CIS-244 Discussion Post 6: Data Ethics

CIS-244 Discussion Post 6

Discussion Post 7 was mostly tongue-in-cheek, but I think this one is more business and straightforward. Hey, I was celebrating my birthday at the beach! I was stoked to discover that Pelican Brewing is making a new brewpub there in Cannon Beach and that there is a local distillery is moving close to Pelican. And they have some of the best rum I’ve ever had.  Also, there is another brewpub opening up as well. I think Cannon Beach is going to see a see a real estate boom in the ext 5-10 years.


And now for the discussion posts. As always, I think these are good questions to ask around your respective offices as well.  Who knows, someone may have something interesting to say.


  1. Are there ethical issues to consider when planning a database? For example, should sensitive personal data (such as medical information) be stored in the same DBMS that manages employee salary and benefits data? Why or why not? Respond in at least 250 words.


Are there ethical issues when planning a database? No, of course not. Only legal ones. And of course, there should be special care taken for toxic assets like social security numbers. I, however, do not subscribe to this worldview.

As technology advances, there are about five major issues that concern people as they deal with my fellow technologists: Privacy, Ownership, Control, Accuracy, and Security. And there are typically more questions than answers. Thankfully my many talks with Janaka of PSU’s Computer Action Team, which I have served on for more than 3 years now, and Dr. Warren Harrison of Portland State University on occasion have given me some insight.  I think that in anything regarding technologies, these questions should be asked. They should especially be asked if the question includes data or databases about people.

Essentially, it all boils down to 10 questions about five topics. The subjects are Privacy, Security, Ownership, Control and Accuracy. Even numbers are in green to improve readability.


#1: PRIVACY: Does information’s availability justify its use?

#2: PRIVACY: How much effort and expense should managers incur in considering questions of data access and privacy?

#3: OWNERSHIP: What can employers expect from employees with regard to nondisclosure

when going to work for another firm?

#4: OWNERSHIP: What part of an information asset belongs to an

organization and what is simply part of an employee’s general knowledge?

#5: CONTROL: Do employees know the degree to which behavior is monitored?

#6: CONTROL: Does data gathered violate employee privacy rights?

#7: ACCURACY: Is accuracy an explicit part of someone’s responsibility?

#8: ACCURACY: Have the implications of potential error been anticipated?

#9: SECURITY: Have systems been reviewed for the most likely sources of security breach?

#10: SECURITY: What’s the liability exposure of managers and the organization?


In regards to the prompt above, the short answer is it can, but that doesn’t mean that it should. The ease of access and security of the database is more important. Since SQL databases are great for building relationships for say, employees, pay rates and benefits, this would make sense to have is somewhat accessible, but not easily accessible. As long as it is secure, then there shouldn’t be a problem. So I can see how keeping these things permanently separated is in fact the best interest of those involved.

I have redacted my answers to the ten questions above, as I hope that it will inspire you to answer them in the discussion board. Or better yet, they should be shared around your office as well.


  1. Information technology has advanced dramatically in recent years. At the same time, enormous changes in the business world have occurred as companies reflect global competition and more pressure for quality, speed, and customer service. Did the new technology inspire the business changes, or was it the other way around? Respond in at least 250 words.

I think that the new technology is driving the business climate to a slightly greater expense, simply because of the emphasis on “Big Data” that seems to be going about. People want to sell new electronic devices and accessories, sure, but looking at the many sources of data, we see how many of the ethical problems could lead to profit if ethics and morals are tossed aside. Many companies would pay big money to be able to precisely target their demographics and banks would love to be able to know how trustworthy and reliable a potential debtor. I believe that even 10 years ago, big credit card companies assembled a profile of the most credit-worthy person in Canada, what bar made someone more trustworthy (or rather, what bar more trustworthy people were more likely to go to) and what bar in Canada made people the least trustworthy (in terms of paying off their credit card bills and loans.

Whether or not it may be ethical to use such data is one thing, but does that mean that anyone should as a matter of accuracy, as per the above? Such data describes how things are, but not how things change. Moreover, acting upon such data in the manner one would assume would be want to do, it would make change impossible. Such people would be completely locked into their current station in life…which means the loss of millions of potential customers and profits.

So there is a hunger for data, that is easily made possible, gathered and transformed via technology that quite simply didn’t exist before. In the 30’s and 40’s, there was census data, sure, but the only way to gather it all was by hand.