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Nnorom, Obiorah-Gil Ernest
Department of Secretarial Studies , Abia State Polytechnic, Aba
and Ojimba, Damian C.
 Department of Business Administration, Anambra State University, Uli


The focus of this study is to expose various ethical problems in Information Technology (IT). It is an in-depth desk research aimed at extending the frontiers of knowledge in Information Technology.  Most end-users of IT in Nigeria are not aware of some ethical questions underlining the creation and application of IT devices. As a result, manufacturers, end-users and the populace, perpetrate unethical behaviours against or with the use of Information Technology.  It was unraveled that unethical attitudes bedevil the Information Technology industry. Such ethical issues include computer criminals, environmental pollution, electromagnetic emissions, data security and privacy, intellectual property rights, among others. This paper concludes that the violation of ethical values in IT has resulted to health hazards and loss of property of end-users of IT devices in Nigeria.  It recommends the provision of techniques, devices and human resources to forestall various unethical behavioural tendencies as they affect end-users, producers and merchandisers of Information Technology in Nigeria.
Keywords: ethic; consumer; end-user; information technology


Ethical questions permeate all spheres of human endeavour. Man, in a bid to make a living, is faced with the problem of taking the right decision in order to achieve organizational goals. Sometimes the wrong decision is taken in place of the right one; all in bid to make ends meet. Good manners, equity and fair play demands that the health and well-being of the end-users should be taken into consideration in the production of good and services; but this aspect of natural justice in commerce and industry are sometimes intentionally neglected and thrown to the winds for self-fish ends. As a comparatively new but all embracing field, Information Technology is not without ethical questions of what is right or wrong for the end-users. For example, blue films, and violent films have corrupt effects on immature minds; users of some IT gadgets suffer various cyber sicknesses like eyestrain, nausea, etc. Most floppy diskettes are of inferior quality. Thus viruses easily attack data stored in them. It is against this backdrop that the domain of this article is to x-ray some ethical issues in the field of Information Technology. This would go a long way in extending the frontiers of knowledge as well as protecting end-users from some health hazards imminent in IT. It will also inform the producers of other goods and services of the need to abide by the Consumer Protection Codes as they affect them both in and outside Nigeria.

Ethic - Conceptualisations
Different writers in different fields have explained the word ethic, ethics or Code of Ethic in diverse ways, but in all the point in question is the idea of what is right or wrong with respect to the well being of the consumers or end-users. In the words of Hornby (2001:395), ethics means, “Moral principles that control of influence a person’s behaviour … a system of morale principles or rules of behaviour.” As a discipline, ethics is “that branch of philosophy that deals with moral principles” (Hornby, (2001:395)

For Emole (2006:148), “Ethics is the totality of moral principles or sets of values about what conduct ought to be, . discipline dealing with that, which is good or bad with moral duty and obligation”. He went to opine that; “Ethics remains the special province of philosophers rather than scientists and the achievement of a “Scientist’s morality” with universal rightness or wrongness, is regarded as impossible”. However correct or incorrect the above assertion may be depends on the explicit interpretation of the phrase “Scientist’s morality” But in all, one thing is very obvious. Scientists are human beings in the service of the society and human rights demands social justice, equity and fairplay by all and sundry in their dealings with one another.
It is the view of Ekennia (2006:9) that “Ethics is the systematic endeavour to understand moral concepts and justify moral principles and theories as right, wrong, ought, good and evil. It also seeks to establish principles of right behaviour that may serve as action guides for individuals and groups”.
Therefore, scientists among which are the Information Technologist are guided by ethical obligations in the manufacturing of computers and allied products meant for the service of man - end-users. It is based on this background that Williams, Sawyer and Hutchinson (1999:33) say that, “Ethical issues pervades all aspects of the use of Information Technology” It is their opinion also that ethics is “a set of moral values or principles that govern the conduct of an individual or a group”.
The business communicator is not ruled out in the quest for ethical questions in the achievement of business goals. Thus, Lesikar, Pettit and Flatley (1999:13) while discussing Ethical Communication posit, “In all cases, our emphasis will be on achieving legitimate business goals … Always our emphasis will be on achieving effects that are consistent with honourable goals”.
In their own case, Ewald and Burnett (1996:11) see Code of ethics as
Another example of situated criteria, which set standards for ethical action within a particular organization. These criteria may cover multiple occasions for action, but still situated according to profession and to organizational expectations. To be ethical, you would have to conform to the standards of conduct of a given profession. These standards sometimes, but not always, deal with morality in the sense of considering certain action either “right” of “wrong”.


Ethical Issues in IT

“Ethical” simply means, connected with beliefs or principles about what is right or wrong . . . Morally correct or acceptable (Hornby 2001:395). Ohakwe, Chukwumezie and Idih (2000:9) define issues as, “Subjects that people discuss. . . . In issues, the subjects are gaining currency and are freely debated or people talk or write about them in detail, to consider different ideas or opinions about them”.
Based on the above premises, one might rightly explain ethical issues in information technology as those beliefs connected with what people discuss and which have gained or are gaining currency among Information Technology professionals and the end-users of IT. Such ethical issues include whether there is the need for data security and personal privacy of users of IT. What are the effects of violence as evinced on some IT screens on immature minds? Have electromagnetic emissions anything to do with environmental pollution, the issues of cyber sickness, computer crimes and counterfeiting problems via information technology gadgets, among others.

