Is There a Special E-Commerce Ethics?

Business Ethics Quarterly 14 (1):71-94 (2004)
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Abstract

The speed and degree to which e- commerce is infiltrating the very fabric of our society, faster and more pervasively than any other entity in history, makes an examination of its ethical dimensions critical. Though ethical lag has heretofore hindered ourexplorations of e- commerce ethics, it is now time to identify and confront them. In this paper we define e- commerce and describe thecharacteristics that set it apart from traditional brick and-mortar business. We then examine the ethical foundation of e- commerce, focusing on the question, “Is there a special e- commerce ethics?” Our answer is “no.” We support our answer by showing that the current issues in e- commerce ethics and brick-and-mortar business are fundamentally the same, but that e- commerce issues have different manifestations and scope. We then demonstrate that ethical principles and rules in e- commerce and brick-and-mortar business are fundamentally the same, but have different manifestations at the most specific level. We elucidate this point by discussing the use of personal information and the opt-in, opt-out debate. We conclude with a call for research on trust, a key value in the success of e- commerce.

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