In today’s technology-driven world, businesses that want to rise above the competition need tech-savvy professionals to help them get there. For example, business intelligence (BI) tools process massive amounts of data to help companies improve decision-making, performance, and profits. However, along with the benefits of such technologies come ethical concerns with a company’s use of data.
As a technology professional, it is important to understand the ethical implications of the technologies your company uses and develop a plan for when something goes wrong. Emporia State University’s Master of Science (M.S.) in Information Technology online program equips graduates with the skills to deploy emerging technologies along with a foundation for thinking through ethical concerns.
What Are Some Ethical Issues in Technology?
Simply put, ethical behavior means doing the right thing. Ethical conduct in business can be as straightforward as complying with applicable laws, but many areas of business do not have clear-cut lines of right or wrong. Ethics also involves making the right decision when the alternative may not violate any laws.
Understanding the relationship between ethics and technology can guide organizations in doing the right thing. As the following examples demonstrate, doing so may be the most important step a company takes to protect its reputation.
Privacy and Protection Issues
Data tracking on websites and social media got significant attention when the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) went into effect in 2018. This data privacy and security law enforces strict rules on data collection, and it applies to companies worldwide that do business in the EU marketplace.
According to the United Nations, 137 out of 194 countries have enacted data privacy and protection legislation. Yet, data breaches are more common and costly than ever. Findings from IBM’s 2022 Cost of a Data Breach report include:
- The average cost of a data breach in the U.S. is $9.44 million.
- Stolen or compromised credentials (such as employee passwords) are the most common cause of a data breach.
- Almost half of all breaches happen in the cloud.
Keeping customer data safe is a risk management priority and an ethical obligation. Keeping an organization’s data safe is critical for protecting the company and its stakeholders. On a related note, as an article in Chron points out, just because data can be collected does not mean it is necessary or appropriate.
Crime Prediction Technology
The use of artificial intelligence (AI) to predict and prevent crimes may be one of the most controversial uses of technology. Concerns with racial bias are one reason.
In the Forbes article “Why All Companies Must Explore the Role of Ethics in Technology,” author Tal Frankfurt addresses concerns with AI. Frankfurt shares the example of Amazon’s facial recognition tool “Rekognition,” which incorrectly identified 28 members of Congress as individuals in a criminal database. The results disproportionately matched people of color.
Smartphone users are familiar with the facial recognition tool that lets them unlock their phones. Users can disable this feature, but what about the many other uses of facial recognition technology (FRT), such as in targeted marketing? Ethical concerns include consent and privacy.
Addictive Gaming Design
In an article for Medium, Gustavo Guida asks, “Can the gaming industry grow and prosper without compromising ethics?” Guida raises questions about the ethics of addictive game design, including whether selling “loot boxes” should be considered a form of gambling.
Should loot boxes be regulated like gambling? Is it the responsibility of gaming companies to worry about players “overusing” their products? Should potentially negative aspects of a game be part of design decisions? Ethical issues are one of the most debated topics in the video game industry.
Emporia’s online M.S. in Information Technology prepares graduates with an understanding of the ethics of new technologies. For example, the course Electronic Commerce addresses the role of information and communication technology in supporting e-commerce. In addition to focusing on revenue models, the program also allows students to explore ethical issues related to planning, designing, and implementing e-commerce systems.
Consumer trust is said to be a company’s most valuable asset. According to a LinkedIn survey, over 70% of consumers are unlikely to buy from companies that lose their trust.
As technology continues to evolve in ways we might not have imagined, ethical dilemmas will increase and grow in complexity. Technology professionals who understand ethical challenges can help companies manage risk and make the right decisions.
Learn more about Emporia State University’s online M.S. in Information Technology program.