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ICT710 ICT Professional Practice and Ethics: Analysis and Techniques

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Task

Write a 2500 word report that addresses the ethical issues in the following case study. 

Edward Snowden—an employee of defence contractor Booz Allen Hamilton, working at the National Security Agency (NSA)—is responsible for what may turn out to be the most significant leak of classified information in U.S. history. In June 2013, Snowden admitted to passing classified documents to reporters at The Guardian and The Washington Post—revealing details of NSA surveillance programs that collect and perform data mining on hundreds of millions of U.S. phone and Internet traffic records to identify possible links to known terrorists. Shortly after leaking the documents, Snowden fled the country to avoid federal charges. Some people call Snowden a whistle-blower for drawing attention to NSA programs they feel violate civil rights and the Constitution. Others consider him a traitor and feel he should be heavily prosecuted. Please research this incident and write the report as indicated in this task. 

Doing Ethics Technique – Hints and Tips 

The 'Doing Ethics' technique is a process for analysing ethical issues in any scenario. It doesn't guarantee that what you come up with will be the best solution, but it does help you to think ethically. The technique may seem a little vague and perhaps lacking guidance, however the following might help you to understand how to apply the technique in order to better understand ethical analysis. 

1. What's going on?

2. What are the facts?

3. What are the issues?

4. Who is affected?

5. What are the ethical issues and implications?

6. What can be done about it?

7. What are the options?l

8. Which option is best - and why?

Answer:

INTRODUCTION

Code of ethics plays a significant purpose in a profession. The code provides a practical guide at individual professional levels to members of a profession when faced with moral and ethical dilemmas in a particular circumstance concerning their professional conduct. Codes can be helpful in providing counsel when a professional is faced with a state of moral or ethical tension. Codes of Ethics in a profession guide individuals on the steps to be taken when in the line of duty. In instances where there is a need for revising the codes, involvement is considered through individual members input in the grass-roots at organizational conferences, meetings and workshops(Perron et al. 2010).If a professional is being charged with malpractices, codes can help them and perhaps even in lawsuit, even if those practices may have resulted in harm(Wachs2017). IT security personnel mostly access confidential data and have knowledge about individuals’ organizations’ networks which gives them big powers in the companies attached(Reynolds 2011). IT personnel can abuse these powers willingly or unaware. IT people always have a privilege to work in any organization without a requirement of belonging to those organizations. In this report I examine an employee ethical issues concerning leaking of classified information in National Security Agenciesof the U.S. government. It answers the questions of ethical consideration that benefit American people from a case study of leaking classified information and whether there are laws that protect the leaking of information.

ANALYSIS OF THE SITUATION USING DOING ETHICS TECHNIQUES

1).Happenings

An employee of defense contractor Booz Allen Hamilton by the name Edward Snowden working withNational Security Agencies admit having leaked classified information documents to reporters at Guardian and The Washington Post(Oboler, Welsh and Cruz 2012).  The documents contains details of NSA surveillance programsthat collect and perform data mining on hundreds of millions of U.S. phone and Internet traffic records.This surveillance program aims at identifying possible links to known terrorists(Toxen2014). Snowden runs out of the country to avoid federal charges immediately after leaking the information documents. Some people feel he has done a good job of whistle-blowing to draw attention of NSA programs they feelviolate civil rights and the Constitutionwhile others see him as a traitor who should be prosecuted.

