Social, Legal, and Ethical Issues
in the Information Age
Students should be able to answer the following questions:
1. What ethical, social, and political issues are raised by information systems?
2. Are there specific principles for conduct that can be used to guide decisions about ethical dilemmas?
3. Why does contemporary information technology pose challenges to the protection for individual privacy and intellectual property?
4. How have information systems affected everyday life?
5. How can organizations develop corporate policies for ethical conduct?
The following alphabetical list identifies the key ...view middle of the document...
Your students will have a variety of opinions about the ethical issues presented in this chapter. The opening vignette, “BT Cellnet Tests the Waters for Spamming,” is an excellent discussion vehicle. This vignette presents the issue of using a text messaging service as a marketing channel. Since most, if not all, of your students own cell phones, the situation presented in this vignette will evoke strong reactions from some individuals. To facilitate class discussion, ask your students to discuss the following questions:
1. What is your opinion about having ads sent to your cell phone?
2. If you were not billed for the call, would your opinion change?
3. What ethical, social, and political issues does this situation raise?
4. Apply the five-step ethical analysis process to the situation presented in the vignette.
Many people do not want to discuss or even think about ethical and social issues, at least not until a large scandal takes place such as the current Enron and Anderson scandals. However, the use of new technology usually presents these kinds of problems, and the truth is that the further we are from being affected by an issue, the more we are willing to take the ethical/social side. Throughout this chapter, and throughout the rest of the text, it is imperative that you raise and discuss these issues so that students can see both the positive and negative sides of technology. It is possible, for example, that if more courses and schools had addressed these issues, the current scandals may have been avoided or uncovered sooner. So raise these issues, stress their importance, and point out ways that these issues can affect the students in the long run. Another scandal just now breaking (and may not become a major public issue at this time) is the issue of stock brokers advising investors on stocks, taking positions that they would never follow themselves, or even worse, that they can quietly benefit from.
This chapter allows students to wrestle with the ethical questions they have probably had since the beginning of the text. You can use the United States Postal Service as an example of how automation and computerization seem to have harmed both consumers and postal workers. The combination of zip codes and electronic sorting machines, and requiring consumers to put nine digits on their mail is not good customer service, and is an example of the misuse of information systems. It also puts enormous stress on postal workers from the pressure to mark and sort mail under time constraints. Students should see that decisions to implement such systems are not a result of managerial maliciousness. The Postal Service was under desperate pressure to reduce costs. Automation was seen as a balm for its problems.
Some students see technology as a malignant force. Ask whether computers or computer-based information systems should ever be traded for workers. Students usually demur, but some will assert that never is...