S3 provides satellite tracking services to clients such as the District of Columbia, Fairfax County, state and federal government agencies, police departments, and private companies. These services equip each vehicle or person they are monitoring with a tracking device using global positioning system (GPS) technology. GPS is a navigation system operated by the U. S. Department of Defense based on satellites that continually broadcast their position, time, and date. GPS receivers on the ground, which can be attached to vehicles, cell phones, or other equipment, use information from the satellite signals to calculate their own locations. Cell phones are now equipped with GPS. The D. C. ublic school system is spending $6 million on its GPS tracking system. It is equipping buses with GPS locators and special-needs children riding those buses with ID cards that log when they get on and off their buses. Parents receive secret codes that enable them to use the Internet to track their children. S3’s monitoring center picks up GPS information from the tracking devices and monitors the locations of the buses on video screens. Most of the monitoring is automated, and the S3 staff intervenes primarily in emergencies. S3 maintains each day’s tracking data for long periods, and clients can access historical tracking data if they wish. S3 provides detailed information to the D. C. ublic schools: each bus’s route throughout the day, when the bus stops, when the doors open and close, the speed, and when the ignition is turned on and off. The S3 system includes a database with information on the bus passengers—each child’s name, address, disabilities, allergies, contact information, and when their school days begin and end. David Gilmore, the court-appointed transportation administrator for the D. C. public schools has seen improvement in bus driver performance. Reports of bus drivers making detours to banks or to take long lunches are diminishing. Parents are also pleased. “I like that the system lets you watch them, because you never know what’s going on in the bus,” says Deneen Prior, whose three children ride D. C. public school buses.
However, she also worries about the location tracking data being misused. “I don’t want anybody watching them that’s not supposed to be watching them,” she notes. Others feel the same way. Location tracking has benefits, but it also opens the door to potential invasion of privacy. Many people may not like having their physical move125 126 Part One Organizations, Management, and the Networked Enterprise ments tracked so closely. Location information might help direct a tow truck to a broken-down car, but it could also be used to find out where the driver went during the lunch hour. For similar reasons, privacy advocacy groups have opposed the use of radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags in consumer items.
RFID tags are small silicon chips equipped with tiny antennas that enable them to communicate with RFID readers and track the location of items as they move. When placed on individual products, they allow companies to tell exactly when a product leaves a store or learn more about the actions of consumers buying the products. Designer Lauren Scott had planned to add radio frequency tags to the childrens’ clothing she designed to help parents keep track of their children. An RFID tag sewn into a child’s clothing could store vital medical information or track the wearer’s location to prevent children from being abducted or wandering away. As a result of the controversy surrounding RFID, however, several of Scott’s major customers asked that the tags not be sewn directly into the clothing.
Sources: Mel Duvall, “At the Seams of RFID,” Baseline, April 2006; Ariana Eunjung Cha, “To Protect and Intrude,” The Washington Post, January 15, 2005; and Christopher Lindquist, “Watch Carefully,” CIO Magazine, May 15, 2005. he use of location tracking systems described in the chapter-opening case shows that technology can be a double-edged sword. It can be the source of many benefits, and it can also create new opportunities for breaking the law or taking benefits away from others. The chapter-opening diagram calls attention to important points raised by this case and this chapter. The D. C. public school system faced a real problem in trying to make sure its drivers were transporting children safely and promptly to school.
Location tracking technology provided a solution, but it also introduced the possibility that information about the people or vehicles S3 T Chapter 4 Ethical and Social Issues in Information Systems 127 tracked could be used for the wrong purpose. Location tracking technology had a similar impact for designer Lauren Scott’s children’s clothing business. This solution created what we call an “ethical dilemma,” pitting the legitimate need to know what drivers of school buses were doing with the fear that such information could be used to threaten individual privacy. Another ethical dilemma might occur if you were implementing a new information system that reduced labor costs and eliminated employees’ jobs.
You need to be aware of the negative impacts of information systems and you need to balance the negative consequences with the positive ones. HEADS UP Information systems raise new and often-perplexing ethical problems. This is more true today than ever because of the challenges posed by the Internet and electronic commerce to the protection of privacy and intellectual property. Other ethical issues raised by widespread use of information systems include establishing accountability for the consequences of information systems, setting standards to safeguard system quality that protect the safety of individuals and society, and preserving values and institutions considered essential to the quality of life in an information society.
Whether you run your own business or work in a large company, you’ll be confronting these issues, and you’ll need to know how to deal with them. • If your career is in finance and accounting, you will need to ensure that the information systems you work with are protected from computer fraud and abuse. • If your career is in human resources, you will be involved in developing and enforcing a corporate ethics policy and in providing special training to sensitize managers and employees to the new ethical issues surrounding information systems. • If your career is in information systems, you will need to make management aware of the ethical implications of the technologies used by the firm and help management establish code of ethics for information systems. If your career is in manufacturing, production, or operations management, you will need to deal with data quality and software problems that could interrupt the smooth and accurate flow of information among disparate manufacturing and production systems and among supply chain partners. • If your career is in sales and marketing, you will need to balance systems that gather and analyze customer data with the need for protecting consumer privacy. 4. 1 UNDERSTANDING ETHICAL AND SOCIAL ISSUES RELATED TO SYSTEMS I n the past five years we have witnessed, arguably, one of the most ethically challenging periods for U. S. and global business. Table 4-1 provides a small sample of recent cases demonstrating failed ethical judgment by senior and middle managers. These lapses in management ethical and business judgment occurred across a broad spectrum of industries.
