Business / IT Ethics

The Relevance of ethics to people in IT: Is it ethical for potential employers to access your information?

Networking applications such as Facebook and various email accounts have allowed people to share much of their personal information with their contacts, friends and family. There is much debate about whether or not companies’ IT departments have the right to scan through such information for the companies use and exploitation when employing an individual.

There are two main issues when addressing this topic. The first being: do IT departments and companies have the right to people’s personal information? The second is the role of IT specialists. IT employees are not specifically employed to access such information nor are they bound by any oaths to maintain the confidentiality of information they may gain on an individual. The IT specialist’s qualifications may thus be exploited and degraded.

The right to privacy, contained within the South African Constitution, makes provision for an individual to have their communications protected. Many applicants for jobs have their information scanned and presented to the company’s human resource department by the IT departments for the purpose of background checks. In order for such an action to be ethical it is imperative that the potential employee accepts that personal information can be accessed and that they fully understand the implications of the action. If this is not made clear then IT departments could be held responsible for exploiting an individual’s right to privacy.

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Should action be taken against an IT specialist for wrongfully obtaining an individual’s information be upheld then, such an IT employee’s qualifications and future opportunities may be in jeopardy. Furthermore, the argument can be made by the IT department that it is not their duty to do such checks as they are employed for their qualifications and specialities in IT and not for seemingly futile and unethical actions which put them under pressure for exploitation of rights.

From the above information it can be concluded that unless the individual whose information is being accessed as well as the employee of the IT department tracking the information agree to such actions then it will be considered unethical. Furthermore it may be considered an offense in terms of the constitution against an individual’s rights to privacy.

– By Giulia Maraschin

Links for related issues:

Reference list:

Mason, RO. Applying ethics to information technology issues. [Internet]Available from<>[accessed 20 April 2013]

null154. (2010, December 6). The Ethics of Internet Privacy. Accessed: April 28,2013, from:

Reynolds, G (2009) Ethics in Information Technology guide. Boston; Cengage learning. pp64 – 65

South African Government Informatiom (2009). Chapter 2- Bill of Rights.[Internet] Available from<> [accessed 20 April, 2013]

wilson3405. (2008, April 27). MIS Presentation Business Ethics. Accessed: April 20, