Ethics in the virtual world

DOIhttps://doi.org/10.1108/14779960710822647
Pages4-6
Publication Date22 August 2007
AuthorJohn Strain
SubjectInformation & knowledge management
GUEST EDITORIAL
Ethics in the virtual world
John Strain
University of Surrey, Guildford, UK
Abstract
Purpose – The purpose of this viewpoint paper is to provide an overview of three papers included in
a Special Issue of the Journal of Information Communication Ethics and Society, entitled Ethics in the
Virtual World.
Design/methodology/approach – The papers were chosen because they reflect three key themes
in computing, ethics and society. These are: the explosion in the number of opportunities for accessing
sensitive data in the health sector; the risks inherent in designing information systems through
technical procedures that fail to address the human character of the environments they are intended to
serve; and the need to teach computing ethics to students of computing. All three articles draw on
philosophical approaches to ethics and well as technical aspects of system use, system design and
pedagogy, respectively.
Findings – The papers demonstrate the interdisciplinary nature of computing ethics and the
contested political issues at stake in using and designing information systems.
Originality/value – This editorial viewpoint paper presents the hypothesis that the ethical issues
once embodied in socio-technical systems theory have a particular salience for the contemporary
ethical debates concerning computing ethics.
Keywords Ethics, Healthservices, Information systems
Paper type General review
This special issue is devoted to Ethics in the Virtual World. This was the theme
selected for the Second International Conference on Teaching Applied and Professional
Ethics in Higher Education held at what is now Roehampton University in September
2005. The conference invited papers on ethical issues that arose in computing practice
which would need to be addressed in teaching computing ethics. Three papers
delivered at the conference have been revised and developed for this issue. They have
been chosen because they reflect three major and continuing themes in computing,
ethics and society. The first of these is the explosion in the number of opportunities for
accessing confidential and sensitive data that are afforded by the digital mediation of
data, particularly in the health sector. Making information available to those who can
make effective and appropriate use of it also creates abundant opportunities for the
abuse of data. Part of the crisis faced by health services in many nations is the inability
to manage this delicate balance between protecting data and making it accessible.
Richard Cooper explores the ethical issues that arise in extending opportunities to
access health records to allied health care professionals such as community
pharmacists.
The second theme concerns the risks inherent in designing information systems that
draw on technical procedures that fail to address the distinctively human character of
the environments these systems are intended to serve. This second article by Lars Botin,
draws on a similar context to Richard Cooper’s, that of electronic health care records.
But the ethical focus is different in both. Cooper is concerned with the ethics of use of
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at
www.emeraldinsight.com/1477-996X.htm
JICES
5,1
4
Journal of Information,
Communication & Ethics in Society
Vol. 5 No. 1, 2007
pp. 4-6
qEmerald Group Publishing Limited
1477-996X

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