Domains of Information Ethics

Government, Corporate, War, and Society


In our increasingly information-dependant world, our technological ability to obtain, store, interconnect, distribute, and analyze data and information has outstripped our legal and ethical consideration. The process of information collection is often hidden or unnoted and the methods of analysis and the decisions based on such analyses are frequently unknown or misunderstood. Individuals, corporations, and governments can now easily obtain information technologies that enable unprecedented information collection that can be combined and analyzed in surprising and sometimes frightening ways. Data mining for marketing, political campaigns, consumer behavior, and terrorist risk assessment is now so common that it is "in the noise". Surveillance of individuals is ubiquitous, from government monitoring of phone calls, emails, and international travel patterns to corporate monitoring of web-site visits, communications, physical location, and computer keystrokes. Individuals, corporations, news outlets, and governments participate in distributing filtered information including "little white lies", suppression of scientific information, and selective use of intelligence. In our personal lives and increasingly in business contexts, "utility", "efficiency" and "value optimization" are core principles many business students aspire to and in most instances the information collectors, analysts, and decision-makes believe that their use of information systems and technologies is ethical. Yet these judgments are not about the technologies themselves, but rather are fundamentally about the ethics of the information that is being collected, analyzed, used, and distributed, and about the means of collection, sorting and storage. This slight shift away from the technologies toward the information itself changes the discussion in significant ways. Business students will be well served by an ability to recognize, justify and be persuasive as they study, react to, and create policies regarding information in their chosen profession, in their lives, and as citizens.