In today’s new legal environment, managers who violate the law and are convicted will most likely spend time in prison. U. S. Federal Sentencing 128 Part One Organizations, Management, and the Networked Enterprise TABLE 4-1 EXAMPLES OF FAILED ETHICAL JUDGMENT BY MANAGERS Enron WorldCom Merrill Lynch Parmalat Bristol-Myers Squibb Brocade Communications Systems, Inc. Top three executives convicted for misstating earnings using illegal accounting schemes and making false representations to shareholders. Bankruptcy declared in 2001. Second-largest U. S. telecommunications firm. Chief executive convicted for improperly inflating revenue by billions using illegal accounting methods. Bankruptcy declared in July 2002 with $41 billion in debts.
Indicted for assisting Enron in the creation of financial vehicles that had no business purpose, enabling Enron to misstate its earnings. Italy’s eighth-largest industrial group indicted for misstating more than $5 billion in revenues, earnings, and assets over several years; senior executives indicted for embezzlement. Pharmaceutical firm agreed to pay a fine of $150 million for misstating its revenues by $1. 5 billion and inflating its stock value. Gregory Reyes, the CEO of Brocade Communications Systems Inc. until January 2005, indicted in criminal and civil cases in 2006 of backdating options and concealing millions of dollars of compensation expenses from shareholders. Nearly 100 other Silicon Valley tech firms are under investigation for similar practices.
Senior tax accountants of three of the leading “Big Four” public accounting firms are indicted by the Justice Department over the selling of abusive tax shelters to wealthy individuals in the period 20002005. This case is frequently referred to as the “largest tax fraud case in history. ” KPMG LLP, Ernst & Young, and PricewaterhouseCoopers Guidelines adopted in 1987 mandate that federal judges impose stiff sentences on business executives based on the monetary value of the crime, the presence of a conspiracy to prevent discovery of the crime, the use of structured financial transactions to hide the crime, and failure to cooperate with prosecutors (U. S. Sentencing Commission, 2004). Although in the past, business firms would often pay for the legal defense of their mployees enmeshed in civil charges and criminal investigations, now firms are encouraged to cooperate with prosecutors to reduce charges against the entire firm for obstructing investigations. These developments mean that, more than ever, as a manager or an employee, you will have to decide for yourself what constitutes proper legal and ethical conduct. Although these major instances of failed ethical and legal judgment were not masterminded by information systems departments, information systems were instrumental in many of these frauds. In many cases, the perpetrators of these crimes artfully used financial reporting information systems to bury their decisions from public scrutiny in the vain hope they would never be caught. We deal with the issue of control in information systems in Chapter 8.
In this chapter we talk about the ethical dimensions of these and other actions based on the use of information systems. Ethics refers to the principles of right and wrong that individuals, acting as free moral agents, use to make choices to guide their behaviors. Information systems raise new ethical questions for both individuals and societies because they create opportunities for intense social change, and thus threaten existing distributions of power, money, rights, and obligations. Like other technologies, such as steam engines, electricity, the telephone, and the radio, information technology can be used to achieve social progress, but it can also be used to commit crimes and threaten cherished social values.
The development of information technology will produce benefits for many and costs for others. Ethical issues in information systems have been given new urgency by the rise of the Internet and electronic commerce. Internet and digital firm technologies make it easier than ever to assemble, integrate, and distribute Chapter 4 Ethical and Social Issues in Information Systems 129 information, unleashing new concerns about the appropriate use of customer information, the protection of personal privacy, and the protection of intellectual property. Insiders with special knowledge can “fool” information systems by submitting phony records, and diverting cash, on a scale unimaginable in the pre-computer era.
Other pressing ethical issues raised by information systems include establishing accountability for the consequences of information systems, setting standards to safeguard system quality that protects the safety of the individual and society, and preserving values and institutions considered essential to the quality of life in an information society. When using information systems, it is essential to ask, “What is the ethical and socially responsible course of action? ” A MODEL FOR THINKING ABOUT ETHICAL, SOCIAL, AND POLITICAL ISSUES Ethical, social, and political issues are closely linked. The ethical dilemma you may face as a manager of information systems typically is reflected in social and political debate. One way to think about these relationships is given in Figure 4-1. Imagine society as a more or less calm pond on a summer day, a delicate ecosystem in partial equilibrium with individuals and with social and political institutions.
Individuals know how to act in this pond because social institutions (family, education, organizations) have developed well-honed rules of behavior, and these are supported by laws developed in the political sector that prescribe behavior and promise sanctions for violations. Now toss a rock into the center of the pond. But imagine instead of a rock that the disturbing force is a powerful shock of new information technology and systems hitting a society more or less at rest. What happens? Ripples, of course. FIGURE 4-1 THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN ETHICAL, SOCIAL, AND POLITICAL ISSUES IN AN INFORMATION SOCIETY The introduction of new information technology has a ripple effect, raising new ethical, social, and political issues that must be dealt with on the individual, social, and political levels.
These issues have five moral dimensions: information rights and obligations, property rights and obligations, system quality, quality of life, and accountability and control. 130 Part One Organizations, Management, and the Networked Enterprise Suddenly individual actors are confronted with new situations often not covered by the old rules. Social institutions cannot respond overnight to these ripples—it may take years to develop etiquette, expectations, social responsibility, politically correct attitudes, or approved rules. Political institutions also require time before developing new laws and often require the demonstration of real harm before they act. In the meantime, you may have to act. You may be forced to act in a legal gray area.
