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In addition to identifying a contentious situation in ICT and dissecting the argument(s) about it.

1.be able to identify ethical issues related to ICT.
2.be able to assess the implications of ethical problems.
3.be able to critically evaluate solutions to ethical problems.
4.be able to apply ethical theories to ethical problems.
5.be able to argue consistently and rationally about the moral issues raised by the adoption and use of ICT.
6.be able to analyse ethical situations using critical thinking techniques.

The assessment item is designed to help you to build skills towards achieving the learning objectives, by requiring you to:

Identify an ICT-related ethical issue from a media article or case study;:


Apply classical ethical theory to the analysis of an ethically questionable situation to determine the rightness or wrongness of actions/decisions made therein.derive logical and justifiable conclusions to resolve the ethical issue.

Utilitarianism ethical theory and its evaluation of the issue

The purpose of this essay is to evaluate the article posted by Santa Clara University titled ‘Do You Own Your Data?’ in order to identify the ICT-related ethical issue raised in the article. This article is written by Irina Raicu who discussed the ethical issue of privacy which has become prominent due to popularity of free online services (Raicu, 2018). This article argues that personal data of individuals is used as a commodity by internet companies who offer their services “free” to their users. The personal data of people make them who they are, and it is considered as an organ of the person. It is considered that the so-called ‘free’ services are not free and users pay for those services by sharing their personal data. However, since personal data is considered as an organ of people, then it makes those transactions more akin to organ donation. Moreover, some people wanted to share their private data (organ) for specific purposes such as medical research rather than targeted advertising (Mundie, 2014). Due to lack of regulations, these transactions have imposed significant threat on the breach of private data of users. In this essay, four ethical theories will be evaluated to analyse this article which includes utilitarianism, deontology, virtue and contract. Lastly, recommendations will be given to address the major ethical issues raised in this article.

The Utilitarianism ethical theory is a part of normative ethical theories which primarily concern regarding the consequences of ethical decisions; therefore, it is also called consequentialist theory (Hayry, 2013). As per this theory, the consequences of an action are evaluated to assess whether such action is considered ethical or not. This theory focuses on achieving the greater good for a greater number of people. The actions of modern corporations in relation to collecting the private data of users are considered as unethical practices as per utilitarianism ethical theory. The negative consequences of these actions resulted in adversely affecting the interest of a large number of people. A good example is the recent ‘Cambridge Analytica scandal’ in which hackers collected and misused private data of 87 million Facebook users (Chang, 2018).

These hackers collected the private data of users due to Facebook’s policies which allowed developed to collect private data of users’ and their friends without their consent. This data was used for finding potential voters to support the Presidential Campaign of Donald Trump. Moreover, Raicu (2018) argued in the article that using personal data as commodity which can be exchanged to access services of companies is not a viable way to conduct business. Therefore, these practices are unethical as per the principles of utilitarianism ethical theory.

Deontological ethical theory and its evaluation of the issue

The deontological ethical theory is opposite of the utilitarianism theory since it focuses on duty rather than consequences of a situation. This theory argues that a moral society requires that people should comply with their basic duties. As per this theory, the actions which are taken by an individual or entity by breaching the duties are considered as unethical even if the consequences of such breach leads to achieving the happiness of a greater number of people (Paquette, Sommerfeldt & Kent, 2015). The actions of large and small internet companies that advertise their services as “free” for their users and in return they collect their private data and sell it to third parties are unethical.

A study conducted by Rainie and Duggan (2016) finds that most Americans are unaware about the type of data which the share their online companies and the potential threat of sharing such data. It shows that these companies are taking unfair advantage of lack of understanding of people to collect and harvest their data. Recently, a fine of €50 million is imposed on Google for its failure to comply with GDPR guidelines (Fox, 2019). As per these regulations, the companies have to collect genuine consent of their users while collecting their private data; however, the CNIL found that Google’s data consent policies are not easily accessible or transparent. It shows that companies are violating their duties to collect private data of users which is unethical.

