Responsibility for Information Assurance and Privacy: A Problem of Individual Ethics?

Responsibility for Information Assurance and Privacy: A Problem of Individual Ethics?

Bernd Carsten Stahl (De Montfort University, UK)
Copyright: © 2004 |Pages: 19
DOI: 10.4018/joeuc.2004070104
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Abstract

Decisions regarding information assurance and IT security can affect individuals’ rights and obligations and thereby acquire a moral quality. The same can be said for questions of privacy. This article starts by showing how and why information assurance and privacy can become problems worthy of ethical consideration. It demonstrates that there is no simple and linear relationship between ethics and information assurance, nor between ethics and privacy. Many decisions in the area of IT, however, affect not only one but both of these subjects. The ethical evaluation of decisions and actions in the area of privacy and security is therefore highly complex. The article explores the question of whether individual responsibility is a useful construct to address ethical issues of this complexity. After introducing a theory of responsibility, the article discusses the conditions that a subject of responsibility is typically assumed to fulfil. The article will argue that individual human beings lack some of the essential preconditions necessary to be ascribed responsibility. Individuals have neither the power, nor the knowledge, nor the intellectual capacities to successfully deal with the ethical challenges in the tension of privacy and information assurance. The article ends by suggesting that the concept of responsibility may nevertheless be useful in this setting, but it would have to be expanded to allow collective entities as subjects.

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