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3002111 Information Technology Ethics

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3002111 Information Technology Ethics

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Course Code: 3002111
University: Southern Cross University

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Country: Australia

Question:
Analyze the article/case study from the perspective of four classical ethical theories including utilitarianism, deontology, contract, and virtue. You should present well-reasoned arguments for your assessments and recommendations. 
Answer:

Introduction
Computer ethics refers to the set of the principles, procedures, practices, and values that govern the overall utilisation and the consumption of the computer technology. These also includes the related disciplines which guide the entities to use the computer technology in the best possible manner without damaging or violating the moral values and beliefs of the organisations and society as a whole. The fact that computer technologies give the humans a number of choices also creates a policy vacuum for the efficient manner to use such technologies after due consideration to the personal and the social policies (Moor, 2017). The essay is aimed at discussing the four principle ethical theories of the computer ethics and analysing the article “Students and sensors: data, education, privacy, and research,” in the light of the above ethical theories. The essay will draw conclusions on the ethical theories being the critical part of the conduct of the various computer operations and the decisions.
Background
The four principle computer ethical theories are utilitarianism, deontology, contract, and virtue theories. The above-mentioned theories aid in the evaluation of the actions and the issues arising out of the use of the information technology, in a systematic, comprehensive and a consistent manner (Tavani, 2011). The article chosen for the analysis is “Students and sensors: data, education, privacy, and research, by Irina Raicu”. The article is about the collection and analysis of the student data at a University in Arizona, through the student ID cards (Raicu, 2018). The analysis eventually became the part of the student retention efforts and the academic success.
Utilitarianism Theory
Jeremy Bentham had developed the ethical theory of utilitarianism. The theory accords the consideration of group interests and the happiness of all, above the individual interests and the benefits (Kizza, 2016). According to this ethical theory, actions must be analysed from a perspective of utility and happiness to population as a whole. Thus, applying the theory to the above actions mentioned in the article, the analysis of the student data, routines and relationships can be beneficial to both the students and the universities, if the same aids in the retention of the students and improve the academics of the students. While the analysis of the data, would be useful for the university from the overall management point of view, the same would be useful for the students and the academic advisers to choose the subjects after their freshman year (Liao, 2018). There are situations when students certain subjects at the time of the entrance to the colleges, however, the subjects do not go well with the personalities and the background of the students. In this event, if the research data can be correlated to the subjects chosen, this would lead the students to efficiently complete their courses. Thus, from the perspective of the utilitarianism, the actions of the university to gather, store and analyse the student data would bring happiness and the utility to everyone and are justified. The utilitarian must however consider that the data in question is not used for any other purposes, other than for academic purposes.
Deontology Theory
The theory of deontology is further divided into two parts. The duty based ethical theory was developed by Immanuel Kant (NC University, 2018). The theory stresses that loyalty toward one’s own duties and the ethical principles is an important factor, and the same must be incorporated while using the information technology practices and products. Locke and Hobbes further developed the second part of the deontology and named it as the right based ethical theory (NC University, 2018). According to the said theory, an individual must uphold his or her rights concerning privacy or the other human and the legal rights. While the duty based theory focuses on the viability of the action itself and not the consequences, the right based theory focuses on the upholding of the moral principles such as the truth, just and fair treatment, equitable approach and such. On application of the above theories, to the given case study it can be said that harvesting and analysing the student data from their individual swipe is not morally correct. This is mainly because of the fact that the usage was not revealed beforehand to the students and their guardians. Though the university has a wider perspective for the use of the data and it is for the benefit of the students only, still the disclosure on the university’s part is must. Thus, it can be said that from a deontological perspective, it is always ethically wrong to use an individual’s rightful property without prior consent. It does not matter that the said individual is the student of the university and the consequences of such an act does them good in the end or not. The researchers of the university are thus suggested to disclose the fact to the students and their academic advisers that how the data is being analysed to help them with their academics. 
