Ethics in Information Society
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* refers to the principles of right and wrong that individuals use to make choices to guide their behavior. * is a concern of us humans who have freedom of choice. Ethics is a personal choice. When faced with an alternative courses of action, how should one decide? What are main considerations in making a rural decision?
Five Moral Dimensions of the Information Age
1. Information Rights and Obligations
* What information rights do individuals and organizations possess with respect to themselves? What can they protect?
2. Property Rights and Obligations
* How will traditional intellectual property rights be protected in a digital society in which tracing and accounting for ownership are difficult and ignoring such property rights is so easy?
3. Accountability and Control
* Who can and will be held accountable and liable for the harm done to individual and collective information and property rights? 4. System Quality
* What standards of data and system quality should we demand to protect individual rights and the safety of society? 5. Quality of Life
* What values should be preserved in an information- and knowledge-based society? Which institutions should we protect from violation? Which cultural values and practices are supported by the new information technology?
* a statutory grant that protects creators of intellectual property from having their work copied by others for any purpose during the life of the author plus an additional 70 years after the author’s death Patent
* grants the owner an exclusive monopoly on the ideas behind an invention for 20 years
Basic Concepts: Responsibility, Accountability and Liability
Ethical choices are made by responsible individuals. Responsibility is a characteristic of a mature person and is the key element of ethical action. Responsibility means that action accepts the potential cost, duties and obligations for the decisions one’s makes. Accountability is the characteristics or features of system and social institutions – it means the safety checks are in place to determine who is to take responsibility for an action. Systems and institutions in which is not possible to find out who took action are not capable of ethical analysis or ethical actions. Liability is another feature. Liability extends concepts of responsibility further to the area of laws. Liability is a characteristics or property of a political systems in which other actors, systems or organizations in place, which permits individuals to recover the damage, do a body of law to them.
The above concepts form the equation of ethical analysis of information systems and those who manage them. Systems do not have impacts by themselves. Whatever information impacts is a product of institutional organizational and individual actions and behavior. Responsibility for the consequences of technology fall clearly on the institution, organizations and individual managers who use the technology. Using the information technology in a socially responsible manner means that one can be held accountable for the consequences of these actions. In an ethical political society, individuals and groups can recover damage done to them through a set of laws.
Whenever confronted with a situation that seem to present ethical issues, how should you analyze and reason about the situation? Following is a 5-step process: 1. Identify and clearly describe the facts.
Find out who did, what to whom, and where, when and how? One will be surprised in many instances at the errors in the initially reported facts and often one finds that simply getting the facts straight help define the situation. It helps to get the parties involve in an ethical dilemma to agree on the facts. 2. Define the conflict or dilemma and identify the higher order values involve. Ethical, social and political issues always reference a higher value. The parties to a dispute all claim to be pursuing higher values (e.g. freedom, privacy, protection of property, and the free enterprise system). An ethical issues involves a dilemma who is diametrically opposed to a course of action that support worthwhile values. The needs of companies to use marketing to become more efficient and the need to protect individual privacy. 3. Identify the stakeholders.
Every issue has stakeholders; players of the game who have an interest in the outcome; who have an interest in the situation; and usually who have vocal opinions. Find out the identity of every group and what they want. This will be useful later when designing a solution. 4. Identify the options that you can reasonably take.
You may find that none of the options satisfy all the interest involve but that some options do a better job than others. Sometimes arriving at a good or ethical solution may not always be balancing of consequences to stakeholders. 5. Identify the potential consequence of your options.
Some options may ethically correct but disastrous from other’s point of view. Other options may work in the instance, but not in other similar instances. Always ask yourself, what if I choose this option consistently over time.
Once analysis is complete, review what ethical principles or rules to use to make a decision? What higher order values should form your judgment?
Candidate Ethical Principles
Here are some ethical principles with the truth in many cultures that have survived throughout recorded history:
1. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you (The Golden Rule).
Putting yourself into the place of others, and thinking of yourself as the object of the decision, can help you think about “fairness” in decision making. 2. If an action is not right for everyone to take, then it’s not right for anyone. (Immanuel Kants Categorical Imperative) Ask yourself, “if everyone did this, could the organization or society survive? 3. If an action cannot be taken repeatedly, then it is not right to take at all (Descarte’s Rule of Change) This is the slippery slope rule: An action may bring about small change, now that is acceptable, but if repeated would bring unacceptable changes in the long run. In the vernacular, it might be stated as “once started down a slippery path you may not be able to stop”. 4. Take the action that achieves the higher or greater value (the Utilitarian Principle).
This rule assumes you can prioritize values in a rank order and understand the consequences of various courses of action. 5. Take the action that produces the least harm, or the least potential cost (Risk Aversion Principle). Some actions have extremely high failure costs at very low probability or extremely high failure costs of moderate probability. 6. Assume that virtually all tangible and intangible objects are owned by someone else unless there is a specific declaration otherwise. (Ethical “no free lunch” rule). If something someone else has created is useful to you, it has value, and you should assume the creator wants compensation for this work.