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Application of Doing Ethics Technique on the Case

Discuss about the Ethical Issues In The Whistleblowing Case Related To Edward Snowden.

In the professional lives, ethics are important to maintain integrity of the profession. The ethics are important in professional lives as they manage the relationship between distribution, formation and use of information. They are essential in forming ethical standards and moral obligations to govern the actions of the people in the society. The information ethics pertains to the ethical issues such as privacy of the data, information censor and misrepresented facts in the organization. The present report uses ‘Doing Ethics’ technique to evaluate the ethical dilemma of Edward Snowden. There was a high controversy, when Edward Snowden leaked the confidential information of the US government. The US government condemned the action as it was collecting private information for benefit of the society. However, Snowden was concerned that the government is breaching the privacy of the US citizens. As a result of the whistleblowing case, Snowden has to leave the country and seek safe haven at other places. The government is trying to extradite the accused in the USA.

In the present report, the ACS code of ethics is also applied to the case so that the Snowden case can be analyzed in an ethical manner. The ACS code of ethics comprises of six core values, which should be followed by all the IT professionals, while providing services to the society.  In the present report, the vase of Edward Snowden will be analyzed through two methods, doing ethics technique and ACS code of conduct.

The doing ethics technique is an ethical framework, which assists an individual in taking ethical issues in the personal and the professional life. It is an important tool which can differentiate between ethical and non-ethical issues. In this process, an appropriate answer is identified after evaluating all the course of actions. In the below section, the framework is applied to the case:

What’s going on?

The case is about whistleblowing controversy wherein Edward Snowden leaked the confidential information related to National Security Agency (NSA). He was responsible for managing the information in the NSA. Snowden was a defense contractor, while working in Booz Allen Hamilton, he was contracted to maintain the confidential information of NSA. The US government and legal authorities identified that the terms of confidential information breach has occurred. It means that Snowden has breached Espionage Act 1917 and betrayed the US government. Snowden stated that there was no breach in ethical policies as he made the public aware that their personal information is getting breached. He made the public aware of the wrongdoings of the government; therefore, his act was morally justified.

What are the Facts?

Who is affected?: Edward Snowden

There are certain facts in the case, which are discussed in the below section:

  • The first fact is that Edward Snowden was a contractor of NSA and employed to maintain the database of the government. However, during the employment course, he collected confidential information regarding the surveillance program of the government. In this program, the government collected private information of the people from their phone and internet traffic to identify is there any potential link to the terrorist activities (Warren and Lucas, 2016).
  • According to the US government, Snowden breached the terms and policies of Espionage Act 1927.
  • According to the government, Snowden was working in some other company and accepted the job only to leak the information related to NSA surveillance program.
  • There are several people, whose information NSA was collecting, without their consent or knowledge.
What are the issues?

There were several issues raised in the whole scenario. These issues are discussed in the below section:

  • The first issue is the action of the government, which breached the privacy right of the people. According to this right, every person has a control over their personal lives and should be able to control over their private or personal information. However, the US government breached the privacy right of its citizens.
  • The justification given by the government is that it initiated the program to identify any potential leads to the terrorist activities.
  • Snowden leaked sensitive information about the program, which created outrage among the people. The employees came to know about the secret program of the government.
  • The US government was not happy as it considered that the Snowden breached the privacy laws, and portrayed the government in a negative light. Snowden leaked the information about the program, which will also affect the foreign relations of the government (Venables, Tan and Pradhan, 2014).
  • The citizen of the country considered that it is a breach in the rights of the people as they cannot trust that their confidential information is protected.
  • After the incidence, Snowden flew from the country, which shows that he was somewhat guilty.

The major protagonist of the present case is Edward Snowden, who leaked the confidential data of the government and created chaos in the USA as well as other parts of the world. He leaked the information to major newspapers and flew away from the country. Snowden left everything, his career and his past life so that he can reveal information in the public interest. Howeverm as soon as he revealed the information, he has to fly away from the country to avoid any legal action against him. Since the incident, he has to fly away in different safe homes to protect self.

The US government was another major stakeholder in the incident as the relationship of the government with other countries as well as with its citizens is ruined. The people started mistrusting their government as it has breached the sensitive information of the employees. As a result, Obama government prevented the NSA from further intruding the lives of its people. It prevented NSA and other investigation agencies in collecting information about the phone calls and the internet traffic from the people without their prior approval. In case of high emergency, these agencies should find an approval from the government. There are different countries such as Russia, Brazil and Germany, which have condemned the action of the US government. The German government undertook an individual action to investigate whether the privacy of the citizens of their country has been breached (Edgar, 2016). The Brazilian government was also not happy with this action of the government.