We can use this model to illustrate the dynamics that connect ethical, social, and political issues. This model is also useful for identifying the main moral dimensions of the information society, which cut across various levels of action—individual, social, and political. FIVE MORAL DIMENSIONS OF THE INFORMATION AGE The major ethical, social, and political issues raised by information systems include the following moral dimensions: Information rights and obligations. What information rights do individuals and organizations possess with respect to themselves? What can they protect? What obligations do individuals and organizations have concerning this information?
Property rights and obligations. How will traditional intellectual property rights be protected in a digital society in which tracing and accounting for ownership are difficult and ignoring such property rights is so easy? Accountability and control. Who can and will be held accountable and liable for the harm done to individual and collective information and property rights? System quality. What standards of data and system quality should we demand to protect individual rights and the safety of society? Quality of life. What values should be preserved in an information- and knowledge-based society? Which institutions should we protect from violation?
Which cultural values and practices are supported by the new information technology? We explore these moral dimensions in detail in Section 4. 3. KEY TECHNOLOGY TRENDS THAT RAISE ETHICAL ISSUES Ethical issues long preceded information technology. Nevertheless, information technology has heightened ethical concerns, taxed existing social arrangements, and made some laws obsolete or severely crippled. Information technologies and systems have also created new opportunities for criminal behavior and mischief. There are four key technological trends responsible for these ethical stresses and they are summarized in Table 4-2. TABLE 4-2 TECHNOLOGY TRENDS THAT RAISE ETHICAL ISSUES
TREND Computing power doubles every 18 months Data storage costs rapidly declining Data analysis advances Networking advances and the Internet IMPACT More organizations depend on computer systems for critical operations. Organizations can easily maintain detailed databases on individuals. Companies can analyze vast quantities of data gathered on individuals to develop detailed profiles of individual behavior. Copying data from one location to another and accessing personal data from remote locations are much easier. Chapter 4 Ethical and Social Issues in Information Systems 131 The doubling of computing power every 18 months has made it possible for most organizations to use information systems for their core production processes.
As a result, our dependence on systems and our vulnerability to system errors and poor data quality have increased. The very same information systems that lead to high levels of productivity also create opportunities for abuse. Social rules and laws have not yet adjusted to this dependence. Standards for ensuring the accuracy and reliability of information systems (see Chapter 8) are not universally accepted or enforced. Advances in data storage techniques and rapidly declining storage costs have been responsible for the multiplying databases on individuals—employees, customers, and potential customers—maintained by private and public organizations.
These advances in data storage have made the routine violation of individual privacy both cheap and effective. Already, massive data storage systems are cheap enough for regional and even local retailing firms to use in identifying customers. For instance, the major search firms like Google, America Online (AOL), MSN, and Yahoo! maintain detailed search histories on the more than 75 million Americans who use Internet search engines everyday and who generate more than 200 million searches each day. These huge collections of “consumer intentions” become the natural targets of private firms looking for market advantage, government agencies, and private investigators.
Advances in data analysis techniques for large pools of data are another technological trend that heightens ethical concerns because companies and government agencies are able to find out much detailed personal information about individuals. With contemporary data management tools (see Chapter 6), companies can assemble and combine the myriad pieces of information about you stored on computers much more easily than in the past. Think of all the ways you generate computer information about yourself— credit card purchases; telephone calls; magazine subscriptions; video rentals; mail-order purchases; banking records; local, state, and federal government records (including court and police records); and visits to Web sites to read Web materials, use search engines, and write blogs (see Chapter 10).
Put together and mined properly, this information could reveal not only your credit information but also your driving habits, your tastes, your associations, intended purchases, political views, and interests. What you thought was private, in fact, can quickly become public. Companies with products to sell purchase relevant information from these sources to help them more finely target their marketing campaigns. Chapters 3 and 6 describe how companies can analyze large pools of data from multiple sources to rapidly identify buying patterns of customers and suggest individual responses. The use of computers to combine data from multiple sources and create electronic dossiers of detailed information on individuals is called profiling.
For example, hundreds of Web sites allow DoubleClick (www. doubleclick. net), an Internet advertising broker, to track the activities of their visitors in exchange for revenue from advertisements based on visitor information DoubleClick gathers. DoubleClick uses this information to create a profile of each online visitor, adding more detail to the profile as the visitor accesses an associated DoubleClick site. Over time, DoubleClick can create a detailed dossier of a person’s spending and computing habits on the Web that can be sold to companies to help them target their Web ads more precisely. 132 Part One Organizations, Management, and the Networked Enterprise
Credit card purchases can make personal information available to market researchers, telemarketers, and direct-mail companies. Advances in information technology facilitate the invasion of privacy. ChoicePoint, described in the Interactive Session on Management, gathers data from police, criminal, and motor vehicle records; credit and employment histories; current and previous addresses; professional licenses; and insurance claims to assemble and maintain electronic dossiers on almost every adult in the United Sates. The company sells this personal information to businesses and government agencies. Demand for personal data is so enormous that data broker businesses such as ChoicePoint are booming.
A new data analysis technology called nonobvious relationship awareness (NORA) has given both the government and the private sector even more powerful profiling capabilities. NORA can take information about people from many disparate sources, such as employment applications, telephone records, customer listings, and “wanted” lists, and correlate relationships to find obscure hidden connections that might help identify criminals or terrorists (see Figure 4-2). For instance, an applicant for a government security job might have received phone calls from a person wanted by the police. This diad (grouping of two) might also share the same religion, attend the same church, and be part of a small group with frequent telephone contacts.
