Information technology continues to drive the world towards becoming a global, village; this is for the reason that, most of the barriers that existed in the past have been overcome. The current generation of people can be said to be living in a flat world that is void of any barrier that is too high to overcome. Although the field of information technology has come with a number of rewards, a number of challenges are being experienced among which ethics amongst Information technology practitioners is one.
In this paper, ethical issues in information technology are briefed, issues contributing to growth and development unethical practices in information technology are primed, alternatives to correcting practices that fuel unethical behaviors are highlighted. In addition, an implementation plan to achieve the latter is discussed. Moreover, risks expected with the application and as a consequence of failure to implement the model are stated.
A number of recommendations are made, for instance businesses and governments should aim to understand the reasons why IT professionals are engaging into unethical practices and cease to making conclusions without the appropriate facts. In the end, several findings are arrived at, for instance, this research work makes an avowal that unethical practice among information technology practitioners will continue being experienced in the coming days, and this is because of the numerous developments taking place in the field of IT. This is however expected to happen in less magnitude because of the increase in awareness among people and governments; moreover, many IT professionals are continuing to become aware of the vital role they play and are striving to remain ethical in all their actions.
Information technology is defined as the practice of using computers to transmit, store, retrieve and manipulate data (Taylor, Shirley, Peter &Todd, 2010). Though the term is commonly collapsed to mean computers mostly, it also implicates other information dissipation systems such as television, radio, and telephones. Information technology has been around for many years and can be dated to ancient times at a time when its existence was not much known by many. These for the reason that mediums of communication have always been around, and people communicated though on a limited state and under numerous challenges, the history of information technology is divided into four ages, the pre-mechanical age when people first started to communicate and used images such as pictures and drawings. Mechanical age when the mediums of communications were first developed, for instance, instruments such as the slide rule. Third in line came the electromechanical age and devices that resemble current medium of communication came into existence. The final stage which is the current age of electronics is characterized by the presence of high-speed computers and mobile devices that have succeeded in revolutionizing the world (Cortada, 2006). To illustrate, the current generation operates in a global village, and within a click of a button, it is now possible to engage any person anywhere in the world.
Information technology led to the emergence of new professionals, for instance, computer scientists, software engineers and programmers just to name a few. Over and above that, new businesses emerged, that are currently valued at millions of dollars, to illustrate are companies such as Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo. Businesses and governments all over the world have integrated information technology in most of their activities. And in carrying out there work appropriately, IT professionals have emerged as an integral part that cannot be ignored. They are trusted with sensitive information that brings the issue of ethics into question, for example, should an IT professional read other people’s emails just because they can access them, or is it okay to investigate websites visited by network users merely because they have the ability?. Such issues have elicited much debate on whether there is a need to regulate IT professionals to protect the general public from those who would want to take advantage of them (Freeman & Peace, 2005).
As the field of information technology continues to grow, serious ethical issues continue to pop up every day necessitating the need for people to find out the best way to cope up with them. All people, both users, and IT professionals are more often than not finding themselves in situations where they have to face new challenges. Which include security issues, privacy, copyright infringements and other computer crimes such as hacking and pornography. Most of the time, these threats are propagated by criminals who utilize loopholes present in technology (Boynton, Victor & Pine II, 2013). For instance, information technology allows an individual to attack a system, cause damage and remain synonymous.
Although most frontiers of these threats are criminals, some are not and are innocent people who engage in such unethical behaviors for fun. But it is however important to note that most of them have a background in information technology. And it is consequently correct to imagine a scenario where some IT professionals who are good during the day turn into devils at night and do unprecedented damage. For example, an unfaithful and vengeful employee engaging in unethical behaviors to further their own goals at the detriment of the organizations they work for.