Information Technology Defined

According to Inyiama, (1994) cited in Dimoji (2006:152), “The term Information Technology embodies a convergence of interest between electronics, computing and telecommunication all of which are leading to the rapid development of micro-electronic”. In the words of Hornby (2001:615), “Information Technology is the study or use of electronic equipment, especially computers, for storing, analyzing and sending out information”.  For Williams, et al (1999:3) “Information Technology is the technology that merges computing with high-speed communication links carrying data, sound, and video”.

Ethical Concerns in Information Technology

Ethical issues pervade all aspects of the use of information technology. Every computer user will have to wrestle with ethical issues related to the use of information technology (Williams, et al, 1999:33).
Here are some of the ethical issues in information technology which have bothered both the creators and users of information technology gadgets from day to day:
1.         Data security and privacy
2.         Video games and violence
3.         Groupware and personal responsibility
4.         Ethics and Intellectual Property Rights
5.         Energy consumption and “green P.C’s”
6,         Scanners or scammers
7.         Electronic imaging and counterfeiting
8.         Monitors and energy consumption
9.         Virtual reality and cyber sickness
10.       Single universal smart card and privacy
11.       Manipulation of truth in art and journalism.
12.       Netiquette, controversial materials, censorship, and privacy issues.
13.       Destructive and constructive uses of databases.
14.       Databases and accuracy and privacy
15.       Crimes against computers and communication.
16.       Crimes using computers and communications.
17.       Quality of life issues.
18.       Employment and the haves/have not.
19.       Artificial life, the Turing Test and Artificial Intelligence ethics.

Ethics, as a set of moral values or principles that govern the conduct of an individual or a group, is much after the welfare and protection of the consumers or end-users of goods and services. The above issues are further discussed here with respect to the rightness, or wrongness, acceptableness or
unacceptableness, good or bad, side by side with the central issue in ethic, that is, the interest of the end-users.

A.   Data Security And Privacy
According to Forester and Morrison cited in Williams, et al (1999:33), “Despite the benefits, this has serious implications for data security and personal privacy because information technology can never be considered totally secured against unauthorized access.” Information technology requires vigilance in security. Security is a system of safeguards for protecting information technology against disasters, system failure, and unauthorized access that can result in damage or loss. How then do we secure our data against unauthorized access, etc?
The following security measures are proffered:

Identification and Access

In order to authenticate your identity to allow you access, the system will require your cards, keys, signatures and badges. To avoid unauthorized access, the computer should be kept under lock and security officer should be put in charge of the computer room. The system will also require PINS, passwords and digital signatures. For instance, in order to use the Automatic Teller Machine (ATM), a PIN, or personal identification number, is the security number known only to you that is required to access the system. A password is special word, code, or symbol that is required to access a computer system. Passwords should use a mix of letters, numbers, punctuation marks of no fewer than eight characters, e.g. 26MON;.. or NOT2b%. User’s physical traits, which are not easily faked, are used, such as computerized finger imaging, voices, the blood vessels in the back of eyeball, the lip, and even one’s entire face, on biometrics devices.

Biometrics is the science of measuring individual body characteristics.


Pretty Good Privacy (PGP) is a computer program written for encrypting computer messages – putting them into secret code. Encryption, or enciphering, is the altering of data so that it is not usable unless the changes are undone. This is so good and practically unbreakable that even government experts cannot crack it.

Protection of software and data

This includes educating employees about making backup disks, protecting against virus, control of access through a transaction log that notes all accesses or attempted access to data, audit controls which records how a transaction was handled from input through processing and output; people controls, by screening of job applicants and checking their resume to see that they are what they claim to be.

Disaster–recovery plans

This is a method of restoring information processing operations that have been halted by destruction or accident. It includes a list of all business functions and the hardware, software, data and people to support those functions, arrangement for alternative locations, etc.

B.        Video games and violence

Video games and plays help children to learn well and fast, but the contents of some of the games are corrupt, and this has effects of violence on immature personalities; many portray sexy films. But in recent time, video game makers have introduced nonviolent games.

C.        Groupware and personal responsibility

Groupware, also known as collaboration software, is software that is used on a network and allows users in the same building or even continents away working on the same project to share ideas and update documents. This idea came into being in 1998 with the introduction of Lotus Notes. Ethics demands that people working in-group should exercise personal responsibility of doing their best. Apply good manners and be sensitive to others while you are on line.

