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Ethics in Technology for the Information Age Essay

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Updated: Sep 9th, 2021

Harms and Benefits of Privacy

The concept of privacy defines the boundaries of access to personal data. It is the right of every individual to keep some information private when he/she deems it sensitive. However, it is valid to note that to keep absolute privacy and confidentiality in the Information Age is rather challenging because one can learn a lot about another just by locating their phone number and address. Clearly, the situations of full and limited privacy each have their own advantages and disadvantages, and they will be discussed in the present essay.

Privacy is essential for the protection of both material and intellectual property. When a person has limited control over some types of information, a high risk that somebody may abuse it in many different ways appears. Thus, everyone should have a right to keep their contact data confidential along with all online passwords and logins, which can be used for theft.

Privacy can help prevent harm to personal identity, as well as physical integrity. For example, when a person has some interests that might be harmless in nature but could be viewed as shocking by others, he/she would probably want to keep them secret. When the information about one’s engagement in controversial or scandalous activities leaks, it may severely damage his/her image and reputation. In some serious cases, the costs of such disclosure may go beyond just psychological distress and include substantial losses and physical harm. Overall, even when an individual lives an absolutely “normal” life and has no extreme, controversial interests, they still would likely want to keep some things about themselves private. As stated by Quinn (2016), privacy is key to psychological health and building intimate relationships. Thus, everyone should be able to exercise enough control over personal and sensitive information.

As for the potential harms of full privacy, they primarily refer to hiding information about unjust, violent, and criminal behaviors that may harm other individuals and society as a whole. As noted by Quinn (2016), the vast majority of illegal and evidently wrong deeds are planned in disguise of privacy. It means that an excess degree of privacy may be harmful. On the other hand, society can benefit by learning about some illegal plotting timely, especially if it is intended to induce severe damages like in the case of terrorist bomb attacks. The only and major issue is, however, in the maintenance of the right balance between keeping personal information open and protecting individual privacy.

Whistleblowing as a Moral Duty

The term “whistleblowing” is used to describe an action of disclosing information about some unethical or illegal conduct in organizations that they prefer hiding from the public. Usually, either former or current organizational employees who grow aware of the potential negative consequences of such immoral and illegitimate corporate processes become whistleblowers. Even though whistleblowing can negatively affect the lives of those who engage in it, it may be viewed as a moral duty of every employee, and this essay will aim to explain why.

Whistleblowing is directly related to the principle of personal responsibility. When choosing to work for a certain company, each worker contributes to its success through individual performance. In this way, taking part in organizational behaviors in general, every employee participates in influencing the communities and society through the outcomes of those behaviors, regardless of whether they are beneficial or detrimental. A whistle-blower Carlos G. Bell Jr. verifies this idea by noting that employees usually tend to assign moral responsibility for organizational misconduct to managers in superior positions, forgetting that earning considerable wealth working in companies involved in illegal activities is also unethical (Quinn, 2016). It means that each person should regard themselves as part of the organization as a whole and aim to form a clear and realistic picture of the roles they play in their companies.

Overall, whistleblowing is the only right choice of a morally conscious person. However, many people fear blowing the whistle considering that whistleblowers are usually not legally protected and bear a significant risk of job loss, damages to their financial status and identity. To understand what to do in an ethically controversial situation, Richard De George recommends evaluating the existing evidence of the problem and the magnitude of potential harms of organizational activities (Quinn, 2016). In addition, he suggests taking into account alternative solutions aimed to resolve the issue without information disclosure (Quinn, 2016). In other words, one must blow the whistle in case the induced harms are likely to be substantial and when there is no other way to interfere with misconduct. Nevertheless, it is appropriate to say that an employee should also weigh all personal risks they may face due to their decision and contrast them with social costs and benefits. As a result of a comprehensive stakeholder analysis, it may be easier to make the right choice of whether to blow the whistle or not.

The Winner-Take-All Society

The term “the winner-take-all society” was created by Robert Frank and Philip Cook and analyzed in detail in their book. In general, this concept is related to the principle of social equality or, speaking more precisely, to the lack of thereof. It implies that people who manage to improve their professional status either due to luck or some personal traits, such as intellect and inherent talents, or as a result of hard work and learning receive much higher rewards than those who are deprived of those opportunities and qualities. However, Frank and Cook also note that not all well-educated, hard-working, and talented individuals have a chance to reap the same fruitful results of their labor as a minority group of successful persons. The main reason for that is the general situation in modern society where the number of opportunities for equal access to resources is relatively low.

Clearly, the winner-take-all society described by Frank and Cook is highly hierarchical. Those in the higher positions always enjoy more prestige and greater income, whereas those at the bottom are often deprived of those things entirely. Noteworthily, economically disadvantaged individuals also have even fewer opportunities to access resources across the lifespan than higher-income people. An obvious negative effect of such an economic and social structure characterized by low social mobility is distributional inequality. At the individual level, it can translate into poor quality of life for a vast number of people.

It is also worth noticing that some domains of performance are considered to be more culturally and socially significant and, thus, more valued. For instance, a top athlete normally receives far more money and other intangible benefits than a top dentist or a pharmacist. Thus, more individuals are interested in professions that seem more prestigious and strive to excel in them. As a result, certain domains of the labor market become oversaturated while others are associated with the scarcity of the workforce.

Lastly, the winner-take-all approach intensifies interpersonal competition, which increases the risk of conflicts and can make people less compassionate and more self-interested. Of course, excellent work must be rewarded appropriately and proportionally. However, there must be more opportunities for material success and honorable life for each person regardless of their starting point. Therefore, a substantial cultural shift and the enforcement of alternative policies are needed to foster more economic equality.

Reference

Quinn, M. J. (2016). Ethics for the information age (7th ed.). London, UK: Pearson.

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IvyPanda. 2021. "Ethics in Technology for the Information Age." September 9, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/ethics-in-technology-for-the-information-age/.

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IvyPanda. (2021) 'Ethics in Technology for the Information Age'. 9 September.

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