Relevance Of Ethical Theories In ICT Industry

Discuss about the Relevance of Ethical Theories in ICT Industry.


From the beginning the ICT industry is an industry of debate and controversy due to the security concerns and ethics related issues. Therefore it is important to address the different ethical issues in the ICT industry. Primarily this issues includes privacy, intellectual content right and violation of different ethical principles.

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The purpose of this report is to address the relevance of different ethical theories in the operations and practices of ICT industry. Moreover, this essay also finds out the connection between the code of ethics like ACS, ACM, and IEEE code of ethics and different ethical theories.    

This particular assignment firmly focuses on analyzing the relevance of Ethical theory in ICT industry. This study discusses the different ethical theories that relevant to ICT industry. Compare and contrast all the theories with examples. Moreover, this essay also explain the relevance of ethical theories with the code of ethics

Discussion and Analysis
Discussion about Different Ethical Theories

Ethics can be defined as “moral standards that is helpful for people to guide their actions, behaviour and choices.” Hence it is important to provide guidelines to users so that they can combat with different malicious attacks on availability, confidentiality and integrity of electronic system and data (Gillespie and Ananny 2015). Ethics in information and communication technology helps users to avoid different possible dangers like fraud and forgery; cyber offences related to ownership of content like violations of intellectual property rights.There are different ethical principles that are followed in Information and communication technology (Stahl et al. 2014). This list of theories includes theory of beneficence, theory of least harm, respect to autonomy, theory of utilitarianism, theory of deontology, theory of rights and lastly theory of virtue.

Theory of virtue: This ethical theory judges a person by their character and not by their actions that may change from their normal behaviour (Crossler et al. 2013). It considers an individual’s reputation, morals and their motivation while rating his/ her irregular behaviour. 

The weakness of this theory is it does not consider an individual’s change in moral character. Therefore it becomes impossible to determine the deviation of someone’s moral from his/ her regular behaviour (Lennerfors, Fors and van Rooijen 2015).

Theory of Rights: In this ethical theory,   main aim is to protect rights that are established by society. These rights are protected since these are ethically correct and endorsed by a large number of people from the society (Crossler et al. 2013).

 The major drawback of this ethical theory is, it is almost impossible to determine the unethical until someone has the idea about the characteristics of right in a particular society.  The society determines that which rights are to be upheld and which are going to be given to its citizens (Obalola, Aduloju and Olowokudejo 2012).   Hence to effectively use the theory of rights it needs to be used in combination with another theory that determines particular goals and priorities of a certain society.

Theory of Beneficence: The theory of beneficence helps the decision maker helps the decision maker to choose between right and wrong (Lennerfors, Fors and van Rooijen 2015). This theory helps to have a possible and acceptable solution for an ethical question or dilemma (Stahl et al. 2014). This theory is mainly associated with utilitarian ethical theory.

Theory of least harm: This theory deals with situations in which no decision seems to be beneficial. In this situations decision is made to do least harm (Lennerfors, Fors and van Rooijen 2015). It is done since the harm is unavoidable and to minimize the effect of the harm to a lesser number of people.

Theory of Deontology: The ethical theories of this class suggest that users should abide by the obligations and responsibilities when they are making decisions and ethics has its role in this process (Gillespie and Ananny 2015). According to this theory, a user who adhere deontological theory is very consistent with his/her decisions as those decisions are based upon their duties.

Since information communication technology is used as tool of gathering knowledge, therefore it is important to protect the rights which are already considered as legal in different regions of world. According to Díaz-Campo and Segado-Boj (2015), violations of these rights created new problems like cyber-crime, digital security related concerns.  These issues had affected users of ICT in direct or indirect way (Crossler et al. 2013). In the countries where internet and other ICT technologies are used widely, absence of ethical guidelines has caused huge harm to the business, governmental organization or to individuals.

Comparison and Contrast Between Different Theories

Comparison between Deontology and virtue theory: The deontology theory states that an action is ethical if it is based on some principle or any moral rule (Stahl,Eden, Jirotka and Coeckelbergh 2014). Again according to virtue theory actions rightness is determined according to the circumstances in which they are taken.

According to deontology morals rules are those which require rationality. In case of virtue theory the decisions are dependent on the acts of virtuous agents (Gillespie and Ananny 2015). The virtue is a character trait that is needed by people to live well in the society.

