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CHAPTER 8

ETHICS AND TECHNOLOGY

Big Brother Is Watching You


George Orwell, 1984, Part 1, Chapter 1

Too many employers practice a credo of In God we trust, others we monitor.


Marlene Piturro, Electronic Monitoring

OBJECTIVES
After studying this chapter, you should be able to:

1. Understand the ethical ramifications of recent technological advances. 2. Explain the employee view of privacy at work. 3. Explain the employer view of privacy at work. 4. Distinguish between thin and thick consent. 5. Understand the concept of vicarious liability. 6. Identify the top categories of litigation related to Internet communications.

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ETHICS AND TECHNOLOGY

Companies are now able to make vast amounts of information available to employees and customers on their Internet, intranet, and extranet sites. Extranet: A private piece of companys Internet network that is made available to customers and/or vendor partners on the basis of secured access by unique password. Intranet: A companys internal Web site, containing information for employee access only.

ETHICS AND TECHNOLOGY

However, now that these tools have become part of our everyday work environment, many of those wonderful promises have been overshadowed by concerns over loss of privacy in two key areas: 1. As a customer, companies now have the technical capability to shoot your personal data to any part of the world to take advantage of lower labor costs. 2. As an employee, your employer now has the capability of monitoring every e-mail you send and Web site you visit in order to make sure that you really are delivering on the promise of increased worker productivity.

PROGRESS CHECK QUESTIONS

How would you feel if you found out that someone halfway around the world from your doctors office was reading your medical tests? Would your opinion change if you knew those cost savings were putting American radiologists out of a job? What if they were being read this way because there was a shortage of qualified medical personnel here? Would that change your opinion? Should your doctor be obligated to tell you where your tests are being read? Why or why not? Storing private information in digital format simplifies the storage and transfer of that information and offers cost savings to companies that are (hopefully) passed on to their customers. Does using ID numbers instead of names meet their obligation to maintain your privacy in this new digital world?

THE PROMISE OF INCREASED WORKER PRODUCTIVITY


The Employer Position:

As an employee of the organization, your productivity during your time at work represents the performance portion of the pay-for-performance contract you entered into with the company when you were hired. Therefore, your actions during that timeyour allotted shift or normal work periodare at the discretion of the company. Other than lunch and any scheduled breaks, all your activity should be work-related, and any monitoring of that activity should not be regarded as an infringement of your privacy. If you want to do something in private, dont do it at work. The organization has an obligation to its stakeholders to operate as efficiently as possible, and to do so it must ensure that company resources are not being misused or stolen and that company data and proprietary information are being closely guarded.

THE PROMISE OF INCREASED WORKER PRODUCTIVITY


The Employee Position:

As an employee of the company, I recognize that my time at work represents the productivity for which I receive an agreed amount of compensationeither an hourly rate or an annual salary. However, that agreement should not intrude upon my civil rights as an individualI am an employee, not a servant. As such, I should be notified of any electronic surveillance and the purpose of that surveillance. The actions of a small number of employees in breaking company rules should not be used as a justification to take away everyones civil rights.

EXAMPLES OF ETHICAL DILEMMAS

CASE 8.1 A Failure to Disclose

THE PROMISE OF INCREASED WORKER PRODUCTIVITY

Telecommuting: The ability to work outside of your office (from your home or anywhere else) and log in to your company network (usually via a secure gateway such as a VPN, virtual private network).

THE PROMISE OF INCREASED WORKER PRODUCTIVITY

If employee rights were recognized in this argument, then for those rights to have any validity, it would follow that employees should give their consent to be monitored by all this technology. However, as Adam Moore points out, the state of the job market will inevitably create a distinction between two types of consent: thin and thick.

THE PROMISE OF INCREASED WORKER PRODUCTIVITY

Thin consent: If an employee receives formal notification that the company will be monitoring all email and Web activityeither at the time of hire or during employmentand it is made clear in that notification that his or her continued employment with the company will be dependent on the employees agreement to abide by that monitoring, then the employee may be said to have given thin consent. Thick consent: If employment conditions are at the other end of the scalethat is, jobs are plentiful and the employee would have no difficulty in finding another positionthen the consent given to the monitoring policy could be classified as thick since the employee has a realistic alternative if he or she finds the policy to be unacceptable.

PROGRESS CHECK QUESTIONS

How would you describe the atmosphere in this call center? Jamies calls were monitored at all times by a call center supervisor. Is that ethical? Why or why not? What would you say is the worst part of working in this call center? When Jamie resigned, he was escorted from the building by security. Is that ethical? Why or why not?

VICARIOUS LIABILITY

Vicarious liability: A legal concept that means that a party may be held responsible for injury or damage, when in reality he or she was not actively involved in the incident. Cyberliability: As a employer, you could be held liable for the actions of your employees in their Internet communications to the same degree as if they had written those communications on company letterhead.

VICARIOUS LIABILITY
The extent of cyberliability can be seen in the top categories of litigation recorded by Elron Software: Discrimination Harassment Obscenity and pornography Defamation and libel Information leaks Spam

EXAMPLES OF ETHICAL DILEMMAS

CASE 8.2 Top 20 Blonde Jokes

TEN COMMANDMENTS OF COMPUTER ETHICS


(Created by the Computer Ethics Institute)

1. 2.

Thou shalt not use a computer to harm other people. Thou shalt not interfere with other peoples computer work. 3. Thou shalt not snoop around in other peoples computer files. 4. Thou shalt not use a computer to steal. 5. Thou shalt not use a computer to bear false witness. 6. Thou shalt not copy or use proprietary software for which you have not paid. 7. Thou shalt not use other peoples computer resources without authorization or proper compensation. 8. Thou shalt not appropriate other peoples intellectual output. 9. Thou shalt think about the social consequences of the program you are writing or the system you are designing. 10. Thou shalt always use a computer in ways that ensure consideration and respect for your fellow humans.

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