NORA technology scans data and extracts information as the data are being generated so that it could, for example, instantly discover a man at an airline ticket counter who shares a phone number with a known terrorist before that person boards an airplane. The technology is considered a valuable tool for homeland security but does have privacy implications because it can provide such a detailed picture of the activities and associations of a single individual. Finally, advances in networking, including the Internet, promise to reduce greatly the costs of moving and accessing large quantities of data and open the possibility of mining large pools of data remotely using small desktop machines, permitting an invasion of privacy on a scale and with a precision heretofore unimaginable.
If computing and networking technologies continue to advance at the same pace as in the past, by 2023, large organizations will be Chapter 4 Ethical and Social Issues in Information Systems 133 INTERACTIVE SESSION: MANAGEMENT DATA FOR SALE Want a list of 3,877 charity donors in Detroit? You can buy it from USAData for $465. 24. Through USAData’s Web site, which is linked to large databases maintained by Acxiom and Dun & Bradstreet, anyone with a credit card can buy marketing lists of consumers broken down by location, demographics, and interests. The College Board sells data on graduating high school seniors to 1,700 colleges and universities for 28 cents per student. These businesses are entirely legal.
Also selling data are businesses that obtain credit card and cell phone records illegally and sell to private investigators and law enforcement. The buying and selling of personal data has become a multibillion dollar business that’s growing by leaps and bounds. Unlike banks or companies selling credit reports, these private data brokers are largely unregulated. There has been little or no federal or state oversight of how they collect, maintain, and sell their data. But they have been allowed to flourish because there is such a huge market for personal information and they provide useful services for insurance companies, banks, employers, and federal, state, and local government agencies.
For example, the Internal Revenue Service and departments of Homeland Security, Justice, and State paid data brokers $30 million in 2005 for data used in law enforcement and counterterrorism. The Internal Revenue Service signed a five-year $200 milllion deal to access ChoicePoint’s databases to locate assets of delinquent taxpayers. After the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, ChoicePoint helped the U. S. government screen candidates for the new federally controlled airport security workforce. ChoicePoint is one of the largest data brokers, with more than 5,000 employees serving businesses of all sizes as well as federal, state, and local governments. In 2004, ChoicePoint performed more than seven million background checks. It processes thousands of credit card transactions every second.
ChoicePoint builds its vast repository of personal data through an extensive network of contractors who gather bits of information from public filings, financial-services firms, phone directories, and loan application forms. The contractors use police departments, school districts, the department of motor vehicles, and local courts to fill their caches. All of the information is public and legal. ChoicePoint possesses 19 billion records containing personal information on the vast majority of American adult consumers. According to Daniel J. Solove, associate professor of law at George Washington University, the company has collected information on nearly every adult American and “these are dossiers that J.
Edgar Hoover would be envious of. ” The downside to the massive databases maintained by ChoicePoint and other data brokers is the threat they pose to personal privacy and social well being. The quality of the data they maintain can be unreliable, causing people to lose their jobs and their savings. In one case, Boston Market fired an employee after receiving a background check from ChoicePoint that showed felony convictions. However, the report had been wrong. In another, a retired GE assembly-line worker was charged a higher insurance premium because another person’s driving record, with multiple accidents, had been added to his ChoicePoint file.
ChoicePoint came under fire in early 2005 for selling information on 145,000 customers to criminals posing as legitimate businesses. The criminals then used the identities of some of individuals on whom ChoicePoint maintained data to open fraudulent credit card accounts. Since then ChoicePoint curtailed the sale of products that contain sensitive data, such as social security and driver’s license ID numbers, and limited access by small businesses, including private investigators, collection agencies, and non-bank financial institutions. ChoicePoint also implemented more stringent processes to verify customer authenticity. Marc Rotenberg of the Electronic Privacy Information Center in Washington, D. C. believes that the ChoicePoint case is a clear demonstration that self-regulation does not work in the information business and that more comprehensive laws are needed. California, 22 other states, and New York City have passed laws requiring companies to inform customers when their personal data files have been compromised. More than a dozen data security bills were introduced in Congress in 2006 and some type of federal data security and privacy legislation will 134 Part One Organizations, Management, and the Networked Enterprise likely result. Privacy advocates are hoping for a broad federal law with a uniform set of standards for privacy protection practices.
Sources: Rick Whiting, “Who’s Buying and Selling Your Data? Everybody,” Information Week, July 10, 2006; Christopher Wolf, “Dazed and Confused: Data Law Disarray,” Business Week, June 8, 2006; Evan Perez and Rick Brooks, “For Big Vendor of Personal Data, A Theft Lays Bare the Downside,” The Wall Street Journal, May 3, 2005; and “ChoicePoint Toughens Data Security,” CNN/Money, July 5, 2005. CASE STUDY QUESTIONS 1. Do data brokers pose an ethical dilemma? Explain your answer. 2. What are the problems caused by the proliferation of data brokers? What management, organization, and technology factors are responsible for these problems? 3. How effective are existing solutions to these problems? 4.
Should the U. S. federal government regulate private data brokers? Why or why not? What are the advantages and disadvantages? MIS IN ACTION Explore the Web site of USAData (usadata. com). Click on Consumer Mailing Lists/Sales Leads to start the process of ordering a consumer mailing list online but do not use your credit card to pay for the list. Answer the following questions: 1. What kind of data does this company provide? How does it obtain the data? 2. Who uses the data sold by USAData? Are there any restrictions on who can use the data? 3. What kind of information can you obtain by ordering a mailing list online? How detailed is this information?
