With new technologies allowing the easy creation and distribution of images and videos, both individual employees and companies need guidelines as to what is acceptable. Without such guidelines, some of this content will be offensive to some of the company staff and to some members of the public. When developing such guidelines, companies may be quite restrictive in terms of what is permissible within the business. Such restrictions only become ethical issues when the company tries to extend them into the employees’ private lives. The interaction of such restrictions with legal limits on hate speech and pornography, as well as with community standards, make this a particularly delicate area for business ethics.
The Ethics of Information Technology and Business is an examination of a wide range of ethical questions that arise from the use of information technology in business and the business of information technology itself. Among the many issues discussed, privacy has a central place. Two chapters are devoted to the topic (chapter two: Marketing, Privacy, and the Protection of Personal Information; and chapter three: Employees and Communication Privacy). Privacy comes up repeatedly in other chapters of the book as well, such as chapter five, Ethical Issues in Information Technology and E-Business, where Web tracking and data mining are discussed, and chapter six, Ethical Issues on the Internet, in which the issues of anonymity and security are raised.
Another central issue is that of intellectual property, in particular, digital assets such as software programs. Chapter four: New, Intellectual, and Other Property focuses exclusively on this issue, though again, as in the case of privacy, it comes up in other chapters as well. The last chapter is a broader reflection on the impact of information technology on society (chapter seven: Information Technology and Society: Business, the Digital Divide, and the Changing Nature of Work.
While privacy and intellectual property are central issues that are worked out in detail in the earlier chapters of the book and applied to different cases in later chapters, there are a number of other topics as well, too numerous to list. They include taxation of e-commerce, assigning domain names, the changing nature of work, liability for system failures, and censorship, just to name a few.
Four themes pervade the book and provide the closest thing to an overarching structure to its many arguments. They are the Myth of Amoral Computing And Information Technology (MACIT), the Lure of the Technological Imperative (TI), the Danger of the Hidden Substructure, and the Acceptance of Technological Inertia.