Trends in Technoethics: The Case of e-Technology Abuse at Work

Trends in Technoethics: The Case of e-Technology Abuse at Work

Luppicini Rocci (University of Ottawa, Canada)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-952-6.ch013
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Abstract

The widespread integration of electronic technologies in contemporary organizations is transforming organizational operations and how people work. This can partly be attributed to the advent of reliable technological infrastructures, increased workflow efficiency, and operational cost savings that can be achieved by utilizing electronic technologies. New electronic technologies allow organizational members to exchange more information in less time and with greater flexibility than possible through traditional means. Electronic technology common to organizations includes, but is not limited to, computer monitoring and filtering systems, surveillance cameras, IM and other chat tools, electronic mail and voicemail, Internet, audio and video conferencing tools, personal data assistants, and mobile devices. Non-work-related use of electronic technologies may include personal use of electronic technologies as well as institutional uses of counter measure electronic technologies to control personal use.
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Introduction

Technology... is a queer thing. It brings you great gifts with one hand, and it stabs you in the back with the other - C.P. Snow

The widespread integration of electronic technologies in contemporary organizations is transforming organizational operations and how people work. This can partly be attributed to the advent of reliable technological infrastructures, increased workflow efficiency, and operational cost savings that can be achieved by utilizing electronic technologies. New electronic technologies allow organizational members to exchange more information in less time and with greater flexibility than possible through traditional means. Electronic technology common to organizations includes, but is not limited to, computer monitoring and filtering systems, surveillance cameras, IM and other chat tools, electronic mail and voicemail, Internet, audio and video conferencing tools, personal data assistants, and mobile devices. Non-work-related use of electronic technologies may include personal use of electronic technologies as well as institutional uses of counter measure electronic technologies to control personal use.

In spite of their ubiquity and remarkable benefits, there are substantial obstacles to ethically responsible electronic technology use that has given rise to debate within organizations. Of particular concern to organizations are electronic technology misuses with ethical and legal implications which could compromise organizations and their reputation in the public eye. Documented research on the misuses of electronic technologies within workplace contexts include, cyberloafing, network attacks, information theft, unauthorized transmission of confidential information, transmission of offensive jokes, deceptive communication, exchanging online pornography, online flaming, and online identity deception (Lim, 2002Redding, 1996; Wilson, 2005). In response to this perceived problem, many organizations have responded through counter measures aimed at controlling personal use of electronic technologies; include the installation of surveillance cameras, the enforcement of electronic technology use policies, and the installation of computer monitoring and filtering systems. This too has raised ethical concerns about human rights, freedom, and privacy issues. This suggests a serious disconnect revolving around technology giving rise to a technoethical crisis in the workplace. This is particularly salient among students who are entering the workforce as new employees. According to a recent survey conducted by Harris Interactive(2008):

Young workers [age 18 to 34] are also the most likely to use their employers' technology for personal reasons. Nearly three-in-four (72%) check their personal email accounts during work, and 77% use their work Internet personally compared to 69% of office workers overall (12).

Unfortunately, the reasons behind controversial uses of electronic technologies in the workplace is a relatively understudied area with a paucity of studies focusing on ethical considerations underlying electronic technology use in work contexts. What are employees’ ethical stances on personal use of electronic technologies during work hours? What are employees’ ethical stances on the organizational use of counter measures (E.g., surveillance cameras, restriction policies, computer monitoring and filtering software, etc) to control the personal use of electronic technologies during work hours? What would affect employees’ decision to use or not use electronic technologies for personal use during work hours? In view of the importance of electronic technologies in the workplace and the seriousness of the ethical concerns connected to their use, there is a need to get an insider perspective from the user to better understand why individuals use of electronic technologies within workplace contexts. To understand the nature of this technoethical crisis, a pilot case study is presented to explore ethical perspectives on controversial electronic technology use within work settings. A university student population is selected because they are currently entering the workforce and represent the future of work life. As will be seen, findings identify reveal a disconnect between individual and organizational ethical stances that warrant further technoethical inquiry.

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