Respect for persons, identity, and information technology

Ethics and Information Technology 12 (1):17-28 (2010)
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Abstract

There is surprisingly little attention in Information Technology ethics to respect for persons, either as an ethical issue or as a core value of IT ethics or as a conceptual tool for discussing ethical issues of IT. In this, IT ethics is very different from another field of applied ethics, bioethics, where respect is a core value and conceptual tool. This paper argues that there is value in thinking about ethical issues related to information technologies, especially, though not exclusively, issues concerning identity and identity management, explicitly in terms of respect for persons understood as a core value of IT ethics. After explicating respect for persons, the paper identifies a number of ways in which putting the concept of respect for persons explicitly at the center of both IT practice and IT ethics could be valuable, then examines some of the implicit and problematic assumptions about persons, their identities, and respect that are built into the design, implementation, and use of information technologies and are taken for granted in discussions in IT ethics. The discussion concludes by asking how better conceptions of respect for persons might be better employed in IT contexts or brought better to bear on specific issues concerning identity in IT contexts

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Robin S. Dillon
Lehigh University