Examples of areas within Higher Education (HE) where administrators could focus, in regards to Mason’s “Ethical Issues of Information Age” are as follows:
Privacy: In the area of privacy, administrators in HE could be more forward and open with students that they do sometimes sell or share their information with others (if that is true to be the case). I have had telephone calls come in asking for lists of private information, such as names of students set to graduate for the semester. The first time it happened I was amazed that anyone would consider asking for it…much less consider selling such information, because I just assumed privacy issues would forbid it. The millionth time it happened (of course that is an exaggeration, however slight) I was still amazed people would request that information, but I was even more amazed that it was being shared; and sometimes it was. I was certain most students giving out their personal information had no idea that multiple requests to solicit it would come into play. It just isn’t something you really think of, generally, when you are filling out paperwork for the school (from the student perspective).
Now, with technology so advanced within HE that EVERYTHING is basically stored in a format that can easily be transmitted online, the issue of privacy becomes even bigger.
Accuracy: As noted in Pearlson & Saunders (2006, 196) “The accuracy of information assumes real importance for society as computers come to dominate in corporate record-keeping activities.” This is true in any institution…how many of you can count the times you had a credit card acceptance come in the mail for a credit card you didn’t ask for; all you had to do was sign and return it. Well, if you’ve moved, you want to be sure THOSE types of offers, certainly, among others, are not being sent to anyone other than you. Mail forwarding expires and then sometimes letters are sent to outdated addresses. This could pose a problem in HE if sensitive information is being sent out in an untimely fashion.
Another example of where accuracy could pose a challenge in HE can be seen in grades. If inaccurate final grades are posted inaccurately and sent to the Registrar’s office to be processed; transcripts could be sent out to the student university’s of choice that reflect inaccuracies that could negatively affect their acceptance or contingent admittance (if the grades inaccurately are recorded as failing). Inaccurate grades could also affect graduation, scholarships, financial aid disbursements, etc. There is no way for the Registrar’s office to know that grades have been reported inaccurately, so professors need to make sure they have safeguards in place to prevent such inaccuracies from occurring.
Property: Who owns intellectual property? This has long been questioned in traditional forms, but with the technology expansion now in place, it becomes even more relevant. One example of where HE needs to safeguard when it comes to property can be seen in research. For example, if members of an institution are conferring online with one another (via e-mail, computer phone, Internet, instant messaging, etc.) regarding research information they are working on, and the information is intercepted by an outside source (intentionally or unintentionally) who intends to use it for their own advantage without giving credit to the initiators…then the question will come into play about who truly owns the property. In a world of honor, the initiators would, of course, own the information and have all rights to it. Unfortunately honor does not always come into play in the real world. Safeguards must be put into place to ensure research efforts are not being transmitted via mediums where they can be intercepted before they can be legally claimed by the institution performing them.
Accessibility: Administrators in HE must be careful of who is granted access to sensitive information. For example, as was noted in a previous week, class discussion, if an administrator in HE allows a staff or faculty member access to private information such as Social Security numbers, transcripts, addresses, telephone numbers, etc. and he or she accesses that information on their lap top…you now have a real security issue in that the whole computer can be easily stolen or misplaced; leaving vulnerable (if said information is retained in the laptop) to any number of instances, an entire student body. HE administrators need to dole out information sparingly; and only when absolutely necessary.
Another example that comes to mind in HE is when employees are allowed to work from home (either regularly or after hours), and are given home access to the company database via an Internet connection. If they are granted access to private information they do not need, or should not be accessing in such a manner, any number of risks can come into play. HE administrators must collaborate with MIS to ensure ways of blocking sensitive information for users outside of the campus to safeguard the privacy of those whose information is stored in the system.
These are just some examples of issues HE administrators can look to when addressing Mason’s PAPA writing. As Mason (March, 1986) rightly states in his article, “Ethical Issues of the information Age” there really aren’t a lot of laws in place to govern PAPA issues at current So then, it falls to the administrators and members of MIS to ensure every safeguard available that can be put into place, reasonably, is performed. It also becomes the moral obligation of the two to safeguard the information they have and use it only when (and how) manners dictate it appropriate.
Mason, R. O. (March, 1986). “Ethical issues of the information age.” Management Information Systems Quarterly, 10 (1). Retrieved online at
http://www.misq.org/archivist/vol/no10/issue1/vol10no1mason.html 2008, October 15.
Pearlson, K. E. & Saunders, C. S. (2006) Managing & Using Information Systems.