D.        Intellectual property rights

InfoTech has presented legislators, lawyers and everybody with some new ethical questions regarding rights to intellectual property, which consists of the products, tangible or intangible, of the human mind. There are three methods of protecting intellectual property. They are patents (as for an invention), trade secrets (as for a formula or method of doing business), and copyrights (as for a song or a book).  Software piracy, network piracy and plagiarism violet copyright laws. Public domain software, freeware and shareware can be legally copied, which is not the case with property (commercial) software.
A copyright is the exclusive legal right that prohibits copying intellectual property without the permission of the copyright holder. Software piracy is the unauthorized copying of copyrighted software. Network piracy is using electronic networks for the unauthorized distribution of copyrighted materials in digitized form. Plagiarism is the expropriation of another writer’s text, findings, or interpretations and presenting it as one’s own. Public domain software is software that is not protected by copyright and thus, may be duplicated by anyone at will. Freeware is copyrighted software that is distributed free of charge but requires users to make contribution in order to continue using it.

E.         Electronic Imaging and Counterfeiting

Imaging-system technology has led to a whole new art or industry called electronic imaging – the software–controlled combing of separate images, using scanners, digital cameras, and advanced graphic computers. This technology has become an important part of multi-media. It has also led to some serious counterfeiting problems, such as fabricating of logos, trademarks and also makes counterfeit money. To thwart such unethical practices, special inks and polyster fibers that glow when exposed to ultraviolet light, and other finer printing techniques are used.

F.         Virtual Reality and Cyber sickness

Virtual reality (VR) is a kind of computer generated artificial reality that projects a person into a sensation of three-dimensional space. One ethical and potential litigation problem for makers of virtual reality equipment is how to keep users from getting sick. Known as cyber sickness or simulator sickness, symptoms include eyestrain, queasiness, nausea and confusion, and even visual and audio “flashbacks” among some VR users. In preparing for the expected ware of VR products, researchers are required to take and apply measures against the above complaints.
G.        Crimes Against Computers and Communications
An InfoTech crime can be of two types – an illegal act perpetrated against computers or telecommunications to accomplish an illegal act. Crime against InfoTech includes theft of hardware, software, computer time, cable or telephone services, information, act of malice and destruction.
H.        Crimes Using Computers and Communications
Information technology has been used simply to perpetrate mischief. Many people now do business on-line. In the same manner, scam artists have followed nonexistent investment deals and phone solicitations to manipulate stock price, dupe people of their property, etc.
I.          Computer Criminals
What kind of people is perpetrating most of the information technology crime? Over 80% may be employees. The rest are outside users, hackers and professional criminals. (Williams, 1999:565)
J.         Quality-of-Life Issues
Information Technology can create problems for the environment, people’s mental health such as isolation, gambling. Net addiction and stress and the workplace-misuse of technology and information overload. Because telecommunication industry is deregulated, lofty metal poles topped by cellular transmitting equipment will be eyesores that will destroy views and property values and will lead to a rat’s nest of roof antennas, satellite dishes and above ground transmission stations. Information Technology can isolate one for days without actually speaking with or touching another person, from buying gas to playing games. Many have turned to compulsive or problem gamblers while others have become Net addicted that they can browse the World Wide Web to chat groups, on-line pornography or simply to escape from real life. Stress can also affect automation users who got addicted to the Network.
K.        The Manipulation of Truth in Art and Journalism
Users of Information Technology must weigh the effects of the digital manipulation of sound, photos, and video in art and journalism. This can be achieved by using morphing which helps to alter a film or video image displayed on a computer screen pixel-by-pixel or dot-by-dot. The result is that the image metamorphoses into something else - a pair at lips into the front of a Toyota car, etc.


This study x-rays the ethical problems in Information Technology, which have bothered both the manufacturers and the end-users of IT components. There are various unethical deals, which bedevil the IT industry. One of the implications is that users are skeptical about the safety of hardware and software. But as information technology has become more sophisticated, so have the people charged with preventing it and disciplining its outlaws. The US government created the Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT) that provides round-the-clock international information and security related support services to users of Internet. This enables end-users to know much about current IT crimes and their protective controls.


In this study, these recommendations are proffered with a view to reducing unethical behaviours against information technology and make it user-friendlier:

  • Microsoft Company and other IT firms should equip their products with suitable safety devices in order to protect end-users from IT-related health hazards.
  • Employers should, from time to time, educate their staff on various security techniques for the prevention of computer crimes and crimes using computers.


  • The government should create a body to monitor intellectual property right offences. The outlaws should be seriously dealt with by an appropriate agency so that intending outlaws would desist from such unethical acts.
  • Pornographic and allied materials should be prohibited from inclusion in Internet video films watched on-line to stop their effect on immature personalities such as children.


  • Instead of littering the urban cities with satellite dishes, cables and allied overhead gadgets, IT Companies should experiment with hiding transmitters to desists from polluting our cities with IT transmitting antennas, etc, which end up defacing the beauty of our cities.



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Emole, N.K. (2006), Ethics: The Marketer’s Fulcrum In A Deregulated Economy. Journal of Business and Management Technology, Special Conference Edition, Abia State Polytechnic, Aba, 148-151.

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