How easy is it to purchase this information? Can someone use this online capability to find out how much money you make? 4. Does the capability of USAData raise privacy issues? What are they? 5. If your name and other personal information were in this database, what limitations on access would you want in order to preserve your privacy? Consider the following data users: (a) government agencies, (b) your employer, (c) private business firms, (d) other individuals. able to devote the equivalent of a contemporary desktop personal computer to monitoring each of the 350 million individuals who will then be living in the United States (Farmer and Mann, 2003).
The development of global digital communication networks widely available to individuals and businesses poses many ethical and social concerns. Who will account for the flow of information over these networks? Will you be able to trace information collected about you? What will these networks do to the traditional relationships between family, work, and leisure? How will traditional job designs be altered when millions of “employees” become subcontractors using mobile offices for which they themselves must pay? In the next section we consider some ethical principles and analytical techniques for dealing with these kinds of ethical and social concerns. Chapter 4 Ethical and Social Issues in Information Systems FIGURE 4-2 NONOBVIOUS RELATIONSHIP AWARENESS (NORA) 135
NORA technology can take information about people from disparate sources and find obscure, nonobvious relationships. It might discover, for example, that an applicant for a job at a casino shares a telephone number with a known criminal and issue an alert to the hiring manager. 4. 2 ETHICS IN AN INFORMATION SOCIETY Ethics is a concern of humans who have freedom of choice. Ethics is about individual choice: When faced with alternative courses of action, what is the correct moral choice? What are the main features of ethical choice? BASIC CONCEPTS: RESPONSIBILITY, ACCOUNTABILITY, AND LIABILITY Ethical choices are decisions made by individuals who are responsible for the consequences of their actions. Responsibility is a key element of ethical action.
Responsibility means that you accept the potential costs, duties, and obligations for the decisions you make. Accountability is a feature of systems and social institutions: It means that mechanisms are in place to determine who took responsible action, who is responsible. Systems and institutions in which it is impossible to find out who took what action are inherently incapable of ethical analysis or ethical action. Liability extends the concept of responsibility further to the area of laws. 136 Part One Organizations, Management, and the Networked Enterprise Liability is a feature of political systems in which a body of laws is in place that permits individuals to recover the damages done to them by other actors, systems, or organizations.
Due process is a related feature of law-governed societies and is a process in which laws are known and understood and there is an ability to appeal to higher authorities to ensure that the laws are applied correctly. These basic concepts form the underpinning of an ethical analysis of information systems and those who manage them. First, information technologies are filtered through social institutions, organizations, and individuals. Systems do not have impacts by themselves. Whatever information system impacts exist are products of institutional, organizational, and individual actions and behaviors. Second, responsibility for the consequences of technology falls clearly on the institutions, organizations, and individual managers who choose to use the technology. Using information technology in a socially responsible manner eans that you can and will be held accountable for the consequences of your actions. Third, in an ethical, political society, individuals and others can recover damages done to them through a set of laws characterized by due process. ETHICAL ANALYSIS When confronted with a situation that seems to present ethical issues, how should you analyze it? The following five-step process should help. 1. Identify and describe clearly the facts. Find out who did what to whom, and where, when, and how. In many instances, you will be surprised at the errors in the initially reported facts, and often you will find that simply getting the facts straight helps define the solution.
It also helps to get the opposing parties involved in an ethical dilemma to agree on the facts. 2. Define the conflict or dilemma and identify the higher-order values involved. Ethical, social, and political issues always reference higher values. The parties to a dispute all claim to be pursuing higher values (e. g. , freedom, privacy, protection of property, and the free enterprise system). Typically, an ethical issue involves a dilemma: two diametrically opposed courses of action that support worthwhile values. For example, the chapter-ending case study illustrates two competing values: the need to protect citizens from terrorist acts and the need to protect individual privacy. 3. Identify the stakeholders.
Every ethical, social, and political issue has stakeholders: players in the game who have an interest in the outcome, who have invested in the situation, and usually who have vocal opinions. Find out the identity of these groups and what they want. This will be useful later when designing a solution. 4. Identify the options that you can reasonably take. You may find that none of the options satisfy all the interests involved, but that some options do a better job than others. Sometimes arriving at a good or ethical solution may not always be a balancing of consequences to stakeholders. 5. Identify the potential consequences of your options. Some options may be ethically correct but disastrous from other points of view. Other options may work in one instance but not in other similar instances.
Always ask yourself, “What if I choose this option consistently over time? ” Chapter 4 Ethical and Social Issues in Information Systems 137 CANDIDATE ETHICAL PRINCIPLES Once your analysis is complete, what ethical principles or rules should you use to make a decision? What higher-order values should inform your judgment? Although you are the only one who can decide which among many ethical principles you will follow, and how you will prioritize them, it is helpful to consider some ethical principles with deep roots in many cultures that have survived throughout recorded history. 1. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you (the Golden Rule).
Putting yourself into the place of others, and thinking of yourself as the object of the decision, can help you think about fairness in decision making. 2. If an action is not right for everyone to take, it is not right for anyone (Immanuel Kant’s Categorical Imperative). Ask yourself, “If everyone did this, could the organization, or society, survive? ” 3. If an action cannot be taken repeatedly, it is not right to take at all (Descartes’ rule of change). This is the slippery-slope rule: An action may bring about a small change now that is acceptable, but if it is repeated, it would bring unacceptable changes in the long run. In the vernacular, it might be stated as “once started down a slippery path, you may not be able to stop. ” 4.
