Privacy & Ethical Considerations

These six small situations can be used to spark discussion about how to think about and use the ethical frameworks from the book. While the simplicity of these situations is unrealistic, it is useful to begin a dialog about ethical issues before a manager actually faces one and has to make a decision. It is in this light that these situations, and my comments, are offered.
Situation 1: Recording with Google Glass as you spend your day is a new phenomenon and society has very little experience with such options. Therefore, this could stimulate a fascinating conversation in class. The PAPA paradigm helps at least to structure the discussion, and does provide a few insights as well.

In a bank: (P)rivacy is usually assumed by customers, as we are not accustomed to public attention at business in a bank. Recording would seem to violate privacy. (A)ccuracy would assume not only that the information is correct, but also that if incorrect conclusions could be drawn from it, that correcting or augmenting information should be included as well. Accuracy could indeed be violated, as people visiting a bank could be doing so depositing a small check, for making large deposits to their own accounts, for borrowing money to stave off bankruptcy, or even for transacting business as a favor to friends. Therefore, accuracy seems to provide some mild indication that filming is not reasonable. (P)roperty would seem to apply in this case in an interesting way, as the video would be physically possessed by the filmer, but without permission of the subjects, giving away their rights, it would also partly belong to the subjects. Filming therefore does not sound reasonable considering property rights. (A)ccessibility would be violated because subjects would have no way to find or review the videos. Again, filming does not sound reasonable.
As you drive your car: (P)rivacy is not usually assumed in public (at least on public thoroughfares), so recording would not seem to violate privacy. However, driving on private driveways could violate privacy. (A)ccuracy does not seem to be violated under general circumstances. Therefore, accuracy would not seem to stand in the way of filming. (P)roperty would seem to apply in this case in an interesting way, as the video would be physically possessed by the filmer, but without permission of the subjects, giving away their rights, it would also partly belong to the subjects. It seems unreasonable to film on this basis. (A)ccessibility would be violated because subjects would have no way to find or review the videos, and filming would not be considered reasonable under this criterion.
In a casino: Because filming in casinos is expressly prohibited, there seem to be violations of (P)rivacy. (A)ccuracy, (P)roperty, and (A)ccessibility all seem to have similar difficulties to filming in a bank; see (a) above.
In class: There is substantial precedence for audio taping classes for those who are absent, but in most cases professors are asked for their permission, and there is not video information in such tapings. Complicating matters is the emerging practice of classes being video- and audio-taped for students to review later on web sites, so the expectation of (P)rivacy is highly uncertain and growing doubtful. Because some students might have expectations of privacy, however, the other three items in the framework are again similar to filming in a bank, again referring to (a) above.
In a bar: While some people might take “selfies” and other photos with ubiquitous mobile devices, expectations of (P)rivacy could be expected in a bar by many patrons, given society’s periodic sensitivities regarding the consumption of alcohol, and filming with Google Glass in a bar therefore does not seem reasonable. Again the other three items can be answered in a manner similar to filming in a bank, again referring to (a) above.

Situation 2: The point of this situation is to highlight that even though you have the ability to look at something, it may not be right to do it. The supervisor is in a difficult position, since Doug wants him/her to look at individual hard disks. Technically, the hard disks and anything on them belongs to the company, but historically, it has been treated as though it was private for the person using the computer. How might the supervisor handle it? He/she might ask Doug for more specific criteria to enhance quality of the work (go to the root of the problem and look for a more ethical way to handle it). He/she might ask each member of the pool to submit a document and/or take part in regular reviews. Or he/she might just go on the hard disk and get the document sample, if a good process is put in place to evaluate and respond to the information found. In any case, the pool needs to know that in the future all work on the disk is the property of, and hence can be looked at by anyone at, the company. This open communication may help improve the level of trust between the manager, supervisor, and employees at this company. The management can communicate that the data may be used to provide rewards for good performance, or to indicate areas where more training is needed.
Situation 3: The dilemma comes into play because while Olsen is violating a company principle of no personal calls, he is doing so for an emergency situation: a sick child. Essex might want to have a discussion with Olsen to make sure he knows company policy, but at the same time, reassure him that an emergency situation will not mean expulsion from the company. Essex might also work to make sure the management practices take into account personal emergencies so there is no ambiguity the next time this happens. Have the students analyze this case from the perspective of stockholder versus stakeholder versus social contract theories.
Situation 4: Legally, Jane is required to get rid of her backup copy when the license is revoked and the company cannot still use the system beyond any contracts they have already executed with the original company. The critical nature of the system only increases the anxiety about finding a new system to replace it. might want to negotiate with the parent company for continued rights beyond any contract they already have.
Situation 5: Point out to the students that although this case led to Napster filing for bankruptcy and ultimately reorganizing under a new business model, the issues are still relevant. Those students who argue that Napster should have been allowed to continue their operations often argue that the record companies do not treat customers or artists fairly. Explore with them the arguments that they may make regarding the fact that copying music files is a widespread practice. While it could be argued that Metallica is losing money from the copying, students often counter that they primarily earn money from their concerts and not from the sale of the music. In fact, some music files are available for free on the Metallica site. Explore the issue from the perspective of the various stakeholders.
Situation 6: This situation ties in with the current US debate about the rights of individuals vs. the need for the government to enact stringent measures to combat terrorism. Congress is clearly divided, as are the states. Some states are participating in MATRIX while even more have decided not to. Why did some states decide to pull out of MATRIX? Explore the situation from the perspective of various stakeholders.

superadmin (28431)
New York University

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