The US citizens were deeply affected by the incident. They had no knowledge that their privacy has been compromised in the country. They realized that the government collects their information without their knowledge. It reduced the trust of the public toward the government. Several people supported the actions of the Edward Snowden, as it brought to the limelight the wrongdoings and actions of the US government. The national security is a major issue; however, it is important that the government protects the privacy rights of the individuals (Murata, Adams, and Lara Palma, 2017).

There are certain ethical issues in the case. Firstly, the US government was not ethically correct as it breached the privacy of the citizens in the USA. The government violated the privacy and due to the public outrage, it withdrew the program. The utilitarianism theory states that the all the actions are justified, which are beneficial for the public in general (Birsh, 2013). The government is extracting the information and conducting data mining activities as it is concerned about the terrorist activities in the country. However, deontological ethics state that the people should abide by the ethical decisions in each and every course of action (Broad, 2014). According to this theory, the action of the US government was unethical as it breached the privacy of the people in living in different parts of the world. According to the deontological theory, the actions of Edward Snowden are also not ethical, as instead of approaching higher authorities and the government with the information, he leaked the confidential information of the government to the media agencies. Snowden also breached his contract with the government and his employer. Therefore, his actions cannot be completely justified (Naughton, 2013). Along with it, the actions of NSA and the government were also unethical to some extent as they breached the rights of the citizens. Other than that, the actions of Snowden can also be analyzed through social contract theory, which states that when a person is living in a society, he should be responsible for the benefits of the society. He should be considerate that his actions are beneficial for the society. It can be realized that the actions of Snowden are completely justified (Daily Mail, 2013). He provided information about the government actions, which were against the public. Therefore, this theory completely justifies the morality of actions of Snowden.

US government

There are several alternative approaches, which can be proposed according to the ethical theories. Edward Snowden leaked the sensitive information of the government, which resulted him in flying away to other countries. The government can ask him to come back and live his previous life with assurance of a fair trial. NSA is required to change the policies to ensure that the privacy of the people is not breached with the actions of the government. The NSA should assure that in the future, they are not breaching the privacy of the people without the permission of the court. The government should realize it is important to bring Snowden back as it will not be morally correct to deprive him of his previous life. He can also pose as a potential threat to the country, as he might have other confidential information related to the country. It may further tarnish the reputation of the US government (Driver, 2013). His security is also essential as the terrorists might capture him and attain access to the private information related to other confidential sections of the government.

In the present case, there are a few options, which can be used to resolve the present issue. Snowden cannot come back to the country as the US government will take very strict actions against him. He is a potential threat to the country and the terrorists can capture him to gain access to the private send confidential data of the company. The terrorists can gain access to the confidential data, which can be detrimental to the security of the country. Snowden is not secured both inside and outside the country. If he will enter the country, the government will need to change the policies for the data collection, which will further, impact the privacy of the people. If the government increases the privacy of the citizens, it will make the people happy; however, it will increase the work of the government agencies as they cannot conduct data mining on the electronic data and identify any data breach (Nolan, 2013). It will further increase the probability of potential terrorist attack, which will increase the responsibility of the US government. Another action is that Snowden is invited back to the country and correct and unbiased legal actions are taken against him.

According to the ethical theories and the doing ethics framework, it has been analyzed that the US government should change its policies regarding the privacy of the users (Black & Roberts, 2011). The US government should change its policies for the collection of the private and the personal data without attaining permission of the court. It will reinstate the trust of the people on the government and improve the bilateral relations of the country. Snowden can return back to the country and achieve the status of the citizen of the country; however, he should be reassured that he will be provided an ethical and just response at the organization (Scheuerman, 2014).

The Primacy of Public Interest

US Citizens

The ACS code of Ethics state that the public interest should be the prime concern for the ICT professionals. An ICT professional should take actions by analyzing its impact on the organization as well as on the society. The person should analyze that the actions of the government should comply with the government regulations and the public interest should be given the prime importance (Brinkman, Gotterbarn, Miller & Wolf, 2016). According to the case, Snowden followed the ACS code of conduct and prioritize the interest of the society. Snowden followed the interest of the society and reveal to the people, that their actions are breaching the interest of the public. The data mining and the information collection program of NSA has privacy right of the public. The collection of public data from the telephone calls and the internet traffic is not ethically correct for the people (Brinkman & Sanders, 2012). The agency violated the government laws and breached the interest of the public.

