Business information technology poses both security risks and ethical conundrums. Personal information stored in data banks may be used for criminal purposes. The anonymity of some communication systems may lead to unethical behavior. Information technology isn’t all bad; it offers many new ways to communicate and store information, but business managers must balance the business potential with the possible adverse effects. Several laws govern information systems, but the law often lags behind the technology. Businesspeople use ethics to bridge the gaps between new technologies and eventual laws.
Business managers and those with access to information systems have the responsibility to act ethically when using the technology. Some basic ideological rules govern the convergence of technology and ethics. For example, many people believe that benefits involved in a technological endeavor should outweigh the risks for all involved stakeholders. Some believe that business managers have the ethical duty to ensure that anyone who could be affected by the technology is able to understand and accept any risks involved.
Many laws governing technological crime come from computer crime acts. The law considers several different computer activities illegal. Accessing, using or destroying hardware, software or the information contained in information systems constitutes a form of theft. It is also illegal to use an information system to release unauthorized information. The theft of copyrighted material, also known as Internet piracy, is another illegal activity. Individuals may not use computer networks for piracy or to obtain protected information. Hacking is another illegal activity involving people who use technological expertise to gain unauthorized access to information systems.
Information systems have revolutionized how organizations such as banks and hospitals keep records and organize customers’ personal information. However, data storage comes with risks to the privacy of the individuals with personal information filed in the system. Sometimes computer hackers break into these databases and steal people’s personal information, such as names, addresses and Social Security numbers. Identity theft happens when hackers or their accomplices use stolen personal information to pretend to be someone else. Identity thieves may steal from their victims’ bank accounts or take out credit cards or loans in the victims’ names.
The Internet offers a variety of ways to communicate and be entertained. News articles, streaming video, email, chat and humorous websites are fine during downtime, but they can be distracting to workers. The issue is compounded because of how much computers and Internet access are an integral part of many jobs. Some employers closely monitor their employees' computer use, sometimes going as far as logging websites or looking at email. Other employees think computer monitoring is an unethical form of privacy invasion.