We are now living in a new world marked by transformed and evolved technologies. It is also regarded as the period when economic operations are dependent on facts. In other words, it is referred to as the era of information. Increased knowledge exchange is evolving due to the use and advancement of technologies. The main features of this current generation can be described as the rise in the workers’ number of knowledge, the world that has transformed to be more open than in the past regarding the sense of internalization and communication (Taddicken 2014, p. 251). The paradigm shift brings new juridical and ethical problems that are mainly connected to matters such as privacy rights, which is threatened by emphasizing the free flow of information, the right to informational access, and the protection of the economic interests of intellectual property owners (Cinque 2015). This paper looks into the ethical issues connected with privacy rights of individuals as far as the development of technology and transformation of media culture is concerned.
With the rapid change in technology, it is expected that the culture of the future media will be marked by high levels of security threats. Of course, the insecurity of the information transfer will have a considerable impact on the privacy of an individual, making it an issue of concern in the development of technology. Privacy can be understood as the condition of life of an individual that is characterized by publicity exclusion (De Wolf, Willaert, and Pierson 2014, p. 447). Exclusion from publicity is a sensitive concept that cannot be left alone. The perception of privacy as exclusion from publicity sets the course for making the laws regarding privacy in the United States for the past couple of decades. As such, privacy may be considered as a natural right that gives the foundation for the legal right (De Wolf et al. 2014, p. 451). Therefore, the right to an individual’s privacy is protected under the privacy laws and contravening it would constitute a criminal offence.
It is worth pointing out that the legal right to privacy of a person is protected by the constitution of almost every state in the democratic nations. This constitutional right is portrayed in various forms of legislations. Privacy is one of the most important rights that an individual needs to be entitled to since it acts as a prerequisite for other human rights such as personal autonomy and freedom (Taddicken 2014, p. 253). Hence, it would be justifiable to believe that there is a close connection between human dignity, freedom and privacy. Respecting an individual’s privacy is acknowledging the right of that person to freedom and recognizing the autonomy of that person as a human being.
Despite the fact that the transformation of technology has serious implications for an individual’s privacy, its ethical impact relates to the inaccessibility or the accessibility and manipulation of information (Cinque 2015, p. 49). Information sharing creates the possibility of simultaneous and comprehensive access to information. By implication, it tends to be easier to access the private information of an individual by more people both nationwide and globally. On the other hand, an individual can also be excluded from getting necessary information electronically using many measures of security such as passwords (Cinque 2015, p. 61). The manipulation of information using technology among other methods refers to the merging of documents or integration of information, repackaging, and the possibility of changing information by electronic media. Thus, information processing by technology cannot be believed to be ethically neutral. The use of technology is changing significantly, and many experts view it as a value-laden process. The proponents of technological change have also concurred with the fact that technology has altered the ontological status of a document together with ethical implications (Cinque 2015, p. 68). On the contrary, other scholars believe that the transformation of technology and the advancement of information sharing do not necessarily cause ethical problems such as the invasion of an individual’s privacy. Instead, the opposing side indicates that people ought to rethink their moral values (Xu, Dinev, Smith, Hart, 2011, p. 798).
Moreover, using technology to process personal and other types of private information has different effects on the society. First, the effects can be felt at individual levels. Concerning individual level, the impact can be viewed in terms of spontaneity and loss of dignity as well as a threat to the right to privacy and freedom. Xu et al. (2011, p. 801) argued that transformation in technology continues to perceived as a privacy threat instead of a possible solution. In fact, the assertion has been supported by recent claims from the public staging that many people worry about using technology to process their information (Xu et al. 2011, p. 809).
Secondly, regarding the social and economic levels, the heaviest implication is the rise of large information businesses such as telecommunications and credit bureau companies, which specialize in trading and processing the information related to people, hence, bringing the redefinition of the big businesses in the private and personal lives of the individual (Wessels 2012, p. 1257). It is also ostensibly that the legislation on privacy protection of an individual is being left behind because of the rapid transformation in technology and information transmission. Therefore, the combination of private and personal information of an individual into a different database must be done with adequate caution. This is mostly applicable in areas where clients are not cognizant of the combinations or the implications thereof (Wessels 2012, p. 1261). The recommended action would not only be passing the information to the client regarding the merging and its implications but to enable the client to have the right to access the information from a central database.
Concisely, it would be justifiable to believe that the widespread use of technology in information processing poses critical concerns with the connection to the right to privacy of an individual. The privacy right is directly linked to the human autonomy and the right to freedom. The problems of intrusion to personal information relate majorly to the manipulation and the widespread accessibility of information. This is particularly relevant to the information professionals dealing with personal and private information. Thus, individual privacy is one of the important contemporary issues that need to be addressed as far as technological transformations in the digital age are concerned.
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