Chapter 4

Social, Ethical, & Legal
Issues in ISs
(U PDATED N O V . 26, 2013 )
 Principles of right & wrong that individuals, acting
as free moral agents, use to make choices to guide
their behaviours*
 Not the same as legal, but frequently, actions that
are unethical are also illegal – and not everything
that is illegal is unethical*
Digital Law – new, expanding**
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A Metaphor for Thinking about
Ethical, Social, & Political Issues
• Society as a calm pond
• IT as a rock dropped in pond, creating ripples of
new situations not covered by old rules
• Social & political institutions cannot respond
overnight to these ripples — it may take years to
develop etiquette, expectations, laws
• Requires understanding of ethics to make choices
in legally grey areas
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Five Moral Dimensions
of the Information Age
• Information rights & obligations
• Property rights & obligations
• Accountability & control
• System quality
• Quality of life
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The Relationship among Ethical, Social, &
Political Issues in an Information Society
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Technology Trends
that Raise Ethical Issues
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Nonobvious Relationship Awareness
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Basic Concepts:
Responsibility, Accountability, Liability
 Responsibility: Accepting the potential costs,
duties, & obligations for decisions
 Accountability: Methodology for identifying
responsible parties
 Liability: Permits individuals to recover damages
done to them
 Due process: Laws are well known & understood,
with an ability to appeal to higher authorities
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Ethical Analysis
1. Identify & clearly describe the facts
2. Define the conflict or dilemma, & identify the
higher-order values involved
3. Identify the stakeholders
4. Identify the options that you can reasonably
5. Identify the consequences of your options
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Candidate Ethical Principles
Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have
them do unto you.
Immanuel Kant’s Categorical Imperative: If an
action is not right for everyone to take, then it is
not right for anyone
Descartes’ rule of change: If an action cannot be
taken repeatedly, then it is not right to be taken
at any time
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Candidate Ethical Principles #2
Utilitarian Principle: Take the action that
achieves the greatest value for all concerned
Risk Aversion Principle: Take the action that
produces the least harm or incurs the least cost
to all concerned
Ethical “no free lunch” rule: Assume that all
tangible & intangible objects are owned by
someone else, unless there is a specific
declaration otherwise
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Privacy in the Internet Age
 Privacy: Claim of individuals to be left alone, free
from surveillance or interference from other
individuals, organizations, or the state. Ethical
(cultural) norms with legal backing.
 Personal Information Protection & Electronic
Documents Act (PIPEDA) establishes principles
for collection, use, & disclosure of personal data*
 Provinces have parallel legislation
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Internet Challenges to Privacy
 Internet facilitates tracking of online activities
(e.g., cookies are used to trace Web site visits)*
 Web bugs & spyware can install automatically
Opt-in versus opt-out models of informed consent
(e.g., filling in online profiles in order to get access to
some documents or software)
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Figure 4-3
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Privacy Policies
Figure 4-4
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How Google Uses the Data It Collects
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Technical Solutions
 Platform for
Preferences (P3P)
Enables automatic
communication of
privacy policies
between an ecommerce site & its
 Privacy policy can
become part of the
page’s software
Figure 4-4
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Intellectual Property Rights
• Intellectual property is intangible property created
by individuals or corporations
• Protected by:
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Trade secrets
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Trade Secrets
Intellectual work or product belonging to a business
and not found in the public domain
Supreme Court test for breach of trade secrets:
1. Communications must be labelled “confidential”
2. Communicated content must have been misused
by the receiver
3. Effects must have been harmful to the
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Statutory grant protecting intellectual property from
being copied for at least 50 years
Canadian copyright law protects original literary,
musical, artistic, & dramatic works. It also
includes software & prohibits copying of entire
programs or their parts.
NOTE: This week, the US Congress began
entertaining a bill to reduce copyright to 50 years
from 70.
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A grant to the creator of an invention giving the
owner an exclusive monopoly on the ideas behind
an invention for between 17 & 20 years
Patent law grants a monopoly on underlying
concepts & ideas of software
Originality, novelty, & invention are key concepts
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Challenges to
Intellectual Property Rights
 Perfect digital copies cost almost nothing
 Sharing of digital content over the Internet costs
almost nothing
 Sites, software, & services for file trading are not
easily regulated
 A Web page may present data from many sources
& may incorporate framing
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Accountability, Liability, & Control
• Computer-related liability problems
• System quality
• Data quality & system errors
• No software is perfect, errors will be made, even if the
errors have a low probability of occurring
• Software developers knowingly ship “buggy” products
• At what point should software be shipped?
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Accountability, Liability, & Control
 Quality of life: Equity, access, & boundaries
Computer crime & abuse (stealing data vs. using work
computer for private purposes)
Employment: Trickle-down technology & reengineering
job loss impact
Equity & access: Increasing racial & social class divisions
AKA The Digital Divide
Health risks: RSI, CVS, & technostress
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Mason’s PAPA Model
 Property: Whose property is it anyway? Do NOT
pirate anything!
 Accuracy: How accurate does it need to be? Think
of the Hubble Space Telescope.
 Privacy: Do you want everything about you to be
public knowledge? How can you protect your
privacy? (The Globe & Mail test, the Mama test)
 Access: Who should have access? Equity of access
within a business. Do not omit staff from access if
they need access.
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Brabston’s Extension to
Mason’s PAPA Equity
 Layoffs: These are people’s lives, not statistics!
 Access to IT: For an equitable society & one that
trains everyone in certain fundamental skills,
everyone must have access to appropriate hardware,
software, & networks
 Access to computer literacy: Everyone must
understand how to use a computer & the Internet
 Access to informing literacy: Everyone should
understand what information is valid, reliable,
consistent, accurate, appropriate, etc. --?
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