Relativist vs. Objectivist: In case of relativist, he/she thinks moral or ethical principles do not reflect absolute truth but changes its meaning relatively according to the cultural, historical and personal references (Ifinedo 2012). On the other hand, objectivist thinks that ethical principles are a set of values which will guide an individual’s actions and choices.  In general it can be said that relativism is dependent on the different variables depending on different scenarios. The normal and moral behaviour is defined in every culture. Therefore, it is not necessary that an act of a professional considered right in a culture is also right in another culture (Hersh 2015).  In this way different organizations in different cultures have conflicts between them. 

On the contrary, objectivism provides a concrete and exact definition of things. Therefore, for an ICT practice relativism determines its rightness depending upon the circumstances (Obalola, Aduloju and Olowokudejo 2012). On the contrary objectivism gives a concrete definition for the rightness of a particular practice. Objectivism states that, certain moral principles are valid for all individuals and cultures of a specific region.

Deontology vs. Consequentialism: The word deontology comes from Greek word “Deon”, which means duty (Ifinedo 2012). The deontological ethical theories primarily have three features. According to this theory the duty should be done for duty’s sake. According to this theory, ICT professionals should take decisions that are based on rules and fulfils their duty.  In deontology the action is taken in a situation without thinking about the product of the action (Obalola, Aduloju and Olowokudejo 2012). This theory states that at least some actions are morally obligatory.

 On the contrary the theory of consequentialism is a way of justifying professional’s actions, by considering the consequences of the taken decision. This theory concentrates on maximizing the good for a taken action or decision (Hersh 2015).

Statement of Professional Code of Ethics (ACS)

 ACS is abbreviation of Australian computer society.  This society can be thought as a guardian of ethics for the Australian ICT industry. Hence it has developed a standard of ethics and codes of conduct for the information and communication technology professionals (Obalola, Aduloju and Olowokudejo 2012). The codes are related to priorities, honesty, competence, social implication and professional development. Code of ethics of a company or organization helps it  by setting out the values that strengthen the code and will depicts  organizations obligation to its stakeholders.

According to the code of ethics of ACS an ICT professional should serve according to the interests of their employers and clients. In general they should serve the interest of community (Lennerfors, Fors and van Rooijen 2015). They should be honest about representing skills, services and knowledge.  Moreover, the professional should enhance the quality of livelihood of the people who will be affected by his/her work.  At the same time professional should also enhance their own professional development. At last the code of ethics endorses professionalism (Lennerfors, Fors and van Rooijen 2015.   Professionalism in code of ethics states that, professionals should enhance the integrity of society and respect other members of ACS.

The ethical code of competence states that a professional should accept only those tasks or works that he/she is competent to perform.  Therefore individuals should be aware of their limitations and obligations (Crossler et al. 2013). This professional code implies that professionals should not misrepresent their own skills and knowledge. This code is supported by ethical theory of deontology. As it is not possible for an individual to have knowledge about all aspects or facets information and communication technology, therefore it is important to recognize the need of additional expertise and knowledge whenever required. 

Being a new industry, ICT is characterized by rapid changes in this specific field. Therefore, it is important to increase and improve confidence of people in the ICT industry (Díaz-Campo and Segado-Boj 2015). In order to do this the professionals should refrained from any action in their professional role that can harm the image of the ICT profession (Gillespie and Ananny 2015).  All this are important to depict professionalism for a professional.  This professional code is driven by ethical theory of virtue.

Connection Between the Professional Code of Ethics and Ethical Theories

The ethical theories provides us a set of rules or framework that helps users to identify the problem, parties that are going to be harmed and parties involved in implementation of the course of  action  to resolve a particular ethical question (Crossler et al. 2013). Most of the theories provide a common framework to resolve any ethical issue in ICT industry. In order to resolve an ethical question the following steps are used,

Collection of information: t first gathering of relevant facts and information about the particular ethical problem is done. At this stage assumptions related to the problem is removed and it is investigated that if any regulatory body or person can help in the problem.

Identification of effected parties: In this stage the organizations, stake holders and individuals who can be affected by the problem are identified. Moreover, the conflicts between different stake holders and the way they are going to be affected by the ethical issue are discussed (Gillespie and Ananny 2015).

Ethical issues involved: At this stage the ethical issues which are involved in the problem scenario are identified. Particularly the organizational, professional and personal ethical issues are investigated (Lennerfors, Fors and van Rooijen 2015). In addition to this, effect of these ethical issues on information and telecommunication industry is also checked at this stage. 

