This article is intended to offer a preliminary account of the socio-ethical conceptual framework being proposed. Further research would examine and test its validity, whilst also providing a more detailed account of the various components within and how a socio-ethical assessment would be conducted based on the framework, and the range of techniques that could be applied.
The need for objectivity 1.4.4
Regardless of categorization and which conceptual framework is adopted, numerous authors stress that the focus of research and debates should not be skewed towards the unethical uses of a particular technology, but rather an objective stance should be embraced. Such objectivity must nonetheless ensure that social interests are adequately represented. That is, with respect to location and tracking technologies, Clarke (2001b, p. 220) claims that social interests have been somewhat overshadowed by the economic interests of LBS organisation. This is a situation that requires rectifying. While information technology professionals are not necessarily liable for how technology is deployed, they must nonetheless recognise its implications and be engaged in the process of introducing and promoting adequate safeguards (Clarke 1988, pp. 510-511). It has been argued that IS professionals are generally disinterested in the ethical challenges associated with emerging ICTs, and are rather concerned with the job or the technologies themselves (Wakunuma and Stahl 2014, p. 383).
This is explicitly the case for LBS given that the industry and technology have developed quicker than equivalent social implications scholarship and research, an unfavourable situation given the potential for LBS to have profound impacts on individuals and society (Perusco et al. 2006, p. 91). In a keynote address centred on defining the emerging notion of überveillance, Clarke (2007a, p. 34) discusses the need to measure the costs and disbenefits arising from surveillance practices in general, where costs refer to financial measures, and disbenefits to all non-economic impacts. This involves weighing the negatives against the potential advantages, a response that is applicable to LBS, and pertinent to seeking objectivity.
Difficulties associated with objectivity 1.4.5
However, a major challenge with respect to an impartial approach for LBS is the interplay between the constructive and the potentially damaging consequences that the technology facilitates. For instance, and with specific reference to wireless technologies in a business setting, Elliot and Phillips (2004, p. 474) maintain that such systems facilitate monitoring and surveillance which can be applied in conflicting scenarios. Positive applications, according to Elliot and Phillips, include monitoring to improve effectiveness or provide employee protection in various instances, although this view has been frequently contested. Alternatively, negative uses involve excessive monitoring, which may compromise privacy or lead to situations in which an individual is subjected to surveillance or unauthorised forms of monitoring.
Additional studies demonstrate the complexities arising from the dual, and opposing, uses of a single LBS solution. It has been illustrated that any given application, for instance, parent, healthcare, employee and criminal tracking applications, can be simultaneously perceived as ethical and unethical (Michael et al. 2006a, p. 7). A closer look at the scenario involving parents tracking children, as explained by Michael et al. (2006a, p. 7), highlights that child tracking can enable the safety of a child on the one hand, while invading their privacy on the other. Therefore, the dual and opposing uses of a single LBS solution become problematic and situation-dependent, and indeed increasingly difficult to objectively examine. Dobson and Fischer (2003, p. 50) maintain that technology cannot be perceived as either good or evil in that it is not directly the cause of unethical behaviour, rather they serve to “empower those who choose to engage in good or bad behaviour.”
This is similarly the case in relation to the IoT, as public approval of the IoT is largely centred on “the conventional dualisms of ‘security versus freedom’ and ‘comfort versus data privacy’” (Mattern and Floerkemeier 2010, p. 256). Assessing the implications of the IoT infrastructure as a whole is increasingly difficult.
An alternative obstacle is associated with the extent to which LBS threaten the integrity of the individual. Explicitly, the risks associated with location and tracking technologies “arise from individual technologies and the trails that they generate, from compounds of multiple technologies, and from amalgamated and cross-referenced trails captured using multiple technologies and arising in multiple contexts” (Clarke 2001b, pp. 218). The consequent social implications or “dangers” are thus a product of individuals being convicted, correctly or otherwise, of having committed a particular action (Clarke 2001b, p. 219). A wrongly accused individual may perceive the disbenefits arising from LBS as outweighing the benefits.
However, in situations where integrity is not compromised, an LBS application can be perceived as advantageous. For instance, Michael et al. (2006, pp. 1-11) refer to the potentially beneficial uses of LBS, in their paper focusing on the Avian Flu Tracker prototype that is intended to manage and contain the spread of the infectious disease, by relying on spatial data to communicate with individuals in the defined location. The authors demonstrate that their proposed system which is intended to operate on a subscription or opt-in basis is beneficial for numerous stakeholders such as government, health organisations and citizens (Michael et al. 2006c, p. 6).