2).The facts


  • In the case study it is true that the information has been leaked since Edward Snowden admitted to have leaked the documents to reporters at Guardian and The Washington Post in June 2013. This could be dangerous as media would expose classified information to terrorist who are being sought after, confidentiality issues would also hurt people whose information is leaked as well as people result into distrusting NSA for security concerns anymore. People may also start fearing to use informational technology if the Booz Allen Hamilton is not held responsible.
  • Edward Snowden flees the country with fear of federal charges. The act of disclosing classified information in the United State is treated very serious crime under the Espionage Act of 1917. If found guilty of these crimes one Title 18 of the U.S. Code, Section 798 will be used to pass judgment to the individuals or parties involved. This law prohibits transmission of classified information willfully and knowingly to an unauthorized person and if found guilty of the offence the penalty for this crime attract a 10 years in prison, a large fine, or both.
  • The information being leaked in the case is classified information because it is kept for the National Security Agency. Classified information according to the above law is any information kept for reasons of national security, kept for the U.S. Government Agency for limited spreading or sharing.
  • Some people feel he should be arrested and charged for the betrayal. There is betrayal of the Agency in this case and also the people whose privacy has been violated. This may damage national security operationalization and confidentiality (Nayar2010).
  • The information is improperly released because classified information is not to be released to the public or a member of foreign country without the authorization of the U.S Government

3).The issues

  • There are issues that will negatively affect people who feel their privacy has been violated
  • People may decide to sue the National Security Agency for violating their right to privacy
  • Edward Snowden may be fined largely and get imprisonment of not less than 10 years
  • There could develop trust issues amongst employees of National Security Agency
  • More people could be held responsible if the information get further exposed either through publication or being broadcasted

4).The affected

  • There is a threat to national security making Members of public may feel insecure(Lustgarten2015).
  • The employees in the National Security Agency may feel incompetence and under pressure
  • Terrorist may have an advantage over the national security(Lustgarten2015).
  • The ministry of defense may lose trust and start being viewed incompetence by the public
  • The government would be the one to blame
  • The press may also be held responsible in case of any security issues as a result of disseminating classified information
  • The court may be involved in passing judgments of the case 

5). Ethical issues and implications to stakeholders and on the community in general.

  • National security concerns

Snowden, exposure to classified information may not have intended to benefit anyone in particular rather than his own ego. This means in as far as he thought that he will feel superior of throwing this information to the public anyhow he may have not thought of the implications his action might result to and the number of people to be affected (Delmas,2015). In as far as it serves his wants and desire it is ethically right. Media on the other hand may want to feel the most opportune to have gotten the information of high public interest and rush to satisfy their audience and feel they did good job of informing. As far as they think they have given the information they feel good about themselves and nothing wrong with it. In classical theory when an action is based on benefiting the actor it is called Egoist.

  • Publication or broadcasting classical information

The publication of this information would consider the majority of the people benefiting from the information. If it is for the public good, the media would consider sponsoring it for the public to hear. Ethicist argues, as far as it is for “the greatest good for the greatest number”(Hindman and Thomas 2014). If the information is to rescue violation of the majority right no matter how classified the information is the media may choose to publish the information and no ethical problem here(Oboler, Welsh and Cruz 2012). In classical ethical theory this consideration is referred to as utilitarianism.

  • National Security Agency for violating their right to privacy

Snowden may have considered exposingNSA surveillance programs that collect and perform data mining on hundreds of millions of U.S. phone and Internet traffic records to have peace of mind since he will not feel responsible for the happenings and avoid blaming himself(Jung 2009). In classical ethical theory this may be referred to as Stoicism/Quietism(Landau 2013). This means even if he knew his action would result to bigger consequences his peace of mind becomes the most important.

  • Imprisonment of not less than 10 years

Snowden may have felt that exposing the classified information is more ethical if more people were going to benefit from it even if he might face imprisonment of ten years, a large fine or both. This led him to take great personal sacrifice to benefit others with their privacy not violated(Greenwald and MacAskill2013). When an individual decides not to care about themselves but ethically think about the good of others, ethicist in classical ethical theory call it altruism.

6). The security agencies should consider going to the court toreassert control either through earlier restriction on publication by the press or through ensuing punishment to the employee or the press.

The employee should also run to court to seek court protection including the press involved in publication in regards with confidentiality interest, if they feel they did what was most important(Jung, I., 2009).

The employee should be arrested and prosecuted for leaking such classified information that threatens a country peace.

The security agency must be taken to court by those who feel their rights have been violated in order to ease tension related to the issueamong the American people (Ventola2014).

The media should do away with the information for the common good of American public (Hindmanand Thomas 2014).

