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PHL202 Ethical Theory

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PHL202 Ethical Theory

0 Download7 Pages / 1,554 Words

Course Code: PHL202
University: Charles Sturt University is not sponsored or endorsed by this college or university

Country: Australia


Write an essay according to the following instructions.
Your lecturer will provide few links for relevant articles and/or case studies. These will be available to you just after your second assignment submission date.

Choose one of the media articles or case studies listed by the lecturer in your Interact 2 subject site. Use the title of the article/case study provided in interact 2 as the title of your essay, so that the lecturer knows which article you are analysing.
Undertake further research about your chosen case, to assist you in analysing and discussing it in your essay. Analyse the article/case study from the perspective of four classical ethical theories including utilitarianism, deontology, contract, and virtue. Your essay should present well-reasoned arguments for your assessments and recommendations. 
Write an overall conclusion that justifies your recommendations made in your essay.
Include a Reference list at the end of your work, in the correct APA referencing style, corresponding to in-text citations. The word limit for the essay is 1400-1500 words. Headings, citations and references do not count towards the word limit, but quotations do.

List of Topics
The following links provide the news about cybertechnology related ethical issues, choose any case study from this list and answer the questions for assignment 3:

This assessment task will assess the following learning outcome/s:

be able to identify ethical issues related to ICT.
be able to assess the implications of ethical problems.
be able to critically evaluate solutions to ethical problems.
be able to apply ethical theories to ethical problems.
be able to argue consistently and rationally about the moral issues raised by the adoption and use of ICT.
be able to analyse ethical situations using critical thinking techniques.

This assessment extends the skills practised in Assessment item 1 and 2, to help you to achieve all the learning objectives.
In addition to identifying a contentious situation in ICT and dissecting the argument(s) about it, you must also now demonstrate the ability to evaluate the elements of the argument by introducing classical ethical principles where appropriate.
Since Assessment item 1 and 2, your knowledge will have grown, and you will now realise that almost all ICT ethical dilemmas can be classified under one of the main ICT ethical issues that are discussed in this subject; for instance, surveillance is a sub-issue of privacy, harmful software is a sub-issue of ICT professionalism, and piracy is a sub-issue of intellectual property.
In ICT, the main ethical issues are taken to be:

ICT professionalism
Intellectual property
Regulation on the internet
Social inclusion
Community and identity
Pervasive and convergent computing


