions because they create opportunities for: Intense social change, threatening existing distributions of power, money, rights, and obligations New kinds of crime

Understanding Ethical and Social Issues Related to Systems
THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN ETHICAL, SOCIAL, AND POLITICAL ISSUES IN SOCIETYAN INFORMATION The introduction of new information technology has a ripple effect, raising new ethical, social, and political issues that must be dealt with on the individual, social, and political levels. These issues have five moral dimensions: information rights and obligations, property rights and obligations, system quality, quality of life, and accountability and control.

Five moral dimensions of the information age
1. Information rights and obligations
2. Property rights and obligations
3. Accountability and control
4. System quality
5. Quality of life

Key technology trends that raise ethical issues
1. Doubling of computer power
More organizations depend on computer systems for critical operations
2.Rapidly declining data storage costs
Organizations can easily maintain detailed databases on individuals
3. Networking advances and the Internet
Copying data from one location to another and accessing personal data from remote locations is much easier
4. Advances in data analysis techniques
Companies can analyze vast quantities of data gathered on individuals for: Profiling
Combining data from multiple sources to create dossiers of detailed information on individuals Nonobvious relationship awareness (NORA)
Combining data from multiple sources to find obscure hidden connections that might help identify criminals or terrorists

NORA technology can take information about people from disparate sources and find obscure, nonobvious relationships. It might discover, for example, that an applicant for a job at a casino shares a telephone number with a known criminal and issuean alert to the hiring manager.

Ethics in an Information Society
Basic concepts for ethical analysis
Accepting the potential costs, duties, and obligations for decisions Accountability:
Mechanisms for identifying responsible parties
Permits individuals (and firms) to recover damages done to them Due process:
Laws are well known and understood, with an ability to appeal to higher authorities Ethical analysis: A five-step process
Identify and clearly describe the facts
Define the conflict or dilemma and identify the higher-order values involved Identify the stakeholders
Identify the options that you can reasonably take
Identify the potential consequences of your options
Six Candidate Ethical Principles
Golden Rule
Do unto others as you would have them do unto you
Immanuel Kant’s Categorical Imperative
If an action is not right for everyone to take, it is not right for anyone Descartes’ Rule of Change
If an action cannot be taken repeatedly, it is not right to take at all Utilitarian Principle
Take the action that achieves the higher or greater value
Risk Aversion Principle
Take the action that produces the least harm or least potential cost Ethical “no free lunch” Rule
Assume that virtually all tangible and intangible objects are owned by someone unless there is a specific declaration otherwise

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