7). Court order should ban media publication or broadcast

The media should through the court be restricted from using the information for publication or broadcasting due to the sensitivity it contains and likely threats to the public due to the tension the public may result to.  This is because by so doing, terrorist will not likely be able to get the information and secret of how NSA operates(Delmas2015). This would be achieved by defining the amount of the offence committed and the fine attracted(Ludlow 2010). This is may not be the best option because the members of American people have the right to get the information from the media of the security evils done by the National Security Agencies.

The National security Agency should be taken to court

NSA surveillance programs that collect and perform data mining on hundreds of millions of U.S. phone and Internet traffic records is against human right for privacy and it means it should be taken to the court for violating this right(Chadwick and Collister2014). This may not be the best option as this information is gathered to keep the American people secure from terrorists attack.

Psychiatric therapeutic

The employee should be takenfor therapeutic counseling to determine whether he is on his right mental state. His admission is dangerous to the people of America and it should be investigated whether it is a threat or just bare statement(Dearden2012). The security agency may also want know whether the information has really been exposed and how they can explain to the people of America to avoid tension likely to come from them.

Employee should be fined and sentenced

The employee should be held responsible of holding top secret information to himself and exposing it to the members of press willingly despite dangers associated with holding and exposure of the information meant to protect American people.  He should have asked himself whether he was justified to take the action or not and what risks or outcome could be(Jung 2009). This would help in investigation and help the information from spreading further.

8).THE BEST OPTION

US Government should seek court order reasserting control of the information from publication in order to play its role in protecting peoples’ interest. Before any other action is taken, the information should be prevented from being published due to the risk it has. The information is used by the government security agencies to enable them make policies, hence, obtaining court order would help stop the top secret being known by many people who are not supposed to know(Harris et al.2011). This would also help the prosecution of the press involved if information is published and the employee who leaked the information. As an IT professional you should ask yourself what if your holding or keeping this information was to reveal the top secret of your employer and what could be the general consequences to your employer, the government and the public(Chadwick and Collister2014). ICT professionals should ask themselves whether the information they are perusing would be important for public good or causing more  to the American people or not. They should also be concerned of whether it is right to have exposed themselves to such sensitive information or not.

ANALYSIS OF THE SITUATION FROM THE POINT OF VIEW OF AN ICT PROFESSIONAL USING THE ACS CODE OF ETHICS

ACS code of ethics requires that the ICT professional be loyal to the community in their practice. This means that as enshrined in the ACS values and ideals, social implications of your work must put into consideration in enhancing quality of life in those served by ICT personnel. In this case, the employee may have decided to look at the social implication of their work in the society hence the resulting decision(Delmas 2015). Ethical values and ideals of ACS requiring the ICT professional to prioritize the interest of the community above those of section may have led the employee taking this measure of their action. He may have seen the dangers associated with the NSA surveillance programs with likelihood of hurting the majority by misusing their private information. 

Employees are required to strive for their professional development and those of their colleagues and other employees. His action may have not considered this by involving all the stakeholders in rectifying a foreseen future damage or he may have decided to expose the ill after a long ignorance from within(Thompson 2018). The ACS professional 4.6.7 Competence in accordance with NR4.3.2:  state that an ICT professional “go beyond their brief, if necessary, in order to act professionally” (Burmeister 2013)

ACS standard of conduct also requires that ICT professionals in 4.8.2 social implication “must consider and respect people's privacy which might be affected by their work.” If the information termed classified was not in respect to people’s privacy it was better to expose them to the members of press(Sturges 2009). 4.8.5 SocialImplication states that he/she “must attempt to increase the feelings of personal satisfaction, competence, and control of those affected by my work.” If his work did not seem to bring satisfaction to the people affected by his work it would be a better option exposing the information for people to know there was a concern(Bernoth et al. 2014).

ACS professional standard of conduct in 4.10.6 Information Technology Profession require that he or she “take appropriate action if they discover a member, or a person who could potentially be a member, of the Society engaging in unethical behaviour.” Although there is no assurance of the potentiality of surveillance program bringing harm to the public it could be justifiable to release the information to create alert if the members within were told of the dangers involved in the practices with regards to obtaining and keeping peoples information secretly.

