Ethics and Information Technology (Ethics Inform Tech)

Journal description

Ethics and Information Technology is a peer-reviewed journal dedicated to advancing the dialogue between moral philosophy and the field of information and communication technology (ICT). The journal aims to foster and promote reflection and analysis which is intended to make a constructive contribution to answering the ethical social and political questions associated with the adoption use and development of ICT. Within the scope of the journal are also conceptual analysis and discussion of ethical ICT issues which arise in the context of technology assessment cultural studies public policy analysis and public administration cognitive science social and anthropological studies in technology mass-communication and legal studies. Research that deals with the history of ideas and provides intellectual resources for moral and political reflection on ICT is also welcomed. The general editorial policy is to publish work of high quality regardless of discipline school of thought or philosophical tradition from which it derives.

Current impact factor: 0.56

Impact Factor Rankings

Additional details

5-year impact 0.00
Cited half-life 7.10
Immediacy index 0.04
Eigenfactor 0.00
Article influence 0.00
Website Ethics and Information Technology website
Other titles Ethics and information technology (Online), Ethics & information technology
ISSN 1388-1957
OCLC 42829583
Material type Document, Periodical, Internet resource
Document type Internet Resource, Computer File, Journal / Magazine / Newspaper

Publisher details

Publications in this journal

  • Ethics and Information Technology 01/2015; DOI:10.1007/s10676-015-9360-2
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    ABSTRACT: The explosion of data grows at a rate of roughly five trillion bits a second, giving rise to greater urgency in conceptualizing the infosphere (Floridi 2011) and understanding its implications for knowledge and public policy. Philosophers of technology and information technologists alike who wrestle with ontological and epistemological questions of digital information tend to emphasize, as Floridi does, information as our new ecosystem and human beings as interconnected informational organisms, inforgs at home in ambient intelligence. But the linguistic and conceptual representations of Big Data—the massive volume of both structured and unstructured data—and the real world practice of data-mining for patterns and meaningful interpretation of evidence reveal tension and ambiguity in the bold promise of data analytics. This paper explores the tacit epistemology of the rhetoric and representation of Big Data and suggests a richer account of its ambiguities and the paradox of its real world materiality. We argue that Big Data should be recognized as manifesting multiple and conflicting trajectories that reflect human intentionality and particular patterns of power and authority. Such patterns require attentive exploration and moral appraisal if we are to resist simplistic informationist ontologies of Big Data, and the subtle forms of control in the political ecology of Big Data that undermine its promise as transformational knowledge.
    Ethics and Information Technology 12/2014; DOI:10.1007/s10676-014-9357-2
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    ABSTRACT: We defend public anonymity in the light of the threat posed by digital technology. Once people could reasonably assume that they were fairly anonymous when they left the house. They neither drove nor walked around with GPS devices; they paid their highway tolls in cash; they seldom bought on credit; and no cameras marked their strolls in the park or their walks down the street. Times have changed. We begin with a brief discussion of the concept of anonymity. We then argue that public anonymity helps promote privacy in public. Next, we argue that public anonymity is worth protecting insofar as it promotes autonomy. After that we attempt to show how digital technology threatens public anonymity in the context of CCTV and GPS devices. We argue for a significant scaling back of public surveillance. We close with some thoughts on what we take to be the gratuitous costs imposed on those who would attempt to preserve their anonymity in public.
    Ethics and Information Technology 09/2014; 16(3):207-218. DOI:10.1007/s10676-014-9346-5
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    ABSTRACT: This article offers an analysis of intentionality for virtual objects and explores some of the ethical implications of this analysis. The main example which serves as a motivation for the article is the case of a Chinese gamer who, in 2005, committed murder in retaliation for the theft of a virtual object, the theft of his virtual dragon sabre. The intentional analysis reveals that the way in which we experience virtual objects shares a structural similarity with the way in which we experience physical objects. Both virtual and physical objects are accessible through action and intersubjectively available. The final part of the article introduces three ethical points based on the intentional analysis. First, virtual objects can have the same ethical significance as physical objects. Second, it will be important to consider empirical results on the factors which influence one's subjective level of immersion in the virtual world. Finally, the intentional analysis of virtual objects suggests specific questions for future research.
    Ethics and Information Technology 09/2014; 16(3):219-225. DOI:10.1007/s10676-014-9347-4
