Ethics and Information Strategy

Business nowadays are, with an accelerating pace,  gathering online data of individuals,  thereby creating powerful databases containing sensitive information. From a business perspective, this behavior enables firms to offer more tailored products and services to their (potential) customers. This phase of the Information Revolution, as Richards and Kings write, will result in a larger scale in social change at an even higher speed. Almost all human activities are becoming increasingly influenced  by big data predictions and, while of great value to firms, this collection of individual data also raises concerns.

We need balance the use of big data with human values like privacy, identity, free choice and transparency. In order to address this issue, Richard and King (2014) established four principles, or so-called big data ethical norms.                                                                                                                       First, the word “privacy” should be replaced by “ information rules”. In contrast to what many believe, privacy is not dying, but we should change our expectations and the boundaries of privacy. Privacy is not about how much is a secret but about what rules exist to use information.      Second, online trust should be restored. People don’t use technology, they don’t trust. When we share private information, we share in confidence. This, however, does not mean that this information is not ruled by privacy law. Users should trust on law and regulation for their information to remain confidential.                                                                                                                          Third, together with confidentiality, transparency should be in place in order for individuals to regain trust. However, there is a fine line between openness and secrecy with respect to transparency, also called the Transparency Paradox. In short, this paradox describes how too little information leads to a lack of trust and how too much transparency could harm privacy. Thus, there should be a balance in in privacy for individuals and privacy for institutions.                                                                     The fourth and last principle is about how big data can compromise identity. Our identities are being increasingly influenced by big data and the companies that control them. This phenomenon will only geow as big data will continue to be adopted by institutions. Because the development of big data is not natural, we should gain a deeper understanding and set clear boundaries to deal with its implications.

While big data offers great opportunities to firms and institutions, we should not ignore its challenges with respect to human values. Old regulations may not apply which urges debate on new laws and boundaries on information collection and handling.


Chris Stam


Neil M. Richards, J. H. K., 2014. Big Data Ethics, Washington: s.n.


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2 responses to “Ethics and Information Strategy”

  1. 437664ek says :

    Hi Chris,

    I like your post about ethics in Information Strategy and I agree that it will offer great opportunities for firms. I also agree on the issue that we have to keep human values in mind. ‘How to stay ethical’ is a topic researchers wrote a lot about in the last years. One of the major concerns in my opinion is the attention commercial banks will give to ethics. The financial crisis in 2008 is caused by unethical behaviour of banks with major consequences we all know. Banks now collect a huge amount of information about their customers (amount of salary, what they buy, where they buy, etc.) Will banks abide the information rules, ethics, privacy regulations, etc. in the future in exchange for less profit? I don’t guess so according to only small improvements in the banking world since the crisis in 2008 and on. Banks will probably premise profit before ethical handling. It is not inconceivable that a new unethical crisis can arise concerning customer data of banks..

  2. gabriellapimpao says :

    I really like in your article how you say that privacy should be changed to information rules because I believe the biggest problem is not sites collecting data about us but for what and how they use it. For example in the case of banks (mentioned in the comment before) it is very clear why they want to collect data from you (although the amount of data collected can be questioned and also whether all that information is needed). As you also mentioned the main problem is with transparency: how is using our data and what for? There are some (many) causes for which I believe users would agree to provide data (more pleasant experiences, better recommendations etc.) and many for which not. Further researching the topic I found this article which might bring extra perspective to the question:

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