CONCLUSION BRINGING THE YWO ANALYSIS TOGETHER AND OVERALL RECOMMENDATIONS 

The information in this papers’ discussion has been reviewed in the perspective of a rational American citizen (people). ACS code of conduct may not be the right to apply in 21st century as it is limited to allowing making of decision when a dilemma faces professionals in their line of duty. There have been many suggestions suggesting the amendment of ACS code of conducts in order for it to be useful in modern changing world.  However the ACS marries some good ideas of the Doing Ethicswhich focuses on doing the right thing.  In this case both ethics would be useful in solving a dilemma in a situation of taking the most appropriate action. ACS state that there is a need of taking appropriate action toward a misconduct of a colleague in ICT profession just like doing ethics would consider taking the right action to protect the needs of the majority in classical ethical theory of utilitarianism. 

REFERENCES

Bernoth, M., Dietsch, E., Burmeister, O.K. and Schwartz, M., 2014. Information management in aged care: cases of confidentiality and elder abuse. Journal of business ethics, 122(3), pp.453-460.

Burmeister, O.K., 2013. Achieving the goal of a global computing code of ethics through an international-localisation hybrid.Ethical Space, 10(4), pp.25-32.

Chadwick, A. and Collister, S., 2014. Boundary-Drawing Power and the Renewal of Professional News Organizations: The Case of The Guardian and the Edward Snowden NSA Leak. International Journal of Communication, 8, p.22.

Dearden, A., 2012, March. See no evil?: ethics in an interventionist ICTD. In Proceedings of the fifth international conference on information and communication technologies and development (pp. 46-55).ACM.

Delmas, C., 2015. The ethics of government whistleblowing.Social Theory and Practice, pp.77-105.

Greenwald, G. and MacAskill, E., 2013. NSA Prism program taps in to user data of Apple, Google and others. The Guardian, 7(6), pp.1-43.

Harris, A.L., Lang, M., Yates, D. and Kruck, S.E., 2011. Incorporating ethics and social responsibility in IS education. Journal of Information Systems Education, 22(3), p.183.

Hindman, E.B. and Thomas, R.J., 2014. When old and new media collide: The case of WikiLeaks.new media & society, 16(4), pp.541-558.

Jung, I., 2009. Ethical judgments and behaviors: Applying a multidimensional ethics scale to measuring ICT ethics of college students. Computers & Education, 53(3), pp.940-949.

Landau, S., 2013. Making sense from Snowden: What's significant in the NSA surveillance revelations.IEEE Security & Privacy, 11(4), pp.54-63.

Ludlow, P., 2010. Wikileaks and hacktivist culture.The Nation, 4, pp.25-26.

Lustgarten, S.D., 2015. Emerging ethical threats to client privacy in cloud communication and data storage.Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 46(3), p.154.

Nayar, P.K., 2010. Wikileaks, the new information cultures and digital parrhesia.Economic and Political Weekly, pp.27-30. 

Oboler, A., Welsh, K. and Cruz, L., 2012. The danger of big data: Social media as computational social science. First Monday, 17(7). 

Perron, B.E., Taylor, H.O., Glass, J.E. and Margerum-Leys, J., 2010.Information and communication technologies in social work.Advances in social work, 11(2), p.67. 

Reynolds, G., 2011. Ethics in information technology.Cengage learning. 

Sturges, P., 2009. Information ethics in the twenty first century.Australian Academic & Research Libraries, 40(4), pp.241-251. 

Thompson, D.F., 2018. The possibility of administrative ethics. In Classics Of Administrative Ethics (pp. 79-92). Routledge. 

Toxen, B., 2014. The NSA and Snowden: Securing the all-seeing eye. Queue, 12(3), p.40. 

Ventola, C.L., 2014. Social media and health care professionals: benefits, risks, and best practices. Pharmacy and Therapeutics, 39(7), p.491. 

Wachs, M. ed., 2017.Ethics in planning.Routledge.

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