In this essay, the case of the University of Arizona will be discussed to understand the ethical implications of using sensors to collect data regarding students for the research of the organisation. The importance of ethical principles has grown significantly along with the risk of cyber threats on the private data of individuals. The University of Arizona has given CatCards to its students that are used by them for entering and exiting from different locations in the campus. This data is collected by the university in order to determine the reason for the retention of 20 percent of students who did not join the campus in the second year. The data include private information regarding students such as their routines, hangout places, friends, and others (Raicu, 2018).
While sending the date for research, the university ensures that the data is anonymous; however, the personal details might share with academic advisers of the students. The university is also planning to install 8,000 Wi-Fi hubs on the campus to improve the accuracy of the data collection process which will result in providing more accurate results (Blue, 2018). This data is collected by the university from the first day of the students, and it continues for three years. Most students did not know about this data collection process, and the university did not give them the option to opt out of this research (Jess, 2018). This essay will evaluate whether it is ethical for the university to collect this data about their students and whether it raised any privacy and security concerns. This essay will apply utilitarianism, deontology, virtue and contract ethical theory to evaluate the ethical dilemma raised in this case.
Utilitarianism theory
The utilitarianism theory is a part of normative ethical theories which judges the morality of a situation based on its consequences. The key element of the theory provides that individuals and entities should focus on the greater good of a greater number of people. This theory analyses the consequences of a situation while determining whether the actions of a party are ethical or unethical (Craft, 2013). The key stakeholders in this case study include the university and students. The objective of the university to collect the data of the student is to find out the reason for the attrition rates of the students. Around 20 percent of the students did not join the second year in the university, and the university wanted to find out the reason for the same by collecting the data of students. However, the consequences of this research can be disastrous since the privacy and security of students can be breached by third parties. Although the data of students are anonymous, however, the identity is revealed to the academic advisers of the students. It violates the privacy of students without their knowledge since most of them are unaware of this research. The main objective is the benefit of the university by retaining more students which contradicts with the elements of utilitarianism approach since the greater good of a greater number of people is not considered by the university. The consequences could be catastrophic if the sensitive data of students leaked; therefore, this decision is unethical as per this theory.
Deontology theory
The deontology ethics is another ethical theory which is the part of the normative ethical theories. As per this perspective, the morality of actions is defined as right or wrong based on compliance with a series of rules rather than the consequences of the actions (Al-Aidaros, Shamsudin & Idris, 2013). The elements of this theory provide that a maxim should be defined which defines whether the actions of individuals are good or bad. As per this theory, the research conducted by the University of Arizona is unethical. As per EDUCAUSE Review, an ethical framework is necessary to be maintained by the parties since they are responsible for using the data of students in higher education (Raicu, 2018). A key principle provides that the transparency should be maintained by the parties while collecting the data of individuals. The university has breached this element because it failed to maintain clear representations regarding the nature and extent of the information which is collected by the institution along with third-party organisations. Secondly, it failed to explicate the way in which the information is being accessed. Lastly, the university failed to review the information through a clearly articulated governance process. The students who did not want to be a part of this research should have the option to opt out. Based on these factors, actions of the university are unethical.
Virtue theory
Virtue ethics theory focuses on the moral character or virtues of the party rather than actions (deontology) or consequences (utilitarianism) of the actions while accessing the morality. It is also referred as a character-based approach which provides that people acquire virtues through practice and life experiences. As per Aristotle’s approach, the parties are required to practise good virtues in order to develop a moral character which includes honesty, generosity, bravery, fairness, integrity, and others (Crossan, Mazutis & Seijts, 2013). In this case, the university has not acted with good virtues based on which the decision to conduct research on private data of students is unethical. Firstly, the university has failed to maintain honesty while collecting the data and maintaining transparency in the overall process. Secondly, it has breached the integrity by not providing an option for students to opt out of the research. Due to these bad virtues, the actions of the university are considered as unethical.
Contract theory
The Contractarianism or the contract theory provides that parties should comply with the set of rules of governs their behaviour in the society. Human beings have developed ideal social contracts which govern their behaviour to ensure that they act rationally and ethically (Luetge, Armbruster & Muller, 2016). Based on the principles of this theory, the decision taken by the university to research on its students is unethical. As per the social contracts, it is important that the university maintains transparency and disclosure to its students that it is collecting their private data. It should have also given them the option to opt out of the research if they did not want to share their private information. Since the university failed to comply with these elements, the research taken by it is unethical which resulted in breaching various social contracts.
What you think
The main purpose of the research conducted by the University of Arizona is to find out why many students did not continue their academic studies after first year. However, the method used by the university has raised many ethical concerns. Firstly, it is wrong for the university to collect the sensitive data of its students because it raised many privacy and security concerns. The process and purpose of the data collection process are not defined by the university to its students as well. Most of them are unaware that their data is used for the purpose of this study from the first day on the campus. Moreover, the university did not give the option to its students to prevent their data from accessing by the university. In case this data is collected by the cyber criminals, then it can result in violating the privacy of students. Therefore, the decision of this research is unethical, and the university should change its policies to maintain transparency and providing the option for students to stop their private data from accessing by the university.
In conclusion, the case study of the University of Arizona is analysed to understand the ethical issues relating to privacy and security raised in this case. As per the ethical theories including utilitarianism, deontology, virtue, and contract, the actions of the university are unethical. The main ethical issue is raised due to the lack of transparency maintained by the university. Moreover, the university has not given a choice to its students so that they can avoid the research by stopping the university from collecting their data. If the private data of students is leaked to third parties with ill intentions, then the students have to face negative consequences. Thus, the university should establish an ethical framework by defining the process in which the data of students is collected by them along with its purpose. It should also allow them to avoid the research if they did not prefer to share their private information to comply with ethical principles.
Al-Aidaros, A. H., Shamsudin, F. M., & Idris, K. M. (2013). Ethics and ethical theories from an Islamic perspective. International Journal of Islamic Thought, 4, 1.
Blue, A. (2018). Researcher Looks at ‘Digital Traces’ to Help Students. Retrieved from
Craft, J. L. (2013). A review of the empirical ethical decision-making literature: 2004–2011. Journal of business ethics, 117(2), 221-259.
Crossan, M., Mazutis, D., & Seijts, G. (2013). In search of virtue: The role of virtues, values and character strengths in ethical decision making. Journal of Business Ethics, 113(4), 567-581.
Jess, S. (2018). Student ID Card Research Raises Privacy Concerns. Retrieved from
Luetge, C., Armbruster, T., & Müller, J. (2016). Order ethics: Bridging the gap between contractarianism and business ethics. Journal of Business Ethics, 136(4), 687-697.
Raicu, I. (2018). Students and Sensors: Data, education, privacy, and research. Retrieved from

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