Information Technology Ethical Dilemmas

Making ethical decisions has never been an easy thing in the business world. Several factors have to be put into consideration before a decision is made. Some decisions will be appreciated by the stakeholders involved, while some will be downplayed. Ethical issues will not at all times be addressed by simply adhering to certain regulations.  For starters, a decision should be legal, and fall within the confines of the organization’s ethical policies. Organizations will also consider other aspects like future sustainability and costs involved among other things (Kizza, 2016). The decisions become more difficult to make since there is no single threshold used in measuring standards. In the utilitarianism ethical theory, Hospers believes that people should feel as being morally obliged to choose those actions that maximize total happiness (Ermann & Shauf, 2003). This means taking an action that does more good than harm to the people associated with the issue. Despite the good intentions meant by the utilitarianism theory, it cannot be applicable in all ethical decisions. Dilemmas associated with information technology can help in showcasing this detail. They include:


Intellectual Property

Intellectual property includes designs, names, images, inventions and symbols being used by a company. They are typically categorized as assets to any business, and therefore contribute significantly to the success of the venture. The age of information technology has made it possible for corporations to imitate ideas from their counterparts and use them for financial gain. Most of these inventions come from medium and small-size enterprises. Inventions from small companies are usually unprotected. Big companies steal the inventions since they can commercialize the products and services in a shorter period (Kizza, 2016).

There are moral rights embedded within intellectual property rights legislation, directives and agreements. This is meant to protect copyright holders and creators of works. Individuals or organizations that violate the legislation are faced with myriad penalties. However, sometimes it becomes difficult to enforce.

Organizations are in the dilemma of whether to take advantage of the loopholes available and benefit from the inventions of other corporations.  There are times that they can do this without necessarily having to breach the law. It is more of acting on the inactivity of other corporations that are slow on patenting their ideas. But is it ethical?

The utilitarianism ethical theory is quite suitable in addressing this ethical dilemma. Hospers believes that people should not always embrace their happiness at the expense of others (Ermann & Shauf, 2003). Companies that benefit on other people’s inventions via intellectual property put their interest ahead of the others. The people whose intellectual properties have been infringed might end up suffering since the invention at hand might have been the lifeline of their business. The unhappiness accrued might be far reaching than the happiness derived by the corporation infringing the intellectual property. In this case, the best decision is for the company or individual involved not to infringe on the other party’s intellectual property rights. This is regardless of whether there is the ability to do it without succumbing to the wrath of the law.

Hospers also outlines that utilitarian model can be best showcased in its attitudes towards moral rules. It encompasses the traditional Dos and Don’ts. This includes rules such as “Don’t tell lies,” “Don’t kill,” and “Don’t Steal” (Ermann & Shauf, 2003).  These rules are always meant for the better good of the society. As a result, abiding to such rules makes the world a better place. Furthermore, people should treat their counterparts in a manner that they would want to be treated themselves. In this regard, the utilitarian model shows that infringing on other people’s intellectual property is not morally right, and people should refrain from the action.


Job Displacement/Work Pressure

Embracing information technology has changed the landscape of the workplace. Some jobs are becoming redundant, and there is also reduced requirement to deploy more manpower. Some employees have to play different roles altogether while others have to be involved with more work. Increasing levels of stress are also becoming prevalent given the change of scope at the workplace. The emphasis on I.T skills, information and knowledge has also become widespread (Kizza, 2016). This is due to different specifications that come with information technology. However, there are people that have stood to benefit considering the changes taking place. They are getting more rewarding jobs based on the qualifications they have acquired with time.

Various ethical issues have surfaced in the process. There are questions on whether the people that lose their jobs should be compensated or not. Ways of easing pressure on the people facing new stress dimensions due to the changing workplace environment have also come as a dilemma to the stakeholders. The issue of redundancy and how to approach it also has its complications. When one party is benefiting, the other party is gaining. When employees are being laid- off, the company is benefiting in terms of cost saving.

The utilitarian ethical theory would work poorly in trying to solve this dilemma. It works on the tenets of ensuring that majority of the people are happy with the decisions that are being made. With the job displacement dilemma, it is not easy to tell whether an action is right or wrong. This is because on most occasions it is not a voluntary action. It is more of change that comes with time. Companies are compelled to adapt to change if they want to remain viable (Kizza, 2016). There are examples of companies that refused to adapt to various changes, and they were forced out of business.

Every organization wants to be in operation for as long as possible. Therefore, it will be difficult to ensure that all employees are happy. Some jobs will become redundant, and other employees will face more pressure. It is not idealistic in the world of information technology to compensate employees that get displaced. This is because it will keep happening all the time. The cost will be very high for small organizations to bear. Organizations have to embrace change so as to remain operational for as long as possible. This makes the utilitarian model unsuitable in solving this dilemma. It is quite difficult to ensure that all employees are happy, and the organization remains as a going concern.



The utilitarian ethical theory has a very favorable approach towards finding solutions for ethical dilemmas. This is because it works to ensure that majority of the people are happy upon the making of ethical decisions. However, it cannot be applicable in all ethical dilemmas. Use of information technology makes it particularly difficult to adopt the theory comprehensively. There are many changes involved as time goes by, and some are beyond the actions of the individuals or corporations tasked with solving the ethical dilemmas.



Ermann, M. D., & Shauf, M. S. (2003). Computers, ethics, and society. New York: Oxford           University Press.

Kizza, J. (2016). Ethics in Computing: A Concise Module. Berlin: Springer.

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