Social Contract Theory
The theory is also simply known as the contract theory. The theory is focussed towards the relationship between the one’s occupational roles and social responsibilities pertaining to that occupation (Reynolds, 2015). The theory states that the entities are equally responsible towards the societies and the communities who have given them the license to work. Thus, it can be said that the entities owe a morally responsible behaviour towards the stakeholders concerned. We are part of the society that involves a number of laws and legislations and in order to avoid the negative consequences, the same must be abide by (Martin, 2016). From the perspective of the contract theory it can be said that if one part of the university’s contract is the obligation towards students to provide them with the best academic services and teachings the other obligation is to keep the data in relation to them, safe and secure. Thus, as also discussed in the theory of deontology, the consequences are acceptable and justifiable when the acts are disclosed on the University of Arizona’s part.
Virtue Theory
The ethical theory believes that entities must inculcate the moral habits and the virtues in their behaviour, no matter the same are expressly mentioned to be followed or not (Mason, 2017). The play of the virtues and the morals come in the picture in case of the complex and the unpredictable situations in the field of the information technology. The universities and the colleges have the main responsibility of the providing the support to the students as and when needed. On application of the virtue theory it can be said that University understands its responsibility and thus had devised a medium to co relate the student behaviour, moral, habits and the background of each of theme to the academic field. However, a major problem in the theory is that establishing of the virtues is a difficult and a crucial concept. This is because of the existence of a number of the cultures, communities, religion and other diversified measures (Dark, 2010). The virtues can be of different types such as just behaviour, regard to right and wrong actions and more. Thus, the same would be different in different scenarios and the regions of the operations of the entities.
Conclusion
Thus as per the discussions held in the previous parts it can be concluded that computer ethics is an integral part of the management and the operations of the computer technology and the related systems and disciplines. There have been prescribed the four ethical theories to guide the behaviour of the entities while making use of such technologies. These technologies in addition, provide a set of the comprehensive approach to analyse the morality of the actions. On application of the above theories on the given case study it can be said that though University is right on its part to support the students in their academics, by analysing the gathered data from their swipe cards, the approach cannot be said altogether right. This is because of the existence of the various human and legal rights on the part of the students and the ethics and virtues on the part of the University of Arizona. The approach can be improvised by simply disclosing the data and the fact that the same is being utilised to the students and their guardians. For now, the students are completely unaware of such data harvesting and pooling, while they have a legal right on the same. Thus, the university and the researchers are recommended to protect and use the data in the question only for the academic and support purposes and disclose the same to students as well.
References
Dark, M. J. (2010). Information Assurance and Security Ethics in Complex Systems: Interdisciplinary Perspectives. IGI Global.
Kizza, J. M. (2016) Ethics in Computing. Geneva: Springer International Publishing.
Liao, S. (2018). University of Arizona tracks student ID cards to detect who might drop out. Retrieved from: https://www.theverge.com/2018/3/12/17109224/university-of-arizona-tracking-smartchips-student-ids-privacy-drop-out
Martin, K. (2016). Understanding privacy online: Development of a social contract approach to privacy. Journal of Business Ethics, 137(3), 551-569.
Mason, R. O. (2017). Four ethical issues of the information age. In Computer Ethics, Oxon: Routledge. 41-48.
Moor, J. H. (2017). What is computer ethics?. In Computer Ethics. Oxon: Routledge, 31-40.
NC University. (2018). Ethics in Computing. Retrieved from: https://ethics.csc.ncsu.edu/basics/principles/study.php
Raicu, I. (2018). Students and Sensors: Data, education, privacy, and research. Retrieved from: https://www.scu.edu/ethics/focus-areas/internet-ethics/resources/students-and-sensors-data-education-privacy-and-research/
Reynolds, G. W. (2015). Ethics in Information Technology. (5th Ed.). Boston MA: Cengage Learning.
Tavani, H. T. (2011). Ethics and technology: Controversies, questions, and strategies for ethical computing. (3rd ed.). New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons.

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