  • Ethics and Information Technology 09/2014; 16(3):251-262. DOI:10.1007/s10676-014-9350-9
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    ABSTRACT: For an artificial agent to be morally praiseworthy, its rules for behaviour and the mechanisms for supplying those rules must not be supplied entirely by external humans. Such systems are a substantial departure from current technologies and theory, and are a low prospect. With foreseeable technologies, an artificial agent will carry zero responsibility for its behavior and humans will retain full responsibility.
    Ethics and Information Technology 09/2014; 16(3):197-206. DOI:10.1007/s10676-014-9345-6
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    ABSTRACT: his paper aims at investigating comparatively the ethical orientation of information technology (IT) professionals in the Middle East and the United States. It tests for attitudes toward and awareness of ethically-related issues, namely intellectual property, privacy and other general ethical IT aspects. In addition, through a comparison between the two regions, this paper intends to examine whether differences in IT professional demographics and characteristics, including gender and academic level, have any impact on attitudes to business ethics. A t test is used to establish significant differences between the targeted samples, while an ANOVA F-test is conducted to determine significant differences among the sample countries on a group basis. The results show a general awareness of ethical issues concerning information technology, and no significant differences are found between the two samples. However, different ethical attitudes are reported among respondents in terms of their reactions to the targeted IT ethical aspects. On an individual sample basis, the results about gender support the claim that male and female respondents are different, while mixed results are revealed for the influence of academic level on attitudes towards IT ethics. For intellectual property, the results are significant regarding ethical attitude differences between Middle-Eastern professionals and their counterparts in the US, while no significance differences are reported in terms of privacy.
    Ethics and Information Technology 07/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: Open-content communities that focus on co-creation without requirements for entry have to face the issue of institutional trust in contributors. This research investigates the various ways in which these communities manage this issue. It is shown that communities of open-source software—continue to—rely mainly on hierarchy (reserving write-access for higher echelons), which substitutes (the need for) trust. Encyclopedic communities, though, largely avoid this solution. In the particular case of Wikipedia, which is confronted with persistent vandalism, another arrangement has been pioneered instead. Trust (i.e. full write-access) is ‘backgrounded’ by means of a permanent mobilization of Wikipedians to monitor incoming edits. Computational approaches have been developed for the purpose, yielding both sophisticated monitoring tools that are used by human patrollers, and bots that operate autonomously. Measures of reputation are also under investigation within Wikipedia; their incorporation in monitoring efforts, as an indicator of the trustworthiness of editors, is envisaged. These collective monitoring efforts are interpreted as focusing on avoiding possible damage being inflicted on Wikipedian spaces, thereby being allowed to keep the discretionary powers of editing intact for all users. Further, the essential differences between backgrounding and substituting trust are elaborated. Finally it is argued that the Wikipedian monitoring of new edits, especially by its heavy reliance on computational tools, raises a number of moral questions that need to be answered urgently.
    Ethics and Information Technology 06/2014; 16(2):157-169. DOI:10.1007/s10676-014-9342-9
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    ABSTRACT: The morality of virtual representations and the enactment of prohibited activities within single-player gamespace (e.g., murder, rape, paedophilia) continues to be debated and, to date, a consensus is not forthcoming. Various moral arguments have been presented (e.g., virtue theory and utilitarianism) to support the moral prohibition of virtual enactments, but their applicability to gamespace is questioned. In this paper, I adopt a meta-ethical approach to moral utterances about virtual representations, and ask what it means when one declares that a virtual interaction ‘is morally wrong’. In response, I present constructive ecumenical expressivism to (i) explain what moral utterances should be taken to mean, (ii) argue that they mean the same when referring to virtual and non-virtual interactions and (iii), given (ii), explain why consensus with regard to virtual murder, rape and paedophilia is not forthcoming even though such consensus is readily found with regard to their non-virtual equivalents.
    Ethics and Information Technology 06/2014; 16(2):91-102. DOI:10.1007/s10676-014-9336-7
