Ethics of Security: From Personal Safety to Cyber Security

Ethics of Security: From Personal Safety to Cyber Security

Tommi Lehtonen
Copyright: © 2021 |Pages: 16
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-4117-3.ch004
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This chapter aims to identify and analyse the ethical problems of security, particularly cyber and digital threats. The concepts of security and safety are defined based on existing literature. The chapter addresses the key results and research gaps in the field (i.e., security issues in different areas) and future challenges, both theoretical and empirical. Moreover, the discussion is linked to an analysis of the relationship between utilitarian ethics and deontological ethics, which brings a new perspective to the debate on security ethics in general and cybersecurity. Finally, comprehensive security and absolute safety ideas are discussed, which sheds new light on the complexity of security concerns.
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The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) included the phrase human security in its 1994 report, which triggered a debate about the perception of security. That debate has challenged an earlier understanding of security that emphasised the sovereignty of national states, the importance of defence politics and international negotiations and treaties (Martin & Owen, 2015, 1). The present understanding of human security hovers around human development and human rights and even national security, but it is wider than any of them alone (Sen, 2015, 18). In addition to these wide-ranging issues, Amartya Sen points out a much more narrow and personal interest in security: the majority of people are concerned with the security of their own lives and of the lives of their family members (ibid.). Sen emphasises that this general concern has to be addressed and any understanding of security can be integrated with it to the extent that this makes human life more secure. Such an integrative understanding of human security is important precisely because it affects human lives. National security and global security alone, without the integration with an individual’s “world of experience”, are more abstract entities and, often, more remote from everyday life. These political forms of security are frequently defined in terms of military or ecological preparedness and other modes of national and international problem-solving.

With security being a matter of personal interest, it is worthy to pay attention to the underlying psychological background. Scholars in various fileds have argued that security is a basic human need (Maslow, 1943, p. 376–380; Staub, 2003, p. 2; Doyal & Gough, 1991, p. 214–213). Famously, Maslow ranked security or safety as a psychological need second to the basic physiological needs such as air, water and food. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is often represented as a pyramid in which the bottom represents basic biological drives for survival (Figure 1). Other basic needs, such as the need for safety, love, esteem and self-actualisation, are also universal, but not absolutely necessary for survival. Moreover, a desire to sacrifice oneself for others does not necessarily go against the need for survival or safety, because self-sacrifice can serve the greater good of the survival and safety of a collective, such as a family, clan, race or nation. However, the higher one climbs in the hierarchy of needs, as more specific desires are addressed along the way, the more suspicious one may become of the universality of human needs. Maslow (1943, p. 389) said, “Certainly in any particular culture an individual’s conscious motivational content will usually be extremely different from the conscious motivational content of an individual in another society. However, it is the common experience of anthropologists that people, even in different societies, are much more alike than we would think from our first contact with them, and that as we know them better we seem to find more and more of this commonness”.

Figure 1.

Pyramid showing Maslow’s hierarchy of needs

Source: (the author, 2019)

Key Terms in this Chapter

Security: The condition of being protected both from intentional and non-intentional harm and both from moral and natural evils.

Digital Security: The practice of securing one’s identity, assets and technology in the online and mobile environments.

Information Security: The practice of protecting all information assets whether in hard copy or in digital form.

Safety: A tool or measure that reduces hazards; a place or position where there is no danger.

Absolute Safety: Wittgenstein’s term for the paradoxical state of mind in which one is inclined to say, “nothing can injure me whatever happens.”

Comprehensive Security: A state of preparedness for the threats and risks to vital functions of society.

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