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Information ethics has been defined as "the branch of ethics that focuses on the relationship between the creation, organization, dissemination, and use of information, and the ethical standards and moral codes governing human conduct in society"[1]. It provides a critical framework for considering moral issues concerning informational privacy, moral agency (e.g. whether artificial agents may be moral), new environmental issues (especially how agents should one behave in the infosphere), problems arising from the life-cycle (creation, collection, recording, distribution, processing, etc.) of information (especially ownership and copyright, digital divide). Information Ethics is related to the fields of computer ethics [2] and the philosophy of information.

Dilemmas regarding the life of information are becoming increasingly important in a society that is defined as "the information society". Information transmission and literacy are essential concerns in establishing an ethical foundation that promotes fair, equitable, and responsible practices. Information ethics broadly examines issues related to ownership, access, privacy, security, and community.

Information technology affects common issues such as copyright protection, intellectual freedom, accountability, and security. Many of these issues are difficult or impossible to resolve due to fundamental tensions between Western moral philosophies (based on rules, democracy, individual rights, and personal freedoms) and the traditional Eastern cultures (based on relationships, hierarchy, collective responsibilities, and social harmony) [3]. The multi-faceted dispute between Google and the government of the People's Republic of China reflects some of these fundamental tensions.

Professional codes offer a basis for making ethical decisions and applying ethical solutions to situations involving information provision and use which reflect an organization’s commitment to responsible information service. Evolving information formats and needs require continual reconsideration of ethical principles and how these codes are applied. Considerations regarding information ethics influence “personal decisions, professional practice, and public policy”.[4] Therefore, ethical analysis must provide a framework to take into consideration “many, diverse domains” (ibid.) regarding how information is distributed.

The main, peer-reviewed, academic journals reporting on information ethics are the Journal of the Association of Information Systems, the flagship publication of the Association of Information Systems, and Ethics and Information Technology, published by Springer.

History of Information ethics[edit]

The field of information ethics has a relatively short but progressive history having been recognized in the United States for nearly 20 years.[5]. The origins of the field are in librarianship though it has now expanded to the consideration of ethical issues in other domains including computer science, the internet, media, journalism, management information systems, and business.[6].

Evidence of scholarly work on this subject can be traced to the 1980s, when an article authored by Barbara J. Kostrewski and Charles Oppenheim and published in the Journal of information science, discussed issues relating to the field including confidentiality, information biases, and quality control [7]. Another scholar, Robert Hauptman, has also written extensively about information ethics in the library field and founded the Journal of Information Ethics in 1992 [8].

Branches of Information Ethics[edit]

  • Library ethics
  • Cyberethics
  • Media ethics
  • Bioinformation ethics
  • Business Information ethics
  • Computer ethics


  1. ^ Joan, Reitz M. "Information Ethics." Online Dictionary For Library And Information Science. N.p., 2010. Web. <>.
  2. ^ Luciano Floridi (1999). "Information Ethics: On the Theoretical Foundations of Computer Ethics", Ethics and Information Technology 1.1, 37-56.
  3. ^ M.G. Martinsons and D. Ma (2009) "Sub-Cultural Differences in Information Ethics across China: Focus On Chinese Management Generation Gaps", Journal of the Association of Information Systems 10.11, 957-973.
  4. ^ E. Elrod and M. Smith (2005). "Information Ethics", in Encyclopedia of Science, Technology, and Ethics, ed. by Carl Mitcham. Vol. 2: D-K (1004-1011). Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA.
  5. ^ Froehlich, Thomas. “A Brief History of Information Ethics.” In Textos Universitaris de Biblioteconomia i Documentació 13 (2004): n.p.
  6. ^ Froehlich, Thomas. “A Brief History of Information Ethics.” In Textos Universitaris de Biblioteconomia i Documentació 13 (2004): n.p.
  7. ^ Froehlich, Thomas. “A Brief History of Information Ethics.” In Textos Universitaris de Biblioteconomia i Documentació 13 (2004): n.p.
  8. ^ Kerr, Michael. "Introduction." Ethics And Information Management In The 21st Century. N.p., 29 Mar. 2010. Web. <>.

Further reading[edit]

  • Adam D. Moore ed (2005). "Information Ethics: Privacy, Property, and Power", University of Washington Press.
  • Richard A. Spinello and Herman T. Tavani (eds.) (2004). Readings in Cyberethics, second ed. Mass.: Jones and Bartlett Publishers.
  • Herman T. Tavani (2004). Ethics & Technology: Ethical Issues in an Age of Information and Communication Technology. New Jersey: John Wiley and Sons, Inc..

External links[edit]

Category:Computing and society Category:Ethics of science and technology Category:Information science Category:Information technology