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    ABSTRACT: There is an emerging consensus in the corporate social responsibility (CSR) literature suggesting that the quest for the so-called business case for CSR should be abandoned. In the same vein, several researchers have suggested that future research should start examining not whether, but rather when CSR is likely to have strengthened, weakened or even nullified effects on organizational outcomes (e.g. Margolis et al. in Does it pay to be good? A meta-analysis and redirection of research on corporate social and financial performance. Working Paper, Harvard Business School, 2007; Kiron et al. in MIT Sloan Manag Rev 53(2):69–74, 2012). Using perspectives from several theoretical frameworks (Needs Theory, Technology Acceptance Theory, and Psychological Distance Theory), we contribute to the literature by empirically examining the tension between functional and sustainability attributes in a novel context, namely that of green e-banking services. The findings indicate that the positive effect of CSR on users’ attitudes towards green e-banking services is moderated by two primarily utilitarian information systems factors—namely perceived ease of use and perceived usefulness—and an important utilitarian individual difference variable—namely perceived self-efficacy with technology. Our findings are also important if interpreted within the context of the ethical decision-making literature (e.g. O’Fallon and Butterfield in J Bus Ethics 59(4):375–413, 2005), as they indicate that the linkage between moral judgment and moral outcomes is unlikely to be that straightforward.
    Ethics and Information Technology 06/2014; 16(2):103-117. DOI:10.1007/s10676-014-9337-6
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    ABSTRACT: South Africa’s groundbreaking constitution explicitly confers a right of access to sufficient water (section 27). But the country is officially ‘water-stressed’ and around 10 % of the population still has no access to on-site or off-site piped or tap water. It is evident that a disconnect exists between this right and the reality for many; however the reasons for the continuation of such discrepancies are not always clear. While barriers to sufficient water are myriad, one significant factor contributing to insufficient and unpredictable access to water is the high percentage of broken water pumps. Previous studies have reported that between 20 and 50 % of all hand operated water pumps installed on the African continent are broken, or out of use. Monitoring and maintenance of pumps, which in South Africa is the responsibility of local municipalities is often ineffective, in part due to the distances between municipal centres and rural communities and the consequent costs of site visits, as well as breakdowns within the local bureaucratic system. The emergence of new telemetry tools that can remotely monitor water applications constitutes a novel and cost-efficient alternative to undertaking regular sites visits. Sustainable, appropriate, low-cost telemetry systems are emerging that could be used to monitor the operational performance of water pumps, or a wide range of other field parameters, and to communicate this information swiftly and cheaply to water service providers, using SMS messages. Data on the performance of water pumps could also be made available to the public online. This is an example of how ICT can be used for water resources management and environmental regulation, as well as in the governance of socio-economic rights: helping to optimize water allocation by improving communication and strengthening accountability.
    Ethics and Information Technology 06/2014; 16(2):119-134. DOI:10.1007/s10676-014-9340-y
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    ABSTRACT: This paper explores the relationship between dignity and robot care for older people. It highlights the disquiet that is often expressed about failures to maintain the dignity of vulnerable older people, but points out some of the contradictory uses of the word `dignity'. Certain authors have resolved these contradictions by identifying different senses of dignity; contrasting the inviolable dignity inherent in human life to other forms of dignity which can be present to varying degrees. The capability approach (CA) is introduced as a different but tangible account of what it means to live a life worthy of human dignity. It is used here as a framework for the assessment of the possible effects of eldercare robots on human dignity. The CA enables the identification of circumstances in which robots could enhance dignity by expanding the set of capabilities that are accessible to frail older people. At the same time, it is also possible within its framework to identify ways in which robots could have a negative impact, by impeding the access of older people to essential capabilities. It is concluded that the CA has some advantages over other accounts of dignity, but that further work and empirical study is needed in order to adapt it to the particular circumstances and concerns of those in the latter part of their lives.
    Ethics and Information Technology 03/2014; 16(1):63-75. DOI:10.1007/s10676-014-9338-5
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    ABSTRACT: In this article we examine the effectiveness of consent in data protection legislation. We argue that the current legal framework for consent, which has its basis in the idea of autonomous authorisation, does not work in practice. In practice the legal requirements for consent lead to ‘consent desensitisation’, undermining privacy protection and trust in data processing. In particular we argue that stricter legal requirements for giving and obtaining consent (explicit consent) as proposed in the European Data protection regulation will further weaken the effectiveness of the consent mechanism. Building on Miller and Wertheimer’s ‘Fair Transaction’ model of consent we will examine alternatives to explicit consent.