The primary cause of such unethical actions have been laxity in law and legislation in many countries, for instance, IT professionals, despite the vast amount of information they are trusted with are loosely monitored, this is notwithstanding the information they are tasked with being sensitive (Boynton, Victor & Pine II, 2013). And for this reason, there is an urgent need to rethink the need for regulating IT professionals moving into the future. This also obliged by the need to ensure impartiality among all specialists, for instance, questions of why practitioners in the medical field, engineers, and architects operate on the periphery of certain ethical codes and IT professionals are left alone to dictate their own terms of service is difficult to answer.
Boynton et al. (2013) defines ethics as values that govern people’s behavior in actualizing whatever they do. In philosophy, there exists the law of nature that is believed to be innate to every man. And eventuates as an internal instinct that guides people in doing what is right. However, people still manage to suppress it in favor of the negative and continue to participate in doing that which is wrong and unethical. Unethical behavior is therefore defined as those activities that fall outside morality. Although morality is very important, it is imperative to note that in a perfect world, right and wrong are clear, whereas in a real world which we operate in, differentiating that which is right or wrong is difficult.
Volkswagen emissions controversy introduced a good case study among scholars of whether a company’s culture can foster unethical behaviors. The company introduced a technology that defeated emissions testing, meaning that government bodies could not carry out tests to determine road worthiness of the vehicles. The big dilemma that this case introduced was whether employees who acted to fulfill the company’s directive acted unethically or not, over and above that, the proposition of whether unethical behaviors unfurl from motives of actions or the actions itself complicated the issue. When the concern become widespread in the world, Volkswagen reacted swiftly and issued an apology in which the company promised to rectify the mess; some vehicles were even recalled back. Even with the apology, the company recorded massive drop in sales as different countries become reluctant in allowing importation of Volkswagen vehicles, over and above that, the company ended up spending US$ 7.3 billion in fixing all the cars that had been released into the market, hence denting on their profits massively (Rhodes, 2016).
Amazon Company is one of the greatest success stories of this century. However, a recent article published by New York Times illustrated how the company entices workers into sacrificing their private lives including family and friends, in order to become high tech workers and then leaving them in isolation later on. As they fight for survival to regain a life they lost for the company. To illustrate, employees are expected to be available at any time of the day or night whenever they are needed to accomplish urgent tasks; this is supposed to happen regardless of their health condition and family status. Over and above that, despite workers being remunerated well, they are subjected to brutal pressures with very short deadlines to beat. In addition, all new employees are tasked with the responsibility of entirely adhering to the company’s founder leadership style without any questioning. Moreover, in one of its warehouse facility, it is reported that the company, ignored its employee’s request for installation of air conditioners, something that led to one of them collapsing due to exhaustion. In addition, employees who are sick are given leave of work but end up being penalized for the days they have not worked. Such kinds of behaviors end up achieving nothing positive in the end; this is for the reason that, people who exhibit fear and anxiety in the workplace are not able to concentrate and generate creative and innovative kind of thinking. Contrary, they will mostly end up engaging in unethical behavior. And in recognition of this, Amazon Company developed a system where workers are allowed to access and drop their reviews, both positive and adverse and remain synonymous, the company’s top management is then able to know the issues affecting workers morale, and then they respond to the same (Kantor & Streitfeld, 2015).
Unethical behaviors do not just happen; they are an outward manifestation of a hidden problem. Experts of business ethics hold the view that heads of corporations that find themselves in positions that they have to solve crises of ethics. If they took a minute and stopped to examine themselves critically, they will find out that they exhibit arrogance, conflict of interests and lack of transparency among other shortcomings that eventually leads to ethic violations (Mason, 2015). This is for the reason that, workers who feel mistreated will aim to frustrate their bosses, for instance, IT professionals of banks aiding criminals in money laundering, with the intention to spoil the name of the company as well as that of the executives.
