Technological determinism is the imperative that what can be developed will be developed. Ethical lag occurs when the speed of technological change exceeds the speed of ethical development. A variety of issues arise in the business context at the crossroads of technology and ethics.
Please address the following:
• One of the technological issues that arise in the business context is that of privacy. What personal information do businesses acquire from their employees? Their shareholders? Their customers? Their vendors? How should organizations protect this information?
• Have you witnessed unethical activities related to technology, either by employees in a company in which you've worked or at school? What made the activity unethical? How was this unethical conduct addressed by management or school administrators? How should it have been addressed?
1. Are there any benefits or negative side effects of technology in business that have not been mentioned in this chapter? Discuss.
2. Do you agree that society is intoxicated with technology? Does this pose special problems for business with respect to the ethics of technology? Will such intoxication blind people to ethical considerations in business?
3. Do you think business is abusing its power with respect to invasion of privacy of both consumers and employees? What about surveillance? Which particular practice do you think is the most questionable?
4. Is it an exaggeration to question the ethical implications for business of cell phone and text-messaging use? Discuss both sides of this issue.
5. Do you think genetically modified foods raise a legitimate safety hazard? Should government agencies such as the FDA take more action to require safety testing? What about warning labels? Do you think warning labels would unfairly stigmatize GMFs and make consumers question their safety? Is this fair to the GMF
One of the technological issues that arise in the business context is that of privacy.
What personal information do businesses acquire from their employees?
Most, if not all, employees in the US must provide their social security number or equivalent to their prospective employer. This is part of completing an employment application. For accounting and tax reasons, it is important that the employer have this information, but it can also provide a means to find out personal and private information about the employee, including criminal record and credit rating. Often an application packet includes a signed permission to access such information.
Name, Postal or legal address, E-mail address, Home and business phone number, other personal information (i.e., mother's maiden name). After the shareholder signs up with the company, email communication and website use through cookies are also recorded.
Privacy Policies (2014) Corporate Capital Trust.
Customers often use some form of credit or debit based payment systems, and retail businesses keep count of the numbers for accounting, plus the purchases themselves in order to target its marketing efforts. Many grocery and pharmacy stores state that they are giving discount incentives when their customers use store loyalty cards. However, Donna Montaldo, a journalist with retail experience, reports that the careful shopper in stores that do not have loyalty cards will save more. So essentially, loyalty cards are a method of gathering information such as name, address, email, and buying preferences, from store customers for marketing purposes.
Donna Montaldo. The Truth Behind Grocery Store Discount Cards. (2014) About.com.
Collection of information from vendors is not as difficult for businesses, since most vendors are incorporated, and have to report data regularly to the SEC and other entities with publicly accessible sources of information. In order to increase the efficiency of the supplier chain, data mining and collection have become significant industries within the business community. Not only are there companies and websites that provide basic and detailed information on companies that supply goods and services to specific business niches, but there are some companies who survey these companies and arrange for high levels of communication between businesses and their suppliers. Vendors and suppliers are sometimes called value added resellers, and one example of facilitating the distribution of information about them is a yearly Best Channel Vendors report on an extensive survey which evaluates VARs by businesses. It collects information in seven categories, putting them on a scale of best to worst.
This is a discussion of ethics as they relate to business and its use of technology, including privacy and genetically modified foods.