Analysis of this article “maker of smartphone surveillance app fined, avoid jail time”.
Analysis of this article “maker of smartphone surveillance app fined, avoid jail time” by Matt Zapotosky is undertaken using “just consequentialism” and “Utilitarianism” classical ethical theories to showcase how Hammad Akbar (smartphone maker) violated privacy and security ethical consideration (Zapotosky, 2014, p.1). These two ethical theories are useful in this paper to present a well-reasoned argument for both assessment and recommendations. Privacy and Security remain the selected Information communication technology-linked issues identified in this media article and form the basis of this analysis. The violation of both privacy and security of the Smartphone users through Hammad’s “StealthGenie” app is the ethically questionable context created in this article which is examined to determine the rightness or wrongness of actions or decisions made therein (Zapotosky, 2014, p.1). A logical and justifiable deduction are consequently drawn to resolve these ethical issues (security and privacy violation). In this case, the logical argument is that smartphone surveillance app, “StealthGenie” creates privacy and security issues to the users.
Analysis of Article
It is ethically wrong to listen in on phone calls and track locations in the name of helping catch the cheating lovers since it skyrocketed domestic violence (Zapotosky, 2014, p.1). “StealthGenie” unethically permitted users to monitor surreptitiously the activities of individuals whose phones had the program installed (Zapotosky, 2014, p.1). It was unethical to monitor, gather and record an individual’s phone information including calendar entry, photos, and contacts. Recording calls and listening to them later, as well as activation of the microphone to just allow users listen to the ambient sounds of the daily life of a target depending on the website's cached version, were ethical violations (Zapotosky, 2014, p.1). Plotting targets’ movements on an online map exposed them to high security and privacy risks. “StealthGenie” required users to access physical control of phones of target to install the app and consequently run the surveillance secretly which violated privacy and security of targets. Even if “StealthGenie” surveillance could have been legal, it would still raise ethical questions where the consent of the target were not sought out before installing and running the surveillance (Zapotosky, 2014, p.1).
The underlying operation of “Just Consequentialism” ethical theory is that consequences examine benefits against harms of any action being undertaken. The central point is to determine both benefits and harms of “StealthGenie” keeping in mind that human beings possess a common nature and values. In other words, human beings consider certain kinds of actions as goods and evils (Moor, 1999, p.62). Generally, the central goods encompass life, happiness as well as autonomy whereas evils entail unhappiness, death and absence of autonomy. Irrespective of goals sought out by human beings; the underlying needs are security, freedom, ability and knowledge to achieve their respective projects (Mthoko & Pade-Khene, 2013, p. 73).
An individual has to avoid actions that inflict unjustified harm to other people. An individual who embraces a “just consequentialism” perspective must be concerned for other people at least to the extent a person tries not to harm others. In this article, Hammad did not show concerned for others but wanted to make profits and, therefore, violated ethical practice (Robertson, Morris & Walter, 2007, p. 49). The consequences of Hammad’s actions inflicted strict security and privacy harm to the users to an extent that domestic violence heightened.
It is evident that Hammad did not consider the provisions of “just consequentialism” theory before creating “StealthGenie” which only promoted evils including unhappiness, and lack of autonomy through infringement in freedom of movement, security and privacy to personal phone information of targets (Nordkvelle & Olson, 2005, p. 45). Security and freedom are fundamental happiness drivers according to “just consequentialism” ethical theory which was both violated in Hammad’s actions.
“Just Consequentialism” ethical theory embraces ethical standpoint by seeking computing policies which at least safeguard if not enhance human flourishing. In other words, it promotes the core mentioned goods as a means to mark fundamental human rights. It uses the principle of justice the protection of fundamental rights of human which guides people in shaping ethical policies for utilizing computer technology (Marques, 2015, p. 87). Examination of Hammad’s actions in creating the smartphone remains contrary to enhancing the core goods and protection of human rights to security, privacy and freedom of movement. Accordingly, Hammad adopted computing policies that fell short of being above all just.
Utilitarianism ethical theory is also relevant in analyzing Hammad’s actions in making “StealthGenie.” In the modern society, this theory is useful in determining particular choices that are morally needed, permitted as well as forbidden. It is helpful in moral assessment and guidance of the choices which people ought to undertake (Gert, 2012, p.78). The underlying principle of utilitarian ethical theory is that actions should promote “Greatest Happiness.” Relating this to the current article, Hammad’s actions did not promote “Greatest Happiness” to the users of the smartphone.
Secret surveillance and intrusion into targets’ phone information infringed security and privacy and promoted domestic violence (Shoemaker, 1999, p. 50). Utilitarianism ethical theory, however, posit that actions are right as long as they promote the social good rather than an individual good. In this article, a majority of targets were victimized at the expense of few spouses who tracked their spouses only to cause domestic violence (Stahl et al., 2014, p.82). It is, therefore, that by infringing on privacy, security and freedom of targets, Hammad did not adhere to the principle of “Greatest Happiness”.
The underlying ICT-related ethical issues that Hammad violated were privacy and security. To solve these issues, people need to remain proactive and consider the provisions of both “Utilitarianism” and “Just Consequentialism” ethical before undertaking any action. People know what actions are rated goods and evils in the society, and this consideration must precede any action (Franzcp, 2007, p. 67).
An individual should always be concerned with others and avoid all actions that can harm others. As revealed in the discussion, the core goods include happiness, security and autonomy (Crowden, 2003, p.56). These core aspects must remain the basis upon which any action is pre-evaluated by weighing benefits against harms of an action on a case by case framework. Smartphone surveillance app, “StealthGenie” creates privacy and security issues to the users and should, therefore, remain prohibited.
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