Ethical issues that have a beset humankind since we human after started living together because of tranquil, orderly and productive communities must have certain rules and are not sustainable without any order which tells everyone what to do and what not to do. As the community growing larger after the certain period there have been a lot of changes in the rules which are formalized into codes of conduct to make sure that everyone in the community has to know and understand what are their rights and duties which they made some laws on the top of it. If anyone violates their ethical rights of the community, which in turn changed the lives of those communities. So, like this each community from different regions formed their own code of conduct which are necessary for their well-being of their family members and others also. After acquiring certain skills through formal educational process, everyone who is expert in their own became a professional and then established individual ethical rights and duties for their protection.
The Association of Computing Machinery (ACM) was first made for the code of ethics in the year 1972. Twenty years later in the year 1993, they changed to code to new code and in the article Anderson et al. (pp.98-107) explains how to use the new code because of a lot of development in the technology. The co-authors also worked on drafting on the code of conducts and it includes four parts of the organization: general moral imperatives; specific professional responsibilities; importance of organizational leadership and compliance.
In the existing IT literature, there are four difficulties. First, it is not well grounded in the early IT ethics literature and with some exceptions. Some points are missing in ethical behavior in the fundamental concepts and description. Secondly, immediate attention needs for issues like system failures, hacking, paid to software theft, security lapses which tells the disorganized topology of IT ethics literature. There should be some guide practitioners and researchers and to illustrate for our students which might face in the future so that if there is any issue, they could solve using this as a reference. Third the IT literature mainly focuses on the managers, employees and system designers of what should do. Last one it describes about organization responsibilities. It tells us to act based on situation rather than suggesting a methodology.
The literature is concerned with ethics before 2000 years ago, made three distinctions in the IT literature, which is used to organize the literature, to identify any situation analysis on the literature where IT ethics should be aware of these distinctions. They are like phenomenology vs. positivism, rules vs. consequences, and individuals vs. collectivities.
- Phenomenology vs. positivism. Here the phenomenology describes what should we answer when ethicists are phenomenologists, they take what is good in the situation, which was derived from logic and situation of the language. On the other hand, positivists argues that we should observe from the real world where we derive the ethical principles.
- Rules vs. consequences. Ethicists who follow the rules correctly believe that these rules are applicable universally for all so that good actions can be performed. Here the rules are based on religious beliefs, aesthetic beliefs or intuition. Ethicists who focus on the consequences believe that instead of following the rules which are not specific enough to guide the action and investigate the consequences of the problem and find the way to produce the best results or consequences for any situation.
- Individuals vs. collectivities. Some ethicists believe that decision is made on individual which gives the proper subject of ethics and understands that individual has moral authority and has self-analysis. Regardless of society it allows to set their own ethics, their own rules. Others argue that decision must be made on larger collectives such as society, polity or organization. It believes that decision made by group will be the best then becomes a rule.
Several assumptions have been made regarding legality and ethics in information technology center on the computer security area and to get privacy for the network in workplace, home and on the Internet.
Laudon in the year 1995 discusses about the ethical thinking and describes the four distinct rules that have emerged over the years, which are classified as below:
- The collective rule-based way of thinking,
- The individual rule-based way of thinking,
- The collective consequentialist way of thinking, and
- The individual consequentialist way of thinking.
The collective rule-based describes that behavior of ethical thinking is applicable for everyone and universally. Plato and Socrates were discussing on positing the ‘goodness’ is itself a concept or form just like ‘table’ and ‘chair’, which was thought it could not be grasped by humans correctly. The ethical points are to discover though dialogue, literature, the nature of the goodness and language and once it was understood to base actions and goals upon it. Kant and many others followed the similar line. For example, Kant once answered to the question, ‘Can I through my beer can on the roads after I consumed while I was driving?’. The answer is ‘No’ because if it used by everyone, it is impossible to drive on the roads. It could be led to a ‘reductio ad absurdum’. So, we should make a rule such as, ‘Thou shalt not throw beer bottles (or any cans) while driving on the road’. The cynics responded: ‘So what? Just because one person through a bottle on roads doesn’t mean everyone will do the same’. In the IT field, the collective rule-based is applied as if everyone copies the same software developed by one company, there would be no software developed further.
The individual rule-based argues that everyone will come to know what is right by looking in deep of universal and timeless truths derived from religious beliefs, intuitions and self-analysis. Here in this case, Ross answered to a question, ‘Can I steal the software from my company and use the same software at home?’. The answer is ‘No’ because right and duties of humans is to protect the things of others and no organized society tells us to steal of others private property for self-use. Regions like Christian and Jewish ethicists also argue that violation of the commandment ‘Thou shalt not steal’. The cynics responded that ‘So what? Every religion has different rights and duties and universal human rights doesn’t exist’.