The Virtue ethical theory focuses on moral character and virtues of a person to determine whether the actions taken are considered as ethical or not. The character of the person taking the decision is evaluated in this theory rather than analyse of consequences or duties. Good virtues include integrity, compassion, prudence, honesty, respect and others. Bad virtues include carelessness, selfish ambition, unfairness, corruption and others (Audi, 2012). The private data of individuals collected by companies is used for their selfish ambition by showing relevant advertisements to customers in order to earn more profits. Organisations confuse their users in relation to sharing their data, and they did not maintain transparency in the operations to ensure that they did not know about their true intentions. These companies rarely operate with good virtues such as honesty, integrity and respect for their users to protect their private data (de Andrade, Martin & Monteleone, 2013). Therefore, the collection of private data by internet companies is considered unethical based on the principles of virtue ethical theory.

Virtue ethical theory and its evaluation of the issue

The Contract theory or Contractarianism provides that there are certain set of rules which governs the behaviour of individuals in society and individuals should comply with these policies (Luetge, Armbruster & Muller, 2016). The purpose of these policies is to govern the behaviour of individuals to ensure that the act rationally and ethically. The actions taken by internet companies to collect private data of users are itself a breach of their privacy. By collecting private data of users, these companies trespass into the lives of individuals, and they misuse their data without their consent. It raises a major issue in relation to breach of private data which makes it vulnerable towards cyber-attacks based on which the actions of internet companies are unethical (Landau, 2015).

The popularity of social media websites and free online services has made it impossible for people to protect their data from companies. However, the major issue is highlighted in the article is that most people are unaware of the type of private data which is collected by free online services websites (Rainie & Duggan, 2016). They are also completely unaware of why companies collect such data and how they use them. Along with large enterprises such as Facebook and Google, small entrepreneurs are collecting private data of individuals as well. These small corporations did not have resources or capability to protect this data from cyber criminals which leads to violating the private of users. The government should impose stricter regulations to address this issue by governing the actions of companies. The imposition of GDPR is a good example; however, countries should join together to impose these policies on companies. Internet is a global platform; therefore, policies which govern the operations of companies operating on the internet should be global as well (Victor, 2013). Organisations should implement corporate social responsibility (CSR) policies which will hold them accountable for their stakeholders, and they are likely to maintain transparency while conducting business operations.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the threat of breach of privacy of users has increased as it became easier for companies to exploit the private data of users. Organisations are collecting private data of users without getting their effective consent which poses many privacy-related ethical issues. These issues can only be addressed if the government impose stricter regulations on these companies which enforce them to disclose the data which they are collecting and its purpose. It is important that companies should also act ethically by complying with CSR policies which will allow them to conduct their operations in an ethical manner.

References

Audi, R. (2012). Virtue ethics as a resource in business. Business Ethics Quarterly, 22(2), 273-291.

Chang, A. (2018). The Facebook and Cambridge Analytica scandal, explained with a simple diagram. Retrieved from https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2018/3/23/17151916/facebook-cambridge-analytica-trump-diagram

de Andrade, N. N. G., Martin, A., & Monteleone, S. (2013). " All the Better to See You with, My Dear": Facial Recognition and Privacy in Online Social Networks. IEEE security & privacy, 11(3), 21-28.

Fox, C. (2019). Google hit with £44m GDPR fine over ads. Retrieved from https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-46944696

Hayry, M. (2013). Liberal utilitarianism and applied ethics. Abingdon: Routledge.

Landau, S. (2015). Control use of data to protect privacy. Science, 347(6221), 504-506.

Luetge, C., Armbrüster, T., & Muller, J. (2016). Order ethics: Bridging the gap between contractarianism and business ethics. Journal of Business Ethics, 136(4), 687-697.

Mundie, C. (2014). Privacy Pragmatism; Focus on Data Use, Not Data Collection. Foreign Aff., 93, 28.

Paquette, M., Sommerfeldt, E. J., & Kent, M. L. (2015). Do the ends justify the means? Dialogue, development communication, and deontological ethics. Public Relations Review, 41(1), 30-39.

Raicu, I. (2018). Do You Own Your Data?. Retrieved from https://www.scu.edu/ethics/privacy/do-you-own-your-data/

Rainie, L. & Duggan, M. (2016). Privacy and Information Sharing. Retrieved from https://www.pewinternet.org/2016/01/14/privacy-and-information-sharing/

Victor, J. M. (2013). The EU general data protection regulation: Toward a property regime for protecting data privacy. Yale LJ, 123, 513.

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