The enhancement of quality of life means that the people should emphasize improving their quality of life. The aim of research and technological developments in Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is to improve the lifestyle of the people and the overall society. Snowden was aware that the NSA program impacted the lives of the people in a negative manner. The whole program was a breach of the public privacy; however, the court did not collect the private permission of the court. Therefore, Snowden fulfilled his duties to improve the quality of life of the people.

In the present competitive world, it is important that IT professionals should take all the actions based on professional integrity and honesty. However, there are several instances in which the companies might misuse their power or use deceptive activities for the personal benefits. The companies might do illegal activities and use deceptive means to cover them. However, the ACS code of conduct strictly prohibits this kind of activities (Berleur & Brunnstein, 2016). In the present case, NSA was collecting the private information of the public through unethical means, which is not right according to ACS code of conduct. In the present case, the collection of data was a serious security breach and disrespect to the privacy laws of the society. Snowden also breached honesty principle, as did not respect the employment contract. The lack of dishonesty resulted in the loss of trust of the stakeholders.

What are the Ethical issues and Implications?

The competence is the principle, which states that an individual should only accept the work, which he is able to perform and must be able to apply the knowledge.

It means that he should be acquainted with current technological developments and must ensure that he remains updated with the latest development and legislations in the technology.

The ICT professional should maintain the professional standards, while performing different actions. Snowden leaked the private information of NSA and breached national security (Ocholla, Onyancha and Britz, 2010).

Conclusion

Conclusively, it can be stated that the Edward Snowden case has several ethical issues, which was analyzed with the help of DET technique and ICT code of professionals. According to the US government, Snowden violated Espionage Act and breached the national security of the country. The incident is analyzed to examine the morality and ethic of the action. It has been analyzed that the action of Snowden can be justified by the ACS code of Ethics. Therefore, it is recommended that the US government should change its spying policies and call Snowden for a fair trial in the US.

References

Berleur, J.J., & Brunnstein, K. (2016). Ethics of Computing: Codes, spaces for discussion and law. Springer.

Birsh, D. (2013). Introduction to Ethical Theories: A Procedural Approach. Waveland Press.

Black, J., & Roberts, C. (2011). Doing Ethics in Media: Theories and Practical Applications. Taylor & Francis.

Brinkman, B., Gotterbarn, D., Miller, K., & Wolf, M. J. (2016). Making a positive impact: updating the ACM code of ethics. Communications of the ACM, 59(12), 7-13.

Brinkman, W.J. & Sanders, A.F. (2012). Ethics in a Computing Culture. Cengage Learning.

Broad, C.D. (2014). Five Types of Ethical Theory. Routledge.

Daily Mail. (2013) Edward Snowden says he took a job with Booz Allen specifically so he could gather information on NSA surveillance programs. Daily Mail. [Online]  Available at: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2347691/Edward-Snowden-reveals-took-job-Booz-Allen-gather-information-NSA-surveillance-programs.html [Accessed 3 February 2018].

Driver, J. (2013). Ethics: The Fundamentals. John Wiley & Sons.

Edgar, T.H. (2016). Why the NSA Should Thank Edward Snowden. Fortune. [Online]. Available at: https://fortune.com/2017/10/03/edward-snowden-nsa-fisa-section-702/ [Accessed on: 10 May 2018].

Murata, K., Adams, A.A. and Lara Palma, A.M. (2017) Following Snowden: a cross-cultural study on the social impact of Snowden’s revelations. Journal of Information, Communication and Ethics in Society, 15(3), pp.183-196.

Naughton, J. (2013) After Edward Snowden's revelations, why trust US cloud providers?. [Online] The Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2013/sep/15/edward-snowden-nsa-cloud-computing [Accessed 3 February 2018].

Nolan, R. (2013) 5 Undeniable Fallouts from the Edward Snowden Leaks. [Online] US News. Available at: https://www.usnews.com/opinion/blogs/world-report/2013/09/20/brazil-russia-and-the-impact-of-edward-snowden-on-us-foreign-relations [Accessed 3 February 2018].

Ocholla, D.N., Onyancha, O.B. and Britz, J. (2010) Can information ethics be conceptualized by using the core/periphery model?. Journal of informetrics, 4(4), pp.492-502.

Scheuerman, W.E. (2014) Whistleblowing as civil disobedience: The case of Edward Snowden. Philosophy & Social Criticism, 40(7), pp.609-628.

Venables, A.T., Tan, G. and Pradhan, S. (2014) A collaborative framework for a cross-institutional assessment to shape future IT professionals. Issues in Informing Science and Information Technology, 11, pp.215-223.

Warren, M. and Lucas, R. (2016) Ethics and ICT: Why all the fuss?. Journal of Information, Communication and Ethics in Society, 14(2), pp.167-169.

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