Concepts of Professional Ethics and Moral Responsibility

19 Apr 2018

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Group Members:

  • Cheong Loong TAN
  • Yehya ELLEISSY
  • Xavier VUONG
  • Chenkai JIN

Ethical Dilemma

The development of the product/service is to meet end user’s satisfaction and keeping them in line with the growth of technology. Such entertainment would be to provide the user with the ability to create 3D objects by using software and a 3D printer, allow users to share their thoughts on facts or ideas without restriction and even provide users with a device that acts as a life companion.

The underlying ethical dilemma in the scenario is the abuse of the products and services, which most of the time results in unethical behaviour. For the purpose of this analysis, unethical behaviour will be defined as any behaviour that violates or disturbs the moral code of the society. For example, it is unethical to speak of an individual in the absence of their presence, because it causes harm to the victim’s reputation. Taking this into consideration, Facebook would be the largest host of unethical behaviour, as this occurs on a daily basis. Another product that is often remarked as being questionable is the Google Glass, a product that combines video/voice recording with the ability to connect to the internet in device that users wear around their eyes as glasses. This raises questions surrounding privacy of the people around the user, as they will not be aware if the user has activated the record function. Lastly, the 3D printer, ever since its creation has caused ethical issues with the user able to create firearms that cannot be detected by metal detectors. These products will be further discussed in the first question, with relation to the duty of the companies and organisation that develop them.

The scenario presented outlines some of the ethical issues that could arise if using those products or services. These ethical dilemmas are issues such as privacy invasion, security related problems and the user’s ability to cause harm to another. Through this analysis, we will discuss the products and services in question by researching their features, and what harm they are capable of causing when abused. Then we will move on to answer the question of whether or not the companies or organisations should be held responsible for the features of their products and services that allow users to make moral decisions. Followed by this question will be a list of possible solutions to the problems presented in the previous question.

The ethical dilemma certainly exists within the scenario, but whether or not it is the duty of the organisations and companies to take responsibility for the actions of their users is question that will be analysed.

Should Companies/Organizations be held responsible

Companies would create these products and services with the intention of satisfying the users while abiding by the laws. The problem with the entertainment provided occurs when the end users abuse the system, and in that they could make morally incorrect decisions which affect other people. The offenders are only able to commit the abuse because there is no restriction; therefore the question raised to attention is that ‘Should the companies/organizations that develop these products/services be held responsible for “moral decision making software code and features” that they built into them?’

For the purpose of this analysis, “Moral-decision-making software code and features” is defined as the certain aspects of products and services that contribute to morality.

User

Many product and service offered allows user to express their creativity, thoughts and ideas. A 3D printer allows user to print to life anything they are able to model using software, and a Google Glass allows user to integrate all common technologies into one small device to be used anywhere. Social media such as Facebook allows user to share, comment, vote, and even act as an advertising platform for organisation. Nevertheless, there exist a certain group of user that exploit the product either for fame, or money purposes.

A good example would be a 3D printer. The printer relies on the creativity of the user itself. When the printer was released, the major problem faced was firearm printing. A single click on the internet enables user to download a weapon blueprint and next loading it into the software and instantly an extremely dangerous goods was produced. In country where firearms are difficult to obtain, these firearms can be easily developed using a 3D printer and costing only approximately $25 of plastic with reasonably high durability (O'Callaghan, 2014), and this problem is currently on the rise (Wilson, 2014). Based on our survey report, 50% of the individuals agree that 3D printer should be freely available.

Another example would be using Facebook as a tool for committing crime. Cyber bullying, stalking, and uploading photos and videos of people without their consent are very common in Facebook. Professional hackers exploit the vulnerabilities in Facebook and gather target’s personal information such as name, address, phone number and bank information. Some of them even impersonate as family members, relatives or friends to gather sensitive information. Bribery often happens with threat of uploading sensitive information/pictures on Facebook. Often this leads to suicidal when victims are too depressed and cannot cope with the stress (Arkell, 2013).

