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SJU Closing ] [H1N1SelfAssessment]
- Ethical and Social Issues in Information Systems
- Opening Case - Is Your Student Loan Data on Loan?
Understanding Ethical and Social Issues Related to Systems
- Problem: high cost student loans due
to poor access to student data by lenders
- Solution: National Student Loan
Data System (NSLDS).
- Illustrates how info technology can be a double-edged
sword by providing lower loan costs thru competition while increasing
the potential for privacy invasion by lenders (inappropriately) mining NSLDS to market
Moral Dimensions of Information Systems
- Information systems raise new ethical questions
because they create opportunities for intense social change.
- Model for ethical, social, and
political issues. Fig 4-1, p125. Used for Ethical Analysis
presented in Section IV.A below.
- The Model has Five Moral Dimensions (explained in
Section IV. below)
- Information rights
- Property rights
- Accountability, liability, and control
- System quality
- Quality of life
- Key technology trends that raise ethical issues:
- Computing power doubles every 18 months (Ch5 p170)
- Data storage doubles every 15
- Data analysis power is increasing rapidly
- Profiling - combining data from multiple
sources and creating detailed dossiers on individuals
- ChoicePoint - gathers data from police, motor
vehicle, credit, insurance, and other sources to create online
dossiers on most U.S. adults. See
- Nonobvious Relationship Awareness (NORA) -
- Networking power is increasing rapidly - change
traditional relationships between family, work, and leisure.
Ethics in an Information Society
- Information Rights
- Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Fair Information
Practice (FIP) Principles - Table 4-4
- Notice - websites must disclose their info
- Choice - individual can choose opt-out or opt-in
- Access - individual can review and contest
- Security - data collector must secure data from
- Enforcement - must have mechanism to enforce FIP
- Internet Challenges to Privacy
- Cookies - a small files deposited on a computer
hard drive when an individual visits certain websites.
Used to track past visits to a website.
- Spyware -
computer software that
collects personal information about users without their
Personal information is secretly recorded, including logging
keystrokes, recording Internet web browsing history, and scanning
documents on the computer's hard disk.
Purposes range from criminal (theft of passwords and
financial details) to annoying (recording Internet search
history for targeted advertising, while consuming computer
- Technical Solution - P3P - Platform for Privacy
Preferences Project. See
- Enables automatic communication of privacy
policies between a website and its visitors.
- Users can select desired level of privacy.
- PrivacyFinder (http://www.privacyfinder.org/)
can be used to display privacy reports. For example,
and search "privacy preferences" with Yahoo and medium level.
- To see a privacy report with MS Internet Explorer
8, click Safety, Webpage
- Property Rights (p138)
- Trade Secret - any intellectual work product
owned by a business and used for a business purpose, can be classified
as a trade secret if it is not based on info in the public domain, and
the business takes appropriate steps to prevent the secret from falling
into the public domain.
- Example: Coca Cola has no patent for its formula. Coca Cola uses a
trade secret to protect its formula for many more years than a patent.
- Copyright - a statutory grant that protects
creators of intellectual property from having their work copied by
others for a minimum of 70 years.
- Computer Software Copyright Act (1980) - purchaser given license to use
software while creator retains legal title.
- In early 1990s, Apple sued Microsoft for
copyright infringement of the expression of Apple's Macintosh
overlapping windows interface. Apple lost because when ideas and
their expression merge, the expression cannot be copyrighted. See
- Patent - a statutory grant that offers the owner
an exclusive monopoly on the ideas behind an invention for 20 years.
- A patent requires full disclosure to the public (patent office), whereas
a trade secret has no disclosure.
- Accountability, Liability, and Control
- Responsibility - a person or social institution
has responsibility for a given action if they accept the potential
costs, duties, and obligations for that action. (p129)
- Accountability - an info system or social
institution has accountability for a given action if there are
mechanisms in place to determine who took that action.
- Liability - a person or social institution has
liability for a given action if there are laws in place that permit
other individuals to recover damages as a result of that action.
- Information systems should be designed for
- System Quality (p141)
- Three sources of poor info system performance
- software bugs,
- hardware failures,
- errors in input
- Information systems should be designed and
managed so that:
- software bugs are identified and remediated,
- hardware has appropriate backup procedures, and
- input data has extensive edit checking.
See Ch6 VII. Ensuring Data Quality.
- Quality of Life (p142)
- Rapidity of Change: Reduced Response Time to
Will the now-more-efficient global marketplace reduce New York City's
prominence in financial services?
- Boundaries: Family, Work, and Leisure -
traditional boundaries between family, and work are lessened.
Will children seeing their parents work have a more realistic attitude toward work?
- Computer Crime - identity theft, spam
- Equity and Access
Should digital info services (Internet) be made available to everyone,
just as basic telephone service is now?
- Health Risks - carpal tunnel syndrome.
- Ethical Analysis
- Identify and describe clearly all the facts,
using the Moral Dimensions of Info Systems described in Section III.
above as a guide.
- Define the conflict and identify the higher-order
- Identify stakeholders
(participants who have an interest in the outcome).
- Identify the options that you can reasonably take.
- Identify the potential consequences of your
- Note by PJL: select the
Factor Rating Method with Ben Franklin's Prudential Algebra may be a
- Consider the following case: a person is applying for a job and the employer
wishes to obtain a background check from ChoicePoint (see p127 and II.C.3.b
above). Should ChoicePoint be required to show the background check to the potential
employee and obtain the employee's approval before sending it to the
Use the procedure presented in Section IV.A above to conduct an ethical
- Identify and describe clearly the facts
concerning a CheckPoint background check.
- Define the conflict and identify the higher-order
- Identify stakeholders for this
- Identify the options for this
- Identify the potential consequences of
(This page was last edited on
January 09, 2010