Discuss about the ICT Ethics for IT Consultancy Project.
This paper attempts to understand various forms of ethical issues that can arise in ICT projects by exploring one case of an IT consultancy project and identifying various kinds of issues. It would assess the issues considering the code of ethics to determine how these may be resolved considering ethical codes of conduct.
A IT consultancy organization need to take interviews of the employees of the client organization to understand their current knowledge of working and business processes which could be used for understanding the organization such that appropriate ICT tools can be suggested for implementation. However, this personal interaction between the design company professionals and the company employees could also result into disclosure of personal or organisational weaknesses. An employee may even talk about shortcomings in the client organization. In the process, people interviewed may also make personal remarks about their seniors that could be negative. This can raise an issue of privacy if the interviewers are asked by senior managers to disclose the responses of individual employees (Ferguson, et al., 2005).
The case can be analyses considering the ACS codes of ethics that requires an organization to adhere to codes of ethics related to priorities and social implications:
Priorities: As per ACS code, the interest of community must be placed over the interest of individuals. Thus, the consultancy staff must ensure that the responses obtained from the client staff remain confidential. In case any conflicts of interests are identified between staff of the client, the client may be advised on ways to resolve them.
Social Implications: The code requires that a consultancy organization must work towards enhancement of the lives of people affected by their services. This requires maintenance of privacy of all the people who would be affected by the survey in the present case. An equal treatment must be given to employees or people working on the project with due respect and no unfairness against stereotypes (Stahl, 2012).
Thus, in order to maintain the codes of ethics, an ICT company is required to understand and resolve issues that could be related to confidentiality and disclosure, privacy and respect.
Confidentiality & Disclosure: Confidentiality as per ethical codes talks about how the information, that is been disclosed by an individual due to the trusted relationship established between two individuals interacting, is treated. Confidentiality is about protection of data that can be used for identifying an individual and it is maintained with an agreement established between interested parties on the extent of the use of private information. In the current case, if the consultant discloses the responses of the employees interviewed to the senior manager of the company for some personal benefit then it would be the breach of confidentiality clause. The interview is intended to understand the working of the company and individual as a part of the unit and not about understanding the individual preferences of emotional relationships (Johnson, 2015).
Privacy & respect: Privacy is defined by the control that an individual has on sharing personal information with others. It is about people who have the right to get protection from disclosure of private information to wrong people who may misuse the information for their benefit. For instance, in the current case, if the personal details of one of the employees of the client organization is received which may benefit another organization or individual in some way and if the consulting organizations employees shares the same then it would be an invasion of privacy. The client organization can take the private details of the person such as about the family and can use the same for own benefit to invade on the privacy. A person’s privacy has to be given respect and thus, should not be disclosed or misused for any other purpose than what the interview was intended for.
Stakeholders of a consultancy project would include client management, its employees, and employees of the IT consultancy and the customers of the client organization. How each of these stakeholders may be affected by the ethical standards, practices and breaches is explained in the table below:
Management - Senior Employees of Client
Senior management would be sharing company processes, working and some confidential information with the ICT consultant that can be used against the organization is leaked to the competition by the consultant. Thus it raises the concerns of disclosure
Employees of Client
Employee personal information can be leaked or misused. Also, their personal responses can get disclosed to higher management that can affect their professional lives. This raises a concern of confidentiality.
Employees of consulting organization
Employees of the consulting organization must get accurate data from the employees interviewed failing which wrong interpretations may be made and wrong suggestions would go to client spoiling their reputation. Thus, this raises concerns of accuracy.
While exploring the data for assessing ICT systems, the consultant can gain access to the information about the customers of the client organization which can be stolen, leaked or misused.
Various forms of ethical breaches that can occur in an ICT project in the case discussed can be related to ownership, control, accuracy and security.
Ownership: When working with a client organization that an ICT consulting organization would be providing services, the consultant is likely to receive access to much internal and confidential information about a company. This could be related to the product, designs, and execution strategies and so on. If such information is leaked into the market, especially to competition then it can harm the strategic position of the organization. Thus, an agreement should be made between the organization and consultant on nondisclosure for the information that is not owned by the consultant.
Control: a company may establish control over what activities a consultant may perform when assisting the client organization. This would involve monitoring of the consultant staff to have an understanding of how the organizations IT assets are being used. This monitoring may include the watch on websites visited, use of email system and access to private information about internal employees (Doridot, 2013).
Accuracy: Accurate information brings the power for efficient decision making and thus, an organization must ensure that the information provided to the consultant for suggesting improvements or establishments in ICT infrastructure is accurate. The responsibility of providing accurate information would lie on the employees who would be interviewed to gather the requirement for the ICT project.
Security: the systems used by the organization for any ICT project must be protected from security breaches such that personal data of employees do not get leaked to hackers affecting their private or professional lives. This would need company to establish systems for monitoring ICT infrastructure and identify if they are exposed to any forms of security threats such that the same can be resolved preventing their impacts on employees and systems of the organization.
ICT systems have become integral parts in any organizations and they require significant investments to be made. In case any ethical breaches are faced then it can cause the liability for an organization as a consequence. For instance, if the customer data provided to ICT consultant gets leaked into the market, it will result into the loss of image for the client organisational as well as loss of the customer. In such a case, if the customer spreads a bad word of mouth, it would also prevent other people from taking products or services of client organizations leading to loss of sales.
This paper involved exploration of various types of ethical issues that may arise on an ICT project for which ethical standards and related issues like confidentiality and privacy were discussed. For this, a case study of an IT consulting organization catering to a client organization was taken and based on the case; stakeholders were identified to understand how ethical issues can impact each of the stakeholders. Possible ethical breaches in the ICT projects were also identified and their consequences were determined.
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