Chapter issues are closely related. Ethical issues confront

Chapter 4

Ethical and Social Issues in
Information Systems

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Review Questions

1. What ethical, social, and political issues are raised by information

Explain how ethical, social, and political
issues are connected and give some examples.

Answer: Information technology has
raised new possibilities for behavior for which laws and rules of acceptable
conduct have not yet been developed. 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.

 Ethical, social, and political issues are
closely related. Ethical issues confront individuals who must choose a course
of action, often in a situation in which two or more ethical principles are in
conflict (a dilemma).Ethical
dilemmas are problems that affect society and that often are addressed in the
political arena. For example, new computer technology makes it easier to
gain private information about individuals, creating an ethical dilemma for the
potential user of that information (whether or not to invade the privacy of the
individual). Social issues
spring from ethical issues as societies develop expectations in individuals
about the correct course of action. Political issues spring from social
conflict and are mainly concerned with using laws that prescribe behavior to
create situations in which individuals behave correctly.

and describe the key technological trends that heighten ethical concerns.

Answer: The technological trends that heighten ethical concerns include:

Computer power doubling every 18 months

Rapid decline in data storage costs

Data analysis advances

Networking advances and the Internet

The doubling of computing power
every 18 months is creating a growing dependence on systems and a consequent
vulnerability to system errors, poor data quality, and failure of critical

Advances in data storage
techniques and rapidly declining storage costs provide for massive data storage
capabilities on individual systems and enable the routine violation of
individual privacy.

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 highly detailed personal information about individuals.

advances are another prominent technological trend that heightens ethical
concerns because copying data from one location to another and accessing
personal data from remote locations are much easier.

Differentiate between responsibility, accountability, and liability.

Answer: Responsibility is a key element of ethical actions. Responsibility
means that you accept the potential costs, duties, and obligations for the
decisions you make. Whenever responsibility is defined it appears to be in
relation to accountability. This suggests the two are synonyms, but this is not
the case. At most basic level, responsibility means to be responsible for an
act one undertakes, while accountability simply means to be called to account.

Accountability is a feature of systems and social
institutions. It means that mechanisms are in place to determine who took
responsible action.

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.

2. What
specific principles for conduct can be used to guide ethical decisions?

and describe the five steps in an ethical analysis.

Answer: The five steps in an ethical analysis
are as follows:

i. Identify and describe clearly the facts

ii. Define the conflict or dilemma and identify the
higher-order values involved

iii. Identify the stakeholders

iv. Identify the options that you can reasonably

v. Identify the potential consequences of your

description of five steps in an ethical analysis are as follows:

i.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
thefacts straight helps define the solution.

ii. 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 dilemma: two
diametrically opposed courses of action that support worthwhile values.

iii. Identify the stakeholders:

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.

iv. Identify the options that you can reasonably take:

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
balancing of consequences to stakeholders.

v. Identify the potential consequences of your options:

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.

and describe six ethical principles.

Answer: The six ethical principles are as follows:

i. Golden Rule:

Do unto
others as you would have them do unto you.

ii. Immanuel Kant’s Categorical Imperative:

If an action is not right for everyone to take, it is not right for

iii. Descartes’ Rule of Change:

If an action cannot be taken repeatedly, it is not
right to take at all. An action may bring about asmall change
now that is acceptable, but if it is repeated, it would bringunacceptable
changes in the long run.

iv. Utilitarian Principle:

Take the
action that achieves the higher or greater value. This
rule assumes you can prioritize values in a rank order and understand the
consequences of various courses of action.

v. Risk Aversion Principle:

Take the action that produces the least
harm or least potential cost.

vi. Ethical
“no free lunch” Rule:

that virtually all tangible and intangible objects are owned by someone unless
there is a specific declaration otherwise. If something someone else has
created is useful to you,it has value, and you should assume the creator wants
compensation for this work.

3.Why do contemporary information systems technology
and the Internet pose challenges to the protection of individual privacy and
intellectual property?

Answer: Fair information
practices are set of principles governing the collection and use of information.
Contemporary data storage and data analysis technology
enables companies to easily gather personal data about individuals from many
different sources and analyze these data to create detailed electronic profiles
about individuals and their behaviors. Data flowing over the Internet can be
monitored at many points. Cookies and other Web monitoring tools closely track
the activities of Website visitors. Cookies are tiny files downloaded by Web site to
visitor’s hard drive to help identify visitor’s browser and track visits to site.
Not all Web sites have strong privacy protection policies, and they do not always
allow for  informed consent regarding the
use of personal information. Traditional copyright laws are insufficient to
protect against software piracy because digital material can be copied so
easily and transmitted to many different locations simultaneously over the
Internet. 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 in networks. Intellectual property is subject to a
variety of protections under three different legal traditions: trade secrets, copyright,
and patent law.


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


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.



A patent grants the owner an exclusive monopoly
on the ideas behind an invention for 20 years. The congressional intent behind
patent law was to ensure that inventors of new machines, devices, or methods
receive the full financial and other rewards of their labor and yet make
widespread use of the invention possible by providing detailed diagrams for
those wishing to use the idea under license from the patent’s owner.

4. How have information
systems affected everyday life?

Answer: Although computer systems have
been sources of efficiency and wealth, they have some negative impacts.
Computer errors can cause serious harm to individuals and organizations. Poor
data quality isalso responsible for disruptions and losses for businesses.
Although software companies try to debug their products before releasing them
to the marketplace, they knowingly ship buggy products because the time and
cost of fixing all minor errors would prevent these products from ever being
released. What if the product was not offered on the marketplace, would social
welfare as a whole not advance and perhaps even decline? Carrying this further,
just what is the responsibility of a producer of computer services—should it
withdraw the product that can never be perfect, warn the user, or forget about
the risk (let the buyer beware)?

Three principal sources of poor system
performance are (1) software bugs and errors, (2) hardware or facility failures
caused by natural or other causes, and (3) poor input data quality.

can be lost when computers replace workers or tasks become unnecessary in
reengineered business processes. The ability to own and use computer may be
exacerbating socioeconomic disparities among different racial groups and social
classes. Widespread use of computers increases opportunities for computer crime
and computer abuse. Computers can also create health problems, such as RSI,
computer vision syndrome, and techno stress.

Quality of life: Equity, access, and boundaries

power: Although computing power decentralizing,
key decision-making remains centralized.

of change: Businesses may not have enough time to respond
to global competition

boundaries: Computing, Internet use lengthens
work-day, infringes on family, personal time

and vulnerability: Public and private organizations ever
more dependent on computer systems








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