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Applying Ethical Theories: Wearable Devices

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Information technology is no longer a complementary concept but a mandatory user requirement as evidenced by its integration into our lives today. Consider social media where users continuously post their details including private affairs without regard to the affiliated participants. Technology is also continuously being embedded in our daily lives where active systems such as live monitoring services are being used to manage our daily affairs. A good example of this outcome is wearable devices such as those used to monitor health conditions such as heart beats, glucose levels and even brain function. Although still in their early stages of development, the users are excessively sharing their information with the world at large. Furthermore, considering the predominant users are elderly people, their safety is being endangered as they are less vigilant as compared to other users (Baron, 2014).

Wearable Devices and their Ethical Iissues

From smart watches to headsets, technology has become the order of the day. This outcome is as a result of the desires and requirements imposed by the users who demand efficient systems that have maximum output but with minimal input. For instance, a smart watch will organise a person’s calendar and make calls at the convenience of the user. Moreover, other sophisticated devices such as wearable helmets monitor brain functions which are then translated to data that determines a person’s thoughts including basic emotions and functional stimuli (Yach, 2015). However, consider the ethical issues involved, first, there is the infringement of people’s privacy and security because of the data transmitted. In addition to this, the users expose their intellectual property i.e. information which in most cases is done without the consent of the people involved (Anaya, Alsadoon, Costadopoulos & Prasad, 2017)


Critical Analysis of the Ethical Issues

As compared to other assets, information is readily available in the world today however, this availability is limited to the quality of data presented. This outcome outlines the thin line of safety as the data obtained from users requires analysis and evaluation to yield conclusive results. However, wearable devices, for instance, smart watches produce raw data that is highly valuable to the users. This data can range from user preferences to confidential detail about their private affairs e.g. bank account numbers. So, what are the results of these wearable devices? On one hand, they increase the efficiency of the users. However, they also expose the information of the user including risking their safety for instance through geo-location facilities (Lynch, 2015).

As a classical theory of ethics, the principles of utility defines an action as being ethical if the results are favourable to those involved. Therefore, wearable devices are an ethical dilemma that weighs between the good outcome of facilitating a better life for the user and the risk of exposing data (Lacewing, 2014). Furthermore, consider the current impact of information technology where the society has little consideration for physical interaction and in its place has increased digital communication through mediums such as social media.  Facilitating these technologies through wearable devices only alienates us even further as a people.

On the other hand, consider the responsibilities held by the users including the developers whose main objective is to integrate information technology with human experiences. While this outcome is good, the actions that lead to these results should also be centred on a moral grounds. The deontology theory highlights the duties and constraints that influence people to do ethical functions (McNaughton & Rawling 2011). Now, several issues with this objectives are seen, one, the current components i.e. people have little regard for consequences if they are anonymous. Secondly, the developers are constantly implementing measures to avoid the responsibility of controlling the said technology. Finally, there are minimal social constraints or duty to govern the use of wearable devices.

Therefore, in the end, despite the intentions of the developed systems, the users are prone to misusing the technology as they lack the necessary restrictions or regulations to guide their activities. Furthermore, the companies involved in their endeavour to satisfy the customers have eroded the social constraints by implementing facilities that promote unethical and unconscious acts. For instance, it’s perfectly normal to film an accident using the live features supported by social media. Therefore, by embedding wearable devices into our daily lives these outcomes will be facilitated and made easier by the simple handheld devices (Lynch, 2015).

Since legal and social laws are being continuously eroded it falls on the virtues (character) of the people involved. While using a wearable device, the supporting systems that collaborate and share information with the worldwide web are coordinated by IT experts who manage as well as monitor the users. An example is given of an elderly user who accesses his confidential information (e.g. bank accounts) in a public environment and because he uses minimal security precautions he exposes his data to a network administrator. The safety of the said data is left to the admin whose virtues or character determines the future outcomes.

Therefore, in an event this access to information is facilitated by a convenient technology, the outcomes again will depend on the virtues of the administrators, a serious ethical issue (Saschina, 2011). Translating this example to current events, wearable devices present many security concerns as most people today have minimal virtues if not none. Furthermore, with the ubiquity presented by the internet, these virtues seem to deteriorate as people feel safe to conduct any activity ethical or not when masked using pseudo names and anonymous accounts.

Finally, let’s evaluate wearable technology based on the social contract theory. Based on this theory, the society is supposed to offer guidelines or rules to govern the way people behave and conduct themselves (Newman, 2015). This theory is based on a lawless environment where no legal laws are in place to monitor people’s behaviour. In light of this theory, wearable devices have a long way to go because the society places zero responsibility on the users as well as the developers. Consider handheld devices that today are used to record and take pictures of people even without their consents. Today it’s normal to find a group of people filming events such as a fight in order to earn praises from their peers.

These outcomes are highly intrusive but have been made to seem as the norm by the society. Moreover, they are so familiar that those who fail to partake in them send out and seem alienated to society. Wearable devices enhance the conveniences of handheld devices which based on the current contractual obligations will enhance the norms adopted by society. When fully integrated users will continuously record events without the regard of the environment i.e. the rights of those involved and even worrying the users will have zero responsibility and in a way will be right in their actions as the society has led them to act as they do.


Technology has helped improve the quality of life through the efficiencies and conveniences it offers. However, while analysing it, one cannot fail to consider the overall impact it has had on the society in general. The most considerable impact being the loss of social values particularly interpersonal skills that facilitate a moral code of conduct. Similarly wearable technologies although beneficial expose the users to many ethical issues and dilemma. Moreover, these outcomes are being seen at a time when the technology is at infancy stages. Considering that the technology is projected to enhance other systems such as the Internet of Things, we are set for many logistical and operational issues, let alone the ethics concerned.

 In the future, the society should aim to provide basic guidelines to govern the behaviours of those involved. However, these guidelines will depend on individuals as they make up the society. A change of culture and attitude is needed to meet the optimal ethical standards as envisioned by the classical theories of ethics. Nevertheless, these theories which now serve as guidelines will also have to adapt to the existing trends to meet the needs of the society.



Anaya. S, Alsadoon. A, Costadopoulos. N & Prasad. P. (2017). Ethical Implications of User Perceptions of Wearable Devices. Science Engineering and Ethics. Retrieved 13 May, 2017, from:

Baron. (2014). Notre Dame’s Reilly Center releases 2015 List of Emerging Ethical Dilemmas and Policy Issues in Science and Technology. Notre Dame News. Retrieved 13 May, 2017, from:

Burke. C. (2015) Pentagon Creating 'Vampire-Like' Drones That Disappears in Sunlight. Newsmax. Retrieved 13 May, 2017, from:

Lacewing. M. (2014). Kant’s deontological ethics. Routledge Taylor & Francis group. Retrieved 13 May, from:  

Lacewing. M. (2014). Utilitarianism. Routledge Taylor & Francis group. Retrieved 13 May, 2017, from:

Lynch. M. (2015). Ethical Issues in Electronic Information Systems. Retrieved 13 May, 2017, from:

McNaughton. D & Rawling. P. (2011). Deontological ethics. Retrieved 13 May, 2017, from:

Newman. L. (2015). DARPA Wants to Create Delivery Vehicles That Vanish After Dropping Off Their Payload. Retrieved 13 May, 2017, from:

Saschina. (2011). Ethical theories. A comparison of the three main branches of normative ethics. Retrieved 13 May, 2017, from:

Yach. D. (2015). 3 key issues for wearable tech and health. World Economic Forum. Retrieved 13 May, 2017, from:


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