Take the action that achieves the higher or greater value (the Utilitarian Principle). This rule assumes you can prioritize values in a rank order and understand the consequences of various courses of action. 5. Take the action that produces the least harm or the least potential cost (Risk Aversion Principle). Some actions have extremely high failure costs of very low probability (e. g. , building a nuclear generating facility in an urban area) or extremely high failure costs of moderate probability (speeding and automobile accidents). Avoid these high-failure-cost actions, paying greater attention obviously to high-failure-cost potential of moderate to high probability. 6.
Assume that virtually all tangible and intangible objects are owned by someone else unless there is a specific declaration otherwise. (This is the ethical “no free lunch” rule. ) If something someone else has created is useful to you, it has value, and you should assume the creator wants compensation for this work. Although these ethical rules cannot be guides to action, actions that do not easily pass these rules deserve some very close attention and a great deal of caution. The appearance of unethical behavior may do as much harm to you and your company as actual unethical behavior. PROFESSIONAL CODES OF CONDUCT When groups of people claim to be professionals, they take on special rights and obligations because of their special claims to knowledge, wisdom, and respect.
Professional codes of conduct are promulgated by associations of professionals, such as the American Medical Association (AMA), the American Bar Association (ABA), the Association of Information Technology Professionals (AITP), and the Association of Computing Machinery (ACM). These professional groups take responsibility for the partial regulation of their professions by determining entrance qualifications and competence. Codes of ethics are promises by professions to regulate themselves in the general interest of society. For example, avoiding harm to others, honoring property rights (including intellectual property), and respecting privacy are 138 Part One Organizations, Management, and the Networked Enterprise among the General Moral Imperatives of the ACM’s Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct. SOME REAL-WORLD ETHICAL DILEMMAS
Information systems have created new ethical dilemmas in which one set of interests is pitted against another. For example, many of the large telephone companies in the United States are using information technology to reduce the sizes of their workforces. Voice recognition software reduces the need for human operators by enabling computers to recognize a customer’s responses to a series of computerized questions. Many companies monitor what their employees are doing on the Internet to prevent them from wasting company resources on nonbusiness activities (see the Chapter 7 Interactive Session on Management). In each instance, you can find competing values at work, with groups lined up on either side of a debate.
A company may argue, for example, that it has a right to use information systems to increase productivity and reduce the size of its workforce to lower costs and stay in business. Employees displaced by information systems may argue that employers have some responsibility for their welfare. Business owners might feel obligated to monitor employee e-mail and Internet use to minimize drains on productivity. Employees might believe they should be able to use the Internet for short personal tasks in place of the SurfControl offers tools for tracking Web and e-mail activity and for filtering unauthorized e-mail and Web site content. The benefits of monitoring employee e-mail and Internet use should be balanced with the need to respect employee privacy.
Chapter 4 Ethical and Social Issues in Information Systems 139 telephone. A close analysis of the facts can sometimes produce compromised solutions that give each side “half a loaf. ” Try to apply some of the principles of ethical analysis described to each of these cases. What is the right thing to do? 4. 3 THE MORAL DIMENSIONS OF INFORMATION SYSTEMS In this section, we take a closer look at the five moral dimensions of information systems first described in Figure 4-1. In each dimension we identify the ethical, social, and political levels of analysis and use real-world examples to illustrate the values involved, the stakeholders, and the options chosen.
INFORMATION RIGHTS: PRIVACY AND FREEDOM IN THE INTERNET AGE Privacy is the claim of individuals to be left alone, free from surveillance or interference from other individuals or organizations, including the state. Claims to privacy are also involved at the workplace: Millions of employees are subject to electronic and other forms of high-tech surveillance (Ball, 2001). Information technology and systems threaten individual claims to privacy by making the invasion of privacy cheap, profitable, and effective. The claim to privacy is protected in the U. S. , Canadian, and German constitutions in a variety of different ways and in other countries through various statutes.
In the United States, the claim to privacy is protected primarily by the First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and association, the Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizure of one’s personal documents or home, and the guarantee of due process. Table 4-3 describes the major U. S. federal statutes that set forth the conditions for handling information about individuals in such areas as credit reporting, education, financial records, newspaper records, and electronic communications. The Privacy Act of 1974 has been the most important of these laws, regulating the federal government’s collection, use, and disclosure of information. At present, most U. S. federal privacy laws apply only to the federal government and regulate very few areas of the private sector. TABLE 4-3 FEDERAL PRIVACY LAWS IN THE UNITED STATES
GENERAL FEDERAL PRIVACY LAWS Freedom of Information Act of 1966 as Amended (5 USC 552) Privacy Act of 1974 as Amended (5 USC 552a) Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 Computer Matching and Privacy Protection Act of 1988 Computer Security Act of 1987 Federal Managers Financial Integrity Act of 1982 Driver’s Privacy Protection Act of 1994 E-Government Act of 2002 PRIVACY LAWS AFFECTING PRIVATE INSTITUTIONS Fair Credit Reporting Act of 1970 Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 Right to Financial Privacy Act of 1978 Privacy Protection Act of 1980 Cable Communications Policy Act of 1984 Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 Video Privacy Protection Act of 1988 The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998 (COPPA) Financial Modernization Act (Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act) of 1999 140 Part One Organizations, Management, and the Networked Enterprise Most American and European privacy law is based on a regime called Fair Information Practices (FIP) first set forth in a report written in 1973 by a federal government advisory committee (U. S.
Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, 1973). Fair Information Practices (FIP) is a set of principles governing the collection and use of information about individuals. FIP principles are based on the notion of a mutuality of interest between the record holder and the individual. The individual has an interest in engaging in a transaction, and the record keeper—usually a business or government agency—requires information about the individual to support the transaction. Once information is gathered, the individual maintains an interest in the record, and the record may not be used to support other activities without the individual’s consent.