In addition, most individuals who engage in unethical behaviors do not just wake up and participate in immoral performances, these activities begin in small ways and mannerisms that are inconsequential, and then sky rocket to extreme levels. In aggregation with this is the tendency of people to justify their actions through rationalizations. Rationalization is, therefore, one of the biggest moral faults of man that contributes to the lack of ethical practices (Mason, 2015). To illustrate, some IT professionals will engage in unethical practices to copy their colleagues who could be doing the same but are still scot free, a common statement is, if all other people are doing it, why should I not.
Another trait to understand concerning unethical behavior scandals is that they involve a well-camouflaged occurrence of things bringing together people at the top management who are included in critical decision-making processes (Mason, 2015). Who after getting a brief of what the company intends to do, for example in terms of system upgrades and development, they share such sensitive information with criminals who possess IT knowledge who in turn hack into this system, corrupt data, and in some instances obliterate it thus deterring the company’s growth and improvement. Suck kind of damages can however, be planned by competitors who want to harm the other company may be with the intention of knocking it out of the market.
When ethical issues are encountered, it is important for people or organizations not to haste in arriving at conclusions, reasons behind such actions should be analyzed to get a gist of whether the management or even the company’s culture has anything to do with the action. There is, therefore, a need to get all facts before any action can be made (Maner, 2009). Secondly, once an IT professional is confirmed to have engaged in unethical behavior, the company’s protocol should be followed as much as possible in executing all disciplinary actions; this can successfully work if a code of practice is available that stipulates how employees are expected to take themselves. Third, it is important to appreciate those employees who are loyal to the company; this goes a long way in motivating other workers to toil ethically since they know that they are valued. Finally, the best way to deal with unethical behaviors among information technology experts is to prevent them from happening in the first place. All IT personnel should be educated of the power they possess over other people for the reason that they have unfiltered access to too much confidential data and information about companies networks, systems, and individuals, and should, therefore, act ethically because of the honor and trust they are accorded and bestowed in accessing such information (Tavani, 2014).
To effectively deal with unethical behavior in information technology the following model is recommended. Businesses and organizations should develop codes of ethics; this is vital for the reason that it will establish the boundaries on which workers are to operate on. Key employees in the organizations should, however, be involved in its formulation and drafting for it to be inclusive. In addition, a type of protocol should be developed; this is important for the reason that it will provide a frame work through which unethical behaviors are reported. In addition, there is a need to empower employees; this can effectively be achieved, by granting employees the ability to identify and handle ethical violation practices in the company (Holland & Kilpatrick, 2011). This can be done for example by training new and existing workers on the same; this ensures that all staffs become there brothers keepers as they correct each other in case of deviation. Finally, governments need to pass regulations that stipulate harsh consequences to all people that engage in IT related crimes, over and above that, antae IT crime specialists bodies should be set up with the ability to thwart all IT related threats before they are executed.
The field of information technology is very dynamic, and with the adoption of the model above, there is a very high chance that, proprietors of unethical behaviors will mutate to beat the constraints stated. Over and above that, implementation of the model does not come cheaply; enormous initial investment is a requisite, but even with such investment, there is no guarantee that unethical behaviors will cease.
The risk of ignoring unethical behaviors and overlooking them encourages more people to participate in unscrupulous activities since they come to the conclusion that organizations do feel threatened. And for this reason, they engage in more dangerous and devastating activities. This means that, in the coming days, the world will find itself in a position where it has to fight information technology threats in the same vigor as terrorism and diseases. Prevention is better than cure, and there is, therefore, the need to develop preventive strategies to thwart all unethical efforts.
Education of IT specialists has for a long time focused on technical know-how and skills in accomplishing tasks. Many people have therefore learned of how to do things with little education concerning how they can use it or be used to misuse such knowledge in hurting other people. Studies have shown that most IT people don’t even realize that their job involves ethical issue as they are tasked to maintain and protect others people’s confidential information. Over and above that, for the reason that, Information technology continues to grow, and introduces new challenges every day, problems of ethics will continue to eventuate. However, these problems are expected to ensue in less magnitude because of the numerous efforts being undertaken to curb the same.
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