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Ethical Issues in MIS

Like other technologies information technology can be used to achieve social progress but also to commit
crimes and threten social value.
Ethical issues in information systems have been given new urgency by ways of ecommerce and the internet.
The internet and digital firm technologies make it easier than ever to assemble and distribute information
unleashing new concerns related to the protection of personnal privacy and the protection of intellectual
property rights.
Moral Dimensions of MIS
1. Information rights and obligations
This identifies what information rights, individuals and organisation posses with respect to themselves
and what they can protect.
2. Property rights and obligations.
This examines how traditional intellectual rights will be protected in digital society in which tracing and
accounting for ownership is hard and ignoring such rights is easy.
3. Accountability and Control
This identifies who can and will be held accountable and liable for the harm done to individuals and
collective information and property rights.
4. System quality
It examines the standards of data and system quality that should be demanded to protect individual rights
and the safety of the society.
5. Quality of life
It examines the values that should be preserved in information and knowledge based society.
Ethical issues are concerns to free societies everywhere. ICT has high ethical concerns putting stress on existing
The technological trends responsible for ethical trends in the society are:
1. Doubling of computing power.
This has made it possible for more organization to depend on information systems for their core
production process.
This has increased vulnerability to systems errors and poor data quality.
2. Rapidy declining data storage costs
Advances in data storage techniques and rapidly declining data storage costs have been responsible for
multiplying data maintenance by public and private organisations.
This advances have made routine violation of individual privacy both cheaper and effective.
3. Advances in data analysis techniques
New data management tools enable organisations to combine myriad pieces of information stored in
computers to reveal partnent information about individuals.
4. Network advances and the internet

Copying data from one location to another and accessing personal data from remote locations is much
easier with the growth of networks and the internet.
Ethics refers to the principles of right or wrong that individuals acting as free moral agents use to make choices
to guide their behaviour.
Ethics can be discussed in the following branches.



Normative Ethics
It is the field of ethics that explause what human morally ought to do.
Most normative ethics belong to either deotological or consequentialist families
Descriptive ethics
This is the study of moral development in humans. They do not seek to pronounce what is right or
wrong but merely to describe what people think is right or wrong.
Applied ethics.
It seeks to apply the basic ethical principles to concrete situations especially to controversial social
issues such as abortion, animal rights, homosexuality etc.
Meta ethics
It is concerned with what justifies moral judgement. It concerns whether there are any moral truth
and if so what makes the moral truth true


The basic concepts of ethical analysis include:

Responsibility: This means that one has to accept potential costs, duties and obligations for the
decisions that they make.
Accountability: It means mechanisms are in place for identifying who took responsible action and
who are the responsible parties.
Liability: This is a feature of political system in which a body of laws permits individuals or
organisations to recover damages done to them by other peoples systems.
Due process: Its a process in which laws are well known and understood ande the reasonability to
appeal to a higher authority to ensure laws are applied correctly.

Ethical analysis process

When presented with a situation that seems to present ethical issues or dilemmas the following steps can help to
guide to a decision:

Identify and clearly describe the facts.

Descrinbe the dilemma and identify the values involved.
Identify all stakeholders related to the decision.
Identify the opharns that you can reasonably take.
Identify the potential consequencies of each of the options.
Select and implement an option


1. The Golden Rule




Do unto others as you would have them do to you i.e. place yourself in the place of others and think of
yourself and the object of the decision and this can help you think about fairness in the decision.
Categorical Imperatives
If an action is not right for everyone to take for anyone to take.
De Scartes- Rule of change.
If an action cannot be taken repeatedly then it is not right to be taken at all.
It is also referred to as the slippery slope rule, where an action may bring a small change that is
acceptable but if it is repeated the results will be unacceptable.
Utilitarian Principle
Take an action that achieves a higher or greater value. The rule assumes that one can priotise value in
rank order & understand consequences of various causes of actions.
Egoistic Principle
Take an action that produces the least harm or least potential cost.
Risk aversion Principle
Take an action that will realise the greatest value to oneself.
Ethics No free lunch principle.
It assumes that virtually all tangible and intangible resources are owned by someone unless there is a
specific declaration otherwise.
If something someone has created is useful to you and it has value then you should know that the creator
wants compensation for the item.

Information rights, privacy and freedon in the internet age.

Privacy is the claim of an individual to be left alone free from interference from other individuals or
organisations including the state.
Claim to privacy are also involved at the work place as millions of employees are subject to electronic and other
forms of high surveillance.
Information technology and systems threatened individual claims to privacy by making intervention of privacy
cheap, portable and effective.
The claim to privacy is protected in a lot of coutries in a variety of ways through various laws.
Fair Information Practices
These are set of principles that govern the collection and use of information some of the FIP8 Principles


Transparency- Organisation should be transparent and notify individuals regarding the collection,
use, dissemination and maintenance of private information.
Individual participation - Organisation should involve individuals in the process using private
information to the extent practicable.
They should seek individual consent for the collecton use and dissemination of the information.
Use Limitation - Organisations should use private information for the purposes specified in the
Security - Organisations should protect private information through appropriate security safeguards
against risks suchas loss, unauthorised access, destruction or unintended disclosure.
Accountability and auditing - Organisations should be accountable for complying with principles
providing training to all employees and auditing the actual use of private information.


Contemporary information has severely changed the existing laws and social practices that protect private
intellectual property.
Intellectual property is defined as intangible properties of any kind created by individuals or corporations.
Intellectual property is subject to a variety of protections:
1. Trade Secrets
This is any intellectual work or product that is a formular, a device, a pattern or a compulation of data
used for business purpose.
Trade secrets will grant a monopoly behind the work product to the author.
2. Copyrights
This is a statutory grant that protects the creators of a property form being copied by others during the
lifetime of the author and an additional 70 years after the death of the author.
3. Patents
This grants exclusive monopoly to an author behind the idea and invention of a product for 20 years.
The intetion behind the patent is to ensure that the author receives full financial and other rewards for
the work and yet make wide spread of the invention possible.
4. Trademark
It is a recognisable sign or expression which identifies product or services of a particular source different
from those offered by others.
The trademark owner can be individual, organisations or any legal entity.
Challenges to intellectual property rights.

Ease of replication.
Ease of transmission.
Difficulty in classifying softwares.
Difficulties in establishing uniqueness.
5. Compactness.