Global ICT‐ethics: the case of privacy

Publication Date04 Apr 2008
AuthorGöran Collste
SubjectInformation & knowledge management
Global ICT-ethics: the case
of privacy
¨ran Collste
Centre for Applied Ethics, Linko
¨ping University, Linko
¨ping, Sweden
Purpose – The world wide use of information and communication technology (ICT) is one aspect of
globalisation. In the ethical discussion of the implications of ICT the right to privacy is in focus.
However, ICT-ethics has been developed in a Western context and hence, privacy might be a Western
value without relevance in other cultures. Therefore, the purpose of this paper is to discuss the general
problem whether one can expect a global convergence on ICT-ethics, with the right to privacy as a case
in point. Is privacy a universal or contextual value?
Design/methodology/approa ch In order to answer the research question, meth ods for
conceptual and ethical analysis are used. The concept of privacy is analysed and an argument
asserting that there is a deep disagreement between Western and Japanese understanding of a right to
privacy is critically examined.
Findings – Privacy is a vague concept and it is not possible to identify one Western view of privacy
and, hence, to distinguish between the Western and for example – the Japanese views of privacy.
Common arguments for privacy within ICT-ethics do not presuppose contextual Western premises.
While globalisation implies increasing inter-cultural communication one may well envisage a growing
global convergence of a right to privacy. Thus, there is not a deep cultural disagreement concerning
the right to privacy.
Originality/value – The paper critically examines arguments for the view that privacy is a Western
value without relevance in Japan. It clarifies the meaning of privacy and provides reasons why one can
expect a global convergence of a right to privacy in particular and ICT-ethics in general.
Keywords Privacy, Communication technologies,Ethics, Globalization
Paper type Conceptual paper
1. Introduction
It is uncontroversial to say that we live in an age of globalisation. The causes and
implications of globalisation are more disputed. For example, according to Anthony
Giddens, globalisation is a continuation of modernity. This means that one of the main
features of globalisation is the global “disembedding of social systems” (Giddens, 1990,
p. 17). Social relations are increasingly carried out on a global level and the local is
shaped by events occurring at a far distance. Roland Robertson (1992) stresses the
cultural aspects of globalisation. Main driving forces behind globalisation are religions
and ideologies with global pretensions. Robertson coins the concept “glocalisation” for
the parallel processes of being included in global relations and at the same time caring
for and even protecting “the local”. He takes Japan as an example. Japan has succeeded
in both preserving a national identity and being included in the global market
economy[1]. Common to different conceptions of globalisation is the idea that the
concept refers to different kinds of social processes that are not locally or territorially
limited but have a global reach. Hence, globalisation refers to:
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at
The author is grateful to Lim Hong Hai, University Science Malaysia and an anonymous
reviewer for valuable comments and suggestions.
Journal of Information,
Communication & Ethics in Society
Vol. 6 No. 1, 2008
pp. 76-87
qEmerald Group Publishing Limited
DOI 10.1108/14779960810866819

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