    Ethics and Information Technology 01/2014; DOI:10.1007/s10676-014-9343-8
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    ABSTRACT: With rising numbers of Facebook, Twitter and MXit users, Africa is increasingly gaining prominence in the sphere of social networking. Social media is increasingly becoming main stream; serving as important tools for facilitating interpersonal communication, business and educational activities. Qualitative analyses of relevant secondary data show that children and youths aged between 13 and 30 constitute Africa's heaviest users of social media. Media reports have revealed cases of abuse on social media by youths. Social networks have severally been used as tools for perpetuating crimes such as; cyberbullying and violence against girls and women. This study proposes a `Culture-centered Approach' to the use of social media in a bid to minimize these cybercrimes and encourage the responsible use of social media amongst African youths. The Culture-centered Approach, which incorporates the tenets of Information Ethics, stresses the need for the respect of the dignity and rights of other online users as well the application of good cultural values and ethical behavior while on social media platforms.
    Ethics and Information Technology 12/2013; 15(4):275-284. DOI:10.1007/s10676-013-9333-2
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    ABSTRACT: Internet companies place a high priority on the safety of their services and on their corporate social responsibility towards protection of all users, especially younger ones. However, such efforts are undermined by the large numbers of children who circumvent age restrictions and lie about their age to gain access to such platforms. This paper deals with the ethical issues that arise in this not-so-hypothetical situation. Who, for instance, bears responsibility for children’s welfare in this context? Are parents/carers ethically culpable in failing to be sufficiently vigilant or even facilitating their children’s social media use? Do industry providers do enough to enforce their own regulations and remove those users they know to be underage? How far does a duty of care extend? Regulation of age restrictions has, it is argued, created unintended consequences that heighten online dangers for young people. While children are inevitably drawn to new online spaces for entertainment and fun, should their rights to participate in the social world around them be curtailed to ensure their best interests and those of the wider community? Such questions now pose significant practical and ethical dilemmas for policy makers and other stakeholders involved in internet governance. It especially highlights the question of responsibility for protection of minors online and calls into question whether the current model of shared responsibility is working.
    Ethics and Information Technology 12/2013; 15(4). DOI:10.1007/s10676-013-9331-4
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    ABSTRACT: Cyber-bullying, and other issues related to violence being committed online in prosocial environments, are beginning to constitute an emergency worldwide. Institutions are particularly sensitive to the problem especially as far as teenagers are concerned inasmuch as, in cases of inter-teen episodes, the deterrent power of ordinary justice (i.e. threaten to sue) is not as effective as it is between adults. In order to develop the most suitable policies, institution should not be satisfied with statistics and sociological perspectives on the phenomenon, but rather seek a deep ethical understanding—also referring to the biological and evolutionary past of human beings. The aim of this paper is to show a way to fill this theoretical gap, offering some answers (and some questions too) that can illuminate future policy-oriented research and reflection. In order to do so, we will start by connecting our argument to evolutionary studies carried out in the past two decades, focusing on gossip as a tool for social assortment, thus endowed with a dual function: protect the group from free riders, intruders and bullies but also bully the deviant members. In the “Mediating gossip through social networks” section, we will see which aspects of gossip, vital for bullying, are co-opted by social network scenarios. A fundamental trait of human social life, that is the subdivision in smaller coalitions, or sub-groups, will be shown as missing in social networks (SN) dynamics—therefore constituting themselves as structurally violent. The “Why and how do social networks empower bullying?” section will deal with techno-ethical and epistemological concerns regarding how gossip, mediated by SN, manages to empower cyber-bullying. The “Self-gossip and self-mobbing in the light of the disruption of sub-moralities” section will characterize cyber-bullying as often sparked by self-gossip (soon degrading into self-mobbing) in a scenario where familiar sub-groups, which also mediate defense and mutual understanding, are disrupted. The “Discussion and conclusion” section will consist of a philosophical summary, divided in two parts: a pars destruens analyzing whether SN, in their actual configurations, are fit for being used by humans-like-us, and a pars construens examining the broad potential consequences of highly enforced regulation aimed at contrasting cyber-bullying.
    Ethics and Information Technology 12/2013; DOI:10.1007/s10676-013-9324-3