Thus, a common challenge confronting researchers with respect to the study of morals, ethics and technology is that the field of ethics is subjective. That is, what constitutes right and wrong behaviour varies depending on the beliefs of a particular individual, which are understood to be based on cultural and other factors specific to the individual in question. One such factor is an individual’s experience with the technology, as can be seen in the previous example centred on the notion of an unjust accusation. Given these subjectivities and the potential for inconsistency from one individual to the next, Tavani (2007, p. 47) asserts that there is the need for ethical theories to direct the analysis of moral issues (relating to technology), given that numerous complications or disagreements exist in examining ethics.
This article has provided a comprehensive review of the control- and trust-related challenges relevant to location-based services, in order to identify and describe the major social and ethical considerations within each of the themes. The relevance of the IoT in such discussions has been demonstrated and a socio-ethical framework proposed to encourage discussion and further research into the socio-ethical implications of the IoT with a focus on LBS and/or localization technologies. The proposed socio-ethical conceptual framework requires further elaboration and it is recommended that a thorough analysis, beyond information ethics, be conducted based on this paper which forms the basis for such future work. IoT by its very nature is subject to socio-ethical dilemmas because for the greater part, the human is removed from decision-making processes and is instead subject to a machine.
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Citation: Roba Abbas, Katina Michael, M.G. Michael, "Using a Social-Ethical Framework to Evaluate Location-Based Services in an Internet of Things World", IRIE, International Review of Information Ethics, http://www.i-r-i-e.net/ Source: http://www.i-r-i-e.net/inhalt/022/IRIE-Abbas-Michael-Michael.pdf Dec 2014
Honorary Fellow Dr Roba Abbas:
· School of Information Systems and Technology, University of Wollongong, Northfields Avenue, Wollongong NSW 2522, Australia
· ( + 612 - 4221 - 3555 , * firstname.lastname@example.org :http://www.technologyandsociety.org/members/2013/7/25/dr-roba-abbas
· Relevant publications:
o R. Abbas, K. Michael, M.G. Michael, R. Nicholls, Sketching and validating the location-based services (LBS) regulatory framework in Australia, Computer Law and Security Review 29, No.5 (2013): 576-589.
o R. Abbas, K. Michael, M.G. Michael, The Regulatory Considerations and Ethical Dilemmas of Location-Based Services (LBS): A Literature Review, Information Technology & People 27, No.1 (2014): 2-20.
Associate Professor Katina Michael:
· School of Information Systems and Technology, University of Wollongong, Northfields Avenue, Wollongong NSW 2522, Australia
· ( + 612 - 4221 - 3937 , * email@example.com : http://ro.uow.edu.au/kmichael
· Relevant publications:
o K. Michael, R. Clarke, Location and Tracking of Mobile Devices: Überveillance Stalks the Streets, Computer Law and Security Review 29, No.3 (2013): 216-228.
o K. Michael, M. G. Michael, Innovative Automatic Identification and Location-Based Services: From Bar Codes to Chip Implants, IGI Global, (2009).
o L. Perusco, K. Michael, Control, trust, privacy, and security: evaluating location-based services, IEEE Technology and Society Magazine 26, No.1 (2007): 4-16.
Honorary Associate Professor M.G. Michael
· School of Information Systems and Technology, University of Wollongong, Northfields Avenue, Wollongong NSW 2522, Australia
· ( + 612 – 4221 - 3937, * firstname.lastname@example.org, : http://ro.uow.edu.au/mgmichael
· Relevant publications:
o M.G. Michael and K. Michael (eds) Uberveillance and the Social Implications of Microchip Implants: Emerging Technologies, Hershey: PA, IGI Global, (2013).
o K. Michael, M. G. Michael, "The Social and Behavioral Implications of Location-Based Services, Journal of Location-Based Services, Volume 5, Issue 3-4, (2011), 121-137.
o M.G. Michael, K. Michael, Towards a State of Uberveillance, IEEE Technology and Society Magazine, 29, No.2, (2010): 9-16.
o M. G. Michael, S. J. Fusco, K. Michael, A Research Note on Ethics in the Emerging Age of Uberveillance, Computer Communications, 31 No.6, 2008: 1192-1199.