Facebook does not have the option of deleting account – a complete swipe out of user’s information. The only option was deactivating the account. This may seem to be useful when a user changes his/her mind, as they can reactivate back their account any time. However this posts a huge security problem. What if a hacker exploits Facebook Database and share out all the sensitive information? From our survey report, majority of the user wants the option of deleting account to be implemented.

Looking at the examples above, the problem exists because companies are not being held responsible for the actions of the user. Companies/organizations are aware of these problems however it is beyond their capability to prevent this from happening as some of the user continuously exploits and misuse the product. Every user should be educated on the responsibility in their doings while maintaining a professional ethics.

Professionals

The counter argument presented by professional states that user should be responsible for their own welfare and behaviour while using these product. This is a valid statement, as it is the user’s actions that result in unethical behaviour, not the product. The product was designed with the intention of performing within the laws of the country, and not to create any unethical problems.

The 3D printer’s ability to create firearms was not the initial intention by the manufacturer but rather the user itself. Besides, firearms made are not durable enough, and not practical in long term. Google Glass’s privacy issue is questioned because user is using it in the public area. If it’s for personal use then there would be no privacy concern.

Wallach and Allen (2009) describe an actual case where semiautonomous robotic cannon malfunctioned killing 9 soldiers and wounding 14 others on October 2007. The argument here matches the original argument, that companies should be responsible for the “moral-decision-making software code” in the system. In this case, the company would be held responsible because they did not ensure that system worked correctly.

In conclusion, the company or organisation responsible for the product/service should not be held responsible for the morally incorrect actions of their consumers. While it may seem, from the arguments above that they are most definitely responsible, it was consumer’s option to buy the product. Therefore, this analysis supports the professional statement that consumers should be responsible for their own welfare when using these products.

What else needs to be done to solve the underlying issue?

Companies that develop these products with shouldn’t be held full responsibility for the misuse of it. Mainly it is the user that decides how it is used and if it is used in an unethical manner or not. Instead, what we should be focusing and investing our time in is what can be done to solve those underlying issues. Take one of the most exciting advancements in technology today, Google Glass, for an example.

Google Glass is a modern technology in the shape of an eyewear device that can take photos, videos, and even acting as a GPS device, but this feature concerns the violation of privacy. For example, user may take photos or even record a video of another individual without their consent as the device itself mimicked a pair of glasses with no indication that a recording is being done. Another major issue concerns public safety. When using Google Glass GPS feature, the overlay and prompts appear may distract the driver from noticing incoming traffic, obstacles and pedestrians. Fatal accident may arise due to this.

Solutions

Here are some suggestions/ways to deal with the issue

Ethics and Privacy

Beeping tone being emitted when a user capture a picture or make a recording. This is to indicate to the user and surrounding public that pictures are being captured or a recording is being made. Public should be educated and informed about Google Glass functionality and features. This can be achieved through commercials TV ads, social media and internet.

Safety

Laws and legislations should be implemented and enforced on the usage of Google Glass when driving. Driving while using Google Glass should not be permitted, as it poses a threat to both the driver and surrounding public.

Educate user

User should be well educated on the do’s and don’ts when using the device. Workshop, training, and seminars should be conducted from time to time to raise awareness in professional ethics concerning technology. User should also be exposed to laws and policies that govern privacy.

Google Glass was just one example of how solutions can be provided to it problems without having to place responsibility on the companies/organisations moral-decision-making software code and features. When these three solutions are applied to other products, unethical behaviour should drop.

Taking Facebook as an example, the best solution here would be to educate the users on the privacy policy and setting in order to stop people communicating to other who they do not know, or may be under a false identity. Also, users will be aware that information that they post onto Facebook is available for Facebook to use.

As for 3D printers, having users educated about safety is important because the knowledge can stop users from printing firearms. Since the firearms are not very durable, and are not being developed professionally, an individual may cause severe harm to himself if the firearm explodes. Also if the individual is educated about the laws the consequences of developing illegal firearms, it can serve as a deterrent.