The collective consequentialist way of thinking begins with Aristotle argues that should have to study the laws, actions, different people and their cultures and make a universal database of good laws, actions and mores. In answer to the question, ‘Could an employer monitor the email of his employees using any software or company equipment’. The answer to this question would probably be ‘No’, because in such scenario’s actions will be inconsistent with the law of maximizing the liberty for everyone. The employee can have private communication with his friends/colleagues and employer shouldn’t concern about it. The cynics responded: ‘So what?’. They would argue that it’s not employer business for maximizing the liberty for everyone and under some circumstance they could monitor the emails on individual interests. Many scholars and writers who interest on IT ethics come under the collective consequentialists and describes that when we have to take an ethical decision when we face some issues in IT field, we should concern some larger collectively in the person’s firm or professional society and take advice from them and just follow their advice.
The individual consequentialist way of ethical thinking is established from the analysis of individual levels. All Internet experts having a strong libertarian ethic argues that everyone should be able to do what they want and when they want. The answer to this question, ‘Should we monitor the appropriate language used by the individuals in the contents of the discussions group and in censor disruptive members?’. In answer to this question would be probably ‘No’, because if the language used in the content doesn’t threaten to disrupt the conversation groups.
Lynch in the year 1994 discusses the importance that the efficiency and speed, where all local and global networks, software programs, electronic information systems and databases which process the data are break opening for the people to face new responsibilities and rights in their use of information and reconsider standards of conduct in the invention of new computer systems. In stressing electronic networks, Lynch also identifies electronic media as a source of power where most of the people meet online, make conversations about some topic, send and receive emails and so on. After the introduction of the new methodology of communications, many new standards of conduct have been explored and which in-turn transformed the behavior of the individuals. In the cyberspace new rules have been defined around the world in the transmission of data. Copyrights laws have been introduced to save the electronic data not to use by the others where the data has been carried throughout the internet. The data is available on the internet contains political, social and economic advantages which is available to the people which need to access by the respective members. Lynch also addresses the geographical information on the individuals must be accessed by the state, federal and local agencies and right to privacy that these individuals assume they should have. Questions are asked such as ‘What is a public record?’, ‘What are the agencies required to provide?’, ‘May user fees will be charged?’, ‘What is a reasonable search?’, ‘Must all the agencies provide the records in digital format or paper format?’, have to considered in the electronic information systems.
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Mason in the year 1986 contends that in many Western societies, more people are working in the distributing, collecting and handling information than in any other occupation. Here the mind expands and increases the capacity in achieving the goals which is the nature of information of information. Here the information develops the intellectual capital where human beings build their lives and to secure dignity of humans. Building intellectual capital will be vulnerable in different ways. Some of the examples of these vulnerabilities in the intellectual capital like losing their personal information and some information is not compensated for the intellectual data. Here people can deny to personal data to others which are value to them, and individuals found that life of an individual depends upon the error.
Mason also discusses about the threats that are happening in the human dignity in the ‘social contract’ in the age of information, but the author in the article describes about the four ethical issues which are being threatened to the society. The ethical discussed in the article are privacy, accuracy, property and accessibility, we also call them as PAPA. These ethical issues argue that surrounding privacy discuss about what we can share with other individuals and what information can be made private under what conditions and under what safeguards must be taken. The ethical issue argues that surrounding the accuracy would discuss about the responsibility of the data or information that is gathered and stored at one database which is accessible for only authorized members only. He should be responsible for the providing authenticity, make believe to the customers and responsible for the reliability of the data. The ethical issue argues that surrounding property would discuss about the data or information stored on the Internet, authenticable user has the rights and access to the data. He can modify or update the data and transmit to any other person if he wants to do for trusted persons. The ethical issue argues surrounding the accessibility of the information is the privilege or right of respected individual or organization to access the data under some conditions and with safeguards. He also concludes that our moral imperative should be clear. We must make sure all the information that is generated and maintained in the information technology sectors are used for the development of the mankind dignity. To get success in all the above, we must introduce a new social contract in which everyone has right to full fill the human potential of individuals.
