Ethics and Information Technology (Ethics Inform Tech )

Publisher: Springer Verlag


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.

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  • Website
    Ethics and Information Technology website
  • Other titles
    Ethics and information technology (Online), Ethics & information technology
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  • Material type
    Document, Periodical, Internet resource
  • Document type
    Internet Resource, Computer File, Journal / Magazine / Newspaper

Publisher details

Springer Verlag

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    • Set phrase to accompany link to published version (see policy)
    • Articles in some journals can be made Open Access on payment of additional charge
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    ​ green

Publications in this journal

  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    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;
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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.
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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;
  • Garry Young
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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;
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    ABSTRACT: Designing security measures often involves trade-offs between various types of objectives. Multiple stakeholders may have conflicting demands and may have different ideas on how to resolve the resulting design conflicts. This paper reports on an application of value-sensitive design. Based on argumentation theory and social values, the paper develops a structured approach for discussing design conflicts, called value-based argumentation. The application domain examined in the paper is concerned with physical safety and security issues that arise in cross-border shipments. We first identify the kinds of dialogues that take place in this domain, in particular, audit dialogues to determine whether security measures comply with regulations. Based on argumentation theory we develop a formal language and a diagramming approach intended to facilitate parties in identifying, discussing and reaching agreement about security risks and corresponding mitigation measures. Trade-offs can be dealt with by making underlying values explicit. Using a stylized example, the approach was successfully taught to practitioners working with EU customs regulations. Practitioners generally found the approach helpful, in particular to bring out implicit underlying motivations. We conclude by discussing how our approach can be generalized to other kinds of dialogues involving design conflicts.
    Ethics and Information Technology 09/2013;
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    ABSTRACT: In this paper we consider whether Christopher Bartel has resolved the gamer’s dilemma. The gamer’s dilemma highlights a discrepancy in our moral judgements about the permissibility of performing certain actions in computer games. Many gamers have the intuition that virtual murder is permissible in computer games, whereas virtual paedophilia is not. Yet finding a relevant moral distinction to ground such intuitions can be difficult. Bartel suggests a relevant moral distinction may turn on the notion that virtual paedophilia harms women in a way that virtual murder does not. We argue that this distinction is only in a position to provide a partial solution to the dilemma.
    Ethics and Information Technology 09/2013;
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Designing security measures often involves trade-offs between various types of objectives. Multiple stakeholders may have conflicting demands and may have different ideas on how to resolve the resulting design conflicts. This paper reports on an application ...
    Ethics and Information Technology 09/2013;
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    ABSTRACT: In our high-tech society, the design process involves profound questions about the effects of the resulting goods, and the responsibilities of designers. In the philosophy of technology, effects of “things” on user experience and behaviour have been discussed in terms of the concept of technological mediation. Meanwhile, what we create has moved more and more towards services (processes) rather than products (things), in particular in the context of information services. The question is raised to what extent the concept of technological mediation is adequate to understand effects and responsibilities in information services as well. Therefore, this paper discusses differences between product aspects and service aspects of our creations, and evaluates the applicability of the concept of technological mediation to information services. Specific features of a notion of technological mediation for information services are highlighted, in particular with respect to the different relation between production and consumption. Finally, the paper focuses on the ethical consequences of service impact, and recommendations for service providers, especially in terms of the possibilities for second-order mediation by inviting users to change service properties.
    Ethics and Information Technology 09/2013;
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    ABSTRACT: In this paper, we employ Extended Cognition as a background for a series of thought experiments about privacy and common used information technology devices. Laptops and smart phones are now widely used devices, but current privacy standards do not adequately address the relationship between the owners of these devices and the information stored on them. Law enforcement treats laptops and smart phones are potential sources of information about criminal activity, but this treatment ignores the use of smart devices as extensions of users’ cognitive capability. In Philosophy of Mind, Extended Cognition is a metaphysical theory about the relationship between consciousness or cognitive activity and various external tools or aids that agents employ in the service of cognition. Supporters of Extended Cognition argue that mental activity must be understood as taking place both within the brain and by way of tools such as a logician’s pen and paper, a mathematician’s calculator, or a writer’s word processing program. While Extended Cognition does not have universal support among philosophers of mind, the theory nevertheless describes how agents interact with their “smart devices.” We explore the the implications of taking Extended Cognition seriously with regard to privacy concerns by way of a series of thought experiments. By comparing the differences in expectations of privacy between a citizen and the government, between an employee of a corporate firm, and between citizens alone, we show that expectations of privacy and injury are significantly affected by taking the cognitive role of smart devices into account.
    Ethics and Information Technology 09/2013;
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    ABSTRACT: Online information intermediaries such as Facebook and Google are slowly replacing traditional media channels thereby partly becoming the gatekeepers of our society. To deal with the growing amount of information on the social web and the burden it brings on the average user, these gatekeepers recently started to introduce personalization features, algorithms that filter information per individual. In this paper we show that these online services that filter information are not merely algorithms. Humans not only affect the design of the algorithms, but they also can manually influence the filtering process even when the algorithm is operational. We further analyze filtering processes in detail, show how personalization connects to other filtering techniques, and show that both human and technical biases are present in today’s emergent gatekeepers. We use the existing literature on gatekeeping and search engine bias and provide a model of algorithmic gatekeeping.
    Ethics and Information Technology 09/2013;
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    ABSTRACT: The development of autonomous, robotic weaponry is progressing rapidly. Many observers agree that banning the initiation of lethal activity by autonomous weapons is a worthy goal. Some disagree with this goal, on the grounds that robots may equal and exceed the ethical conduct of human soldiers on the battlefield. Those who seek arms-control agreements limiting the use of military robots face practical difficulties. One such difficulty concerns defining the notion of an autonomous action by a robot. Another challenge concerns how to verify and monitor the capabilities of rapidly changing technologies. In this article we describe concepts from our previous work about autonomy and ethics for robots and apply them to military robots and robot arms control. We conclude with a proposal for a first step toward limiting the deployment of autonomous weapons capable of initiating lethal force.
    Ethics and Information Technology 06/2013; 15(2).
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    ABSTRACT: In 2009, the United States Air Force aired a series of science fiction-themed recruitment commercials on network television and their official YouTube channel. In these advertisements, the superimposition of science fiction imagery over depictions of Air Force operations frames these missions as near-future sci-fi adventure, ironically summarized by the tagline: “It’s not science fiction. It’s what we do every day.” Focusing on an early advertisement for the Air Force’s Reaper unmanned aerial vehicle, this essay explores how themes essential to the science fiction genre play a role in influencing contemporary attitudes about autonomous and semi-autonomous robotic weapons, as well as the way in which the aesthetic and functional qualities of these advanced technologies are used to frame moral arguments about their use. As a reconfiguration of the near-future battleground in the guise of science fiction, the “Reaper” ad reveals the way in which science fiction has come to serve as a functional-aesthetic benchmark and cultural sounding board, against which “every day” technologies can be measured and claims about their value, ethos, and social appeal are made. This essay explores the ethical entanglements between science fiction film and video games, and military technology, and the complex role science fiction plays in influencing public attitudes towards military technologies.
    Ethics and Information Technology 06/2013; 15(2).