Identification of fundamental principles: Here it is investigated that which are the fundamental principles that will be affected like, Integrity, professional behaviour, confidentiality and competence (Crossler et al. 2013). After the identification, course of action is determined which includes use of organizational policies, guidelines and other applicable laws and regulations to resolve the ethical question.


It is important set some standard or ethical rules to refrain professionals and ordinary peoples from different illegal and unethical actions. Often professionals feel that legal actions are the moral actions too, but it’s not true in all cases. Therefore, enforcing the ethical rules moral decisions are need to be justified according to the rules and regulations of a particular profession.

These values help professionals to act with responsibility and integrity in all of their professional dealings. Being a new technology, the ethical questions related to it are more abstract. Therefore the issues and there possible solutions are unknown and results are uncertain. It is crucial that, professionals should have prior understanding of different ethical issues that may arise later.  In addition to this, the enforcement of code of ethics will help the professionals the responsibilities and duties related to the profession. There is a growing demand for taking ethical design in to account in ICT industry.


Crossler, R.E., Johnston, A.C., Lowry, P.B., Hu, Q., Warkentin, M. and Baskerville, R., 2013. Future directions for behavioral information security research. computers & security, 32, pp.90-101

Díaz-Campo, J. and Segado-Boj, F., 2015. Journalism ethics in a digital environment: How journalistic codes of ethics have been adapted to the Internet and ICTs in countries around the world. Telematics and Informatics,32(4), pp.735-744.

Friedman, B., Kahn Jr, P.H., Borning, A. and Huldtgren, A., 2013. Value sensitive design and information systems. In Early engagement and new technologies: Opening up the laboratory (pp. 55-95). Springer Netherlands.

Gillespie, T. and Ananny, M., 2015. Introduction. Information, Communication & Society, 18(3), pp.251-254.

Hansen, J.M. and Walden, E., 2013. The role of restrictiveness of use in determining ethical and legal awareness of unauthorized file sharing. Journal of the Association for Information Systems, 14(9), pp.521-549.

Hersh, M., 2015. Ethical Engineering: Definitions, Theories and Techniques. In Ethical Engineering for International Development and Environmental Sustainability (pp. 15-62). Springer London.

Ifinedo, P., 2012. Understanding information systems security policy compliance: An integration of the theory of planned behavior and the protection motivation theory. Computers & Security, 31(1), pp.83-95.

Lennerfors, T.T., Fors, P. and van Rooijen, J., 2015. ICT and environmental sustainability in a changing society: The view of ecological World Systems Theory. Information Technology & People, 28(4), pp.758-774.

Lindley, D., Aynsley, B., Driver, M., Godfrey, R., Hart, R., Heinrich, G., Unhelkar, B. and Wilkinson, K., 2013. 11. Educating for professionalism in ICT: Is learning ethics professional development?. Professionalism in the Information and Communication Technology Industry, 3, p.211

Miñano, R., Aller, C.F., Anguera, Á. and Portillo, E., 2015. Introducing ethical, social and environmental issues in ICT engineering degrees. Journal of Technology and Science Education, 5(4), pp.272-285.

Mutula, S.M., 2013. Ethical Dimension of the Information Society: implications for Africa. Information Ethics in Africa: Cross-Cutting Themes, Pretoria: AC, pp.29-42.

Ocholla, D. and Britz, J., 2013. Complexities in Understanding and Developin Information Ethics in Africa. Mousaion, 31(2).

Shin, S.K., 2015. Teaching critical, ethical and safe use of ICT in pre-service teacher education. Language Learning and Technology, 19(1), pp.181-197.

Slade, S. and Prinsloo, P., 2013. Learning analytics ethical issues and dilemmas. American Behavioral Scientist, 57(10), pp.1510-1529.

Stahl, B.C., Eden, G., Jirotka, M. and Coeckelbergh, M., 2014. From computer ethics to responsible research and innovation in ICT: The transition of reference discourses informing ethics-related research in information systems. Information & Management, 51(6), pp.810-818.

Whitehouse, D., Duquenoy, P., Kimppa, K.K., Burmeister, O.K., Gotterbarn, D., Kreps, D. and Patrignani, N., 2016. Twenty-five years of ICT and society: codes of ethics and cloud computing. ACM SIGCAS Computers and Society, 45(3), pp.18-24.

Obalola, M., Aduloju, K. and Olowokudejo, F., 2012. Organizational commitment and corporate ethical values: exploring the nexus between employees’ psychological contract and firms’ ethical behaviour in the Nigerian Insurance Industry. Journal of Management and Sustainability, 2(1), p.43.

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