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Information technology and ethics

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-L121-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved June 23, 2024, from

Article Summary

Information technology ethics is the study of the ethical issues arising out of the use and development of electronic technologies. Its goal is to identify and formulate answers to questions about the moral basis of individual responsibilities and actions, as well as the moral underpinnings of public policy.

Information technology ethics raises new and unique moral problems because information technology itself has brought about dramatic social, political, and conceptual change. Because information technology affects not only how we do things but how we think about them, it challenges some of the basic organizing concepts of moral and political philosophy such as property, privacy, the distribution of power, basic liberties and moral responsibility.

Specific questions include the following. What are the moral responsibilities of computer professionals? Who is to blame when computer software failure causes harm? Is computer hacking immoral? Is it immoral to make unauthorized copies of software? Questions related to public policy include: what constitutes just policy with respect to freedom of speech, association, and the exercise of other civil liberties over computer networks? What determines the extent and limits of property rights over computer software and electronic information? What policies adequately protect a right to privacy?

The list of questions shifts in response to developments in information technology. One noteworthy example is the rise in prominence of questions about communication and information in response to the explosive growth of high-speed digital networks. This shift has subsumed the field commonly called ‘computer ethics’ under the broader rubric of ‘information technology ethics’.

Citing this article:
Nissenbaum, Helen. Information technology and ethics, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-L121-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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