In 1998, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) restated and extended the original FIP to provide guidelines for protecting online privacy. Table 4-4 describes the FTC’s Fair Information Practice principles. The FTC’s FIP are being used as guidelines to drive changes in privacy legislation. In July 1998, the U. S. Congress passed the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), requiring Web sites to obtain parental permission before collecting information on children under the age of 13. The FTC has recommended additional legislation to protect online consumer privacy in advertising networks that collect records of consumer Web activity to develop detailed profiles, which are then used by other companies to target online ads.
Other proposed Internet privacy legislation focuses on protecting the online use of personal identification numbers, such as social security numbers; protecting personal information collected on the Internet that deals with individuals not covered by the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998; and limiting the use of data mining for homeland security (see the chapter-ending case study). Privacy protections have also been added to recent laws deregulating financial services and safeguarding the maintenance and transmission of health information about individuals. The Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act of 1999, which repeals earlier restrictions on affiliations among banks, securities firms, and insurance companies, includes some privacy protection for consumers of financial services.
All financial institutions are required to disclose their policies and practices for protecting the privacy of nonpublic personal information and to allow customers to opt out of information-sharing arrangements with nonaffiliated third parties. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA), which took effect on April 14, 2003, includes privacy protection for medical records. The law gives patients access to their personal medical records TABLE 4-4 FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION FAIR INFORMATION PRACTICE PRINCIPLES 1. Notice/awareness (core principle). Web sites must disclose their information practices before collecting data.
Includes identification of collector; uses of data; other recipients of data; nature of collection (active/inactive); voluntary or required status; consequences of refusal; and steps taken to protect confidentiality, integrity, and quality of the data. 2. Choice/consent (core principle). There must be a choice regime in place allowing consumers to choose how their information will be used for secondary purposes other than supporting the transaction, including internal use and transfer to third parties. 3. Access/participation. Consumers should be able to review and contest the accuracy and completeness of data collected about them in a timely, inexpensive process. 4. Security. Data collectors must take responsible steps to assure that consumer information is accurate and secure from unauthorized use. 5. Enforcement. There must be in place a mechanism to enforce FIP principles.
This can involve self-regulation, legislation giving consumers legal remedies for violations, or federal statutes and regulations. Chapter 4 Ethical and Social Issues in Information Systems 141 maintained by healthcare providers, hospitals, and health insurers and the right to authorize how protected information about themselves can be used or disclosed. Doctors, hospitals, and other healthcare providers must limit the disclosure of personal information about patients to the minimum amount necessary to achieve a given purpose. The European Directive on Data Protection In Europe, privacy protection is much more stringent than in the United States.
Unlike the United States, European countries do not allow businesses to use personally identifiable information without consumers’ prior consent. On October 25, 1998, the European Commission’s Directive on Data Protection went into effect, broadening privacy protection in the European Union (EU) nations. The directive requires companies to inform people when they collect information about them and disclose how it will be stored and used. Customers must provide their informed consent before any company can legally use data about them, and they have the right to access that information, correct it, and request that no further data be collected. Informed consent can be defined as consent given with knowledge of all the facts needed to make a rational decision.
EU member nations must translate these principles into their own laws and cannot transfer personal data to countries, such as the United States, that do not have similar privacy protection regulations. Working with the European Commission, the U. S. Department of Commerce developed a safe harbor framework for U. S. firms. A safe harbor is a private, self-regulating policy and enforcement mechanism that meets the objectives of government regulators and legislation but does not involve government regulation or enforcement. U. S. businesses doing business with Europeans are allowed to use personal data from EU countries if they develop privacy protection policies that meet EU standards.
Enforcement occurs in the United States using self-policing, regulation, and government enforcement of fair trade statutes. Firms must be certified by public accounting firms to be “safe harbor” for personal data on Europeans, and this certification is recognized (but not enforced) by the Department of Commerce. With this safe harbor policy, the Americans and Europeans have been able to overcome their differences on privacy matters, and permit trade to take place. Internet Challenges to Privacy Internet technology has posed new challenges for the protection of individual privacy. Information sent over this vast network of networks may pass through many different computer systems before it reaches its final destination.
Each of these systems is capable of monitoring, capturing, and storing communications that pass through it. It is possible to record all online activities of literally tens of millions of people, including which online newsgroups or files a person has accessed, which Web sites and Web pages he or she has visited, and what items that person has inspected or purchased over the Web. Much of this monitoring and tracking of Web site visitors occurs in the background without the visitor’s knowledge. Tools to monitor visits to the World Wide Web have become popular because they help organizations determine who is visiting their Web sites and how to better target their offerings.
Some firms also monitor the Internet usage of their employees to see how they are using company network resources. Web retailers now have access to software that lets them “watch” the online shopping behavior of individuals and groups while they are visiting a Web site 142 Part One Organizations, Management, and the Networked Enterprise and making purchases. The commercial demand for this personal information is virtually insatiable. Web sites can learn the identities of their visitors if the visitors voluntarily register at the site to purchase a product or service or to obtain a free service, such as information. Web sites can also capture information about visitors without their knowledge using cookie technology.