Many people worked for the development of the moral development of the employees working in the information technology. Dr. Lawrence Kohlberg and Heron discuss that many employees in the information technology sectors are facing ethical dilemmas and many corporate organizations are involved in the issue which we can see in many computer-based technologies and other IT. His study mainly focusses on the financial and mental issues that we can see after the well development of the information technology. Nowadays we have access to laptops, mobile phones and many social websites where we are access to a lot of things. The ethical challenges that we face after potential of the things that we use today are such as property may be theft, loss of identity, privacy is lost, and your system may be hacked. For example, a person illegally downloads a music from unauthorized website and another person records the music. Her the person who records the music will face financially and the person who downloaded the music will face some legal actions which leads to jail or fines. For both professional and personal actions, students need to apply ethical based reasoning to decisions. It is important for each student understand the moral reasoning with the current technology and society is also responsible for providing the moral reasoning to all individuals. His study in the research helped the professors and teachers to teach the moral reasoning from the school itself in decision-making.
He made a descriptive quality survey which helped all the students which helps the behavior towards the Information technology usage which in turn helps the professors make some changes and help them to grow in the future and not face any issues in ethical decision-making. Here the survey is instrument is designed to validate the student’s level of reasoning at different stages of moral development. It has six scenarios which leads to ethical dilemmas where the students might face in the Information technology. He discussed in the survey about students sharing usernames and passwords. Here the students were asked to take an action and define it is ethical or not and explain their answers. The above scenarios which are made by many scholars which helped the Professors to get to know how to deal with students and precautions and extra knowledge need to be shared about information systems in the schools.
L. Kohlberg study also helps the employees in the Information Technology sectors by conducting a survey conducting with minimum number of 100 employees from various corporate organizations in the Western Pennsylvanian regions of the United States, and also took the attributes of the employees such as personal information like age, gender, stage, career. His education on the cognitive moral development of IT professionals and as based on the Defining Issues Test (DIT-2) of Rest (1986), whose work stemmed from the University of Minnesota’s Center for the Study of Ethical Development.
Heron concluded that every employee in the IT industry must have a knowledge on the different levels in the moral cognitive development of the Information Technology Professionals which in turn helps to apply these basics ethics in their future IT industry. Furthermore study, they made a statement regarding the cognitive moral development of the Information Technology doesn’t include a gender, but they introduce only general information of the employees like age, gender, career level, education level and ethics training. But they found a significant correlation at p=0.1 level between the p-score and all the variables, except gender.
In the history of Information System, self-discipline needs to be engaged in apparent diversity and its objective is to understand the overall diversity in information system research. All the authors from the research in information systems: an empirical study of diversity in the discipline and its journals described the five characteristics keys of diversity based on the prior literature. They are discipline reference, topic, level of analysis, research, research method and approach. First, they examined all the articles from the year 1995-1999, they acknowledged few of the top journals of information systems field. It emerged as key reference discipline in the late 90’s. These researches had an impact on the work life of the employees and society in general as the new technologies in the information technology were introduced as they were many changes in the IT field.
In the present field of information technology, all these literature needs more research in which it helps to understand impact it is making in information systems to all individuals in the society. It needs to observe all the studies and made a correlation in between moral discipline and ethical decision-making by impacting the society of the individuals. They need to maintain a definitive literature to all scholars, students and practitioners for ethical thinking which impacting the information technology in both corporate organizations and also individually.
All IT professionals, scholars and students who are involved in IT fields must learn from cynics raising a question ‘So what?’, that no set of facts or suppositions and ethical rules can be made from the opinions of everyone’s personal belief.
All scholars must have an idea how to use language in describing the IT and interaction with the society. Always be prepared for struggling between collectives and individuals especially for the IT employees. We must have more understanding as humans’ beings first and then IT professionals of the rights based on ethical decision-making.
Information technology has brought a lot of changes and brought some ethical issues. Everyone must learn the moral reasoning in decision-making of Information systems which are legal and what are illegal.
- Heron. Moral Development and Ethical Decision-Making of Information Technology Professionals. Nova Southeastern University, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, 2007.
- Laudon, K. Ethical Issues in Electronic Information Systems. New York, 1995.
- Lynch, M. Ethical Issues in Electronic Information Systems. Stern School of Business, University of Texas at Austin, 1994.
- L. Kohlberg. Author: The Philosophy of Moral Development. Harper & Row, New York, 1981.
- D. K. Lapsley. Moral Psychology. Westview Press, Boulder, CO, 1996.
- Dr. Angelina Kiser. Assistant Professor and Management Coordinator. University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio, TX, 2009.
- Mason. Four Ethical Issues of the Information Age. Management Information Systems Quarterly, 1986.
- Eileen E. Morrison. Director of the Bachelor’s Degree Program. School of Health Administration at Texas State University San Marcos, Texas, 2009.
- Iris Vessey, V. Ramesh & Robert L. Glass. Research in Information Systems: An Empirical Study of Diversity in the Discipline and Its Journals, 2005.