References

Arkell, H. (November 26, 2013). DailyMail. In Coroner warns of dangers of Facebook after student, 19, targeted by young women bullies online hanged himself. Retrieved Aug 10, 2014, from http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2513782/Facebook-bullies-led-suicide-

O'Callaghan, J. (May 16, 2014). DailyMail. In The terrifying reality of 3D-printed guns: Devices that ANYONE can make are quickly evolving into deadly weapons. Retrieved Aug 10, 2014, from http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2630473/The-terrifying-reality-3D-printed-guns-Devices-ANYONE-make-quickly-evolving-deadly-weapons.html.

Wilson, L. (June 18, 2014). News. In Rise of 3D-printed handguns and illegally assembled firearms sparks call for Senate inquiry . Retrieved Aug 10, 2014, from http://www.news.com.au/technology/rise-of-3dprinted-handguns-and-illegally-assembled-firearms-sparks-call-for-senate-inquiry/story-e6frfrnr-1226957787578.

Professional Ethics And Moral Responsibility Survey

1. Is it rude to Google someone's profile while looking at them using a Google Glass?

Description: https://www.surveymonkey.com/i/t.gif Agree

Description: https://www.surveymonkey.com/i/t.gifTend to Agree

Description: https://www.surveymonkey.com/i/t.gifTend to Disagree

Description: https://www.surveymonkey.com/i/t.gifDisagree

Description: https://www.surveymonkey.com/i/t.gifI don't know

Other (please specify)

2. Do you agree with Google using personalized ads for marketing purposes?

Agree

Description: https://www.surveymonkey.com/i/t.gifTend to Agree

Description: https://www.surveymonkey.com/i/t.gifTend to Disagree

Description: https://www.surveymonkey.com/i/t.gifDisagree

Description: https://www.surveymonkey.com/i/t.gifI don't know

Other (please specify)

3. Should Facebook allow users to delete their accounts (All information/pictures will be completely removed)?

Description: https://www.surveymonkey.com/i/t.gifAgree

Description: https://www.surveymonkey.com/i/t.gifTend to Agree

Description: https://www.surveymonkey.com/i/t.gifTend to Disagree

Description: https://www.surveymonkey.com/i/t.gifDisagree

Description: https://www.surveymonkey.com/i/t.gifI don't know

Other (please specify)

4. Do you think 3D printer should be legalized in Australia?

Description: https://www.surveymonkey.com/i/t.gifYes

Description: https://www.surveymonkey.com/i/t.gifNo

Description: https://www.surveymonkey.com/i/t.gifI don't know

Other (please specify)

5. Is it necessary for companies/universities to have access in monitoring network activities by individuals?

Description: https://www.surveymonkey.com/i/t.gifYes

Description: https://www.surveymonkey.com/i/t.gifNo

Description: https://www.surveymonkey.com/i/t.gifI don't know

Other (please specify)

6. Should companies/organizations be held responsible for "moral decision making software code and features" that they built into them?

Description: https://www.surveymonkey.com/i/t.gif Yes

Description: https://www.surveymonkey.com/i/t.gifNo

Description: https://www.surveymonkey.com/i/t.gifI don't know

Other (please specify)

7. Do you think companies/organizations should implement whistle blowing policy?

Description: https://www.surveymonkey.com/i/t.gifYes

Description: https://www.surveymonkey.com/i/t.gifNo

Description: https://www.surveymonkey.com/i/t.gifI don't know

Other (please specify)

8. What penalty should be imposed on companies/organizations that violates or disclose user's information?

Description: https://www.surveymonkey.com/i/t.gifJail

Description: https://www.surveymonkey.com/i/t.gifFine

Description: https://www.surveymonkey.com/i/t.gifCompensation

Description: https://www.surveymonkey.com/i/t.gifNo penalty

Description: https://www.surveymonkey.com/i/t.gifI don't know

Other (please specify)

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