Cookies are tiny files deposited on a computer hard drive when a user visits certain Web sites. Cookies identify the visitor’s Web browser software and track visits to the Web site. When the visitor returns to a site that has stored a cookie, the Web site software will search the visitor’s computer, find the cookie, and know what that person has done in the past. It may also update the cookie, depending on the activity during the visit. In this way, the site can customize its contents for each visitor’s interests. For example, if you purchase a book on the Amazon. com Web site and return later from the same browser, the site will welcome you by name and recommend other books of interest based on your past purchases.
There are now even more subtle and surreptitious tools for surveillance of Internet users. Marketers use Web bugs as another tool to monitor online behavior. Web bugs are tiny graphic files embedded in e-mail messages and Web pages that are designed to monitor who is reading the e-mail message or Web page and transmit that information to another computer. Other spyware can secretly install itself on an Internet user’s computer by piggybacking on larger FIGURE 4-3 HOW COOKIES IDENTIFY WEB VISITORS Cookies are written by a Web site on a visitor’s hard drive. When the visitor returns to that Web site, the Web server requests the ID number from the cookie and uses it to access the data stored by that server on that visitor.
The Web site can then use these data to display personalized information. Chapter 4 Ethical and Social Issues in Information Systems 143 applications. Once installed, the spyware calls out to Web sites to send banner ads and other unsolicited material to the user, and it can also report the user’s movements on the Internet to other computers. Spyware also can log user keystrokes and send the information to other sites on the Web without the user’s knowledge. More information is available about Web bugs, spyware, and other intrusive software in Chapter 7. Google has been using tools to scan the contents of messages received by users of its free Web-based e-mail service called Gmail.
Ads that users see when they read their e-mail are related to the subjects of these messages. Google’s service offers users 1 gigabyte of storage space—far more than any of its competitors—but privacy advocates find the practice offensive. The United States has allowed businesses to gather transaction information generated in the marketplace and then use that information for other marketing purposes without obtaining the informed consent of the individual whose information is being used. U. S. e-commerce sites are largely content to publish statements on their Web sites informing visitors about how their information will be used. Some have added opt-out selection boxes to these information policy statements.
An opt-out model of informed consent permits the collection of personal information until the consumer specifically requests that the data not be collected. Privacy advocates would like to see wider use of an opt-in model of informed consent in which a business is prohibited from collecting any personal information unless the consumer specifically takes action to approve information collection and use. The online industry has preferred self-regulation to privacy legislation for protecting consumers. In 1998, the online industry formed the Online Privacy Alliance to encourage self-regulation to develop a set of privacy guidelines for its members.
The group promotes the use of online seals, such as that of TRUSTe, certifying Web sites adhering to certain privacy principles. Members of the advertising network industry, including DoubleClick, have created an Web sites are posting their privacy policies for visitors to review. The TRUSTe seal designates Web sites that have agreed to adhere to TRUSTe’s established privacy principles of disclosure, choice, access, and security. 144 Part One Organizations, Management, and the Networked Enterprise additional industry association called the Network Advertising Initiative (NAI) to develop its own privacy policies to help consumers opt out of advertising network programs and provide consumers redress from abuses.
While nearly all the top 100 Web sites have privacy policies, you will quickly discover upon reading them that there are few limitations these firms place on their use of your personal information. In turn, consumers do not do as much as they could or should to protect themselves. Many companies with Web sites do not have privacy policies. Of the companies that do post privacy polices on their Web sites, about half do not monitor their sites to ensure they adhere to these policies. While the vast majority of online customers claim they are concerned about online privacy, less than half read the privacy statements on Web sites (Laudon and Traver, 2006). Te c h n i c a l S o l u t i o n s In addition to legislation, new technologies are available to protect user privacy during interactions with Web sites.
The technology will display cookies from Web sites that are not part of the consortium, but users will not be able to obtain sender information or privacy statements. Many users may also need to be educated about interpreting company privacy statements and P3P levels of privacy. PROPERTY RIGHTS: INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY Contemporary information systems have severely challenged existing law and social practices that protect private intellectual property. Intellectual property is considered to be intangible property created by individuals or corporations. Information technology has made it difficult to protect intellectual property because computerized information can be so easily copied or distributed on networks.
Intellectual property is subject to a variety of protections under three different legal traditions: trade secrets, copyright, and patent law. Tr a d e S e c r e t s Any intellectual work product—a formula, device, pattern, or compilation of data-used for a business purpose can be classified as a trade secret, provided it is not based on information in the public domain. Protections for trade secrets vary from state to state. In general, trade secret laws grant a monopoly on the ideas behind a work product, but it can be a very tenuous monopoly. Software that contains novel or unique elements, procedures, or compilations can be included as a trade secret. Trade secret law protects the actual ideas in a work product, not only their manifestation.
To make this claim, the creator or owner must take care to bind employees and customers with nondisclosure agreements and to prevent the secret from falling into the public domain. The limitation of trade secret protection is that, although virtually all software programs of any complexity contain unique elements of some sort, it is difficult to prevent the ideas in the work from falling into the public domain when the software is widely distributed. Copyright Copyright is a statutory grant that protects creators of intellectual property from having their work copied by others for any purpose during the life of the author plus an additional 70 years after the author’s death.
For corporate-owned works, copyright protection lasts for 95 years after their initial creation. Congress has extended copyright protection to books, periodicals, lectures, dramas, musical compositions, maps, drawings, artwork of any kind, and motion pictures. The intent behind copyright laws has been to encourage creativity and authorship by ensuring that creative people receive the financial and other benefits of their work. Most industrial nations have their own copyright laws, and there are several international conventions and bilateral agreements through which nations coordinate and enforce their laws. 146 Part One Organizations, Management, and the Networked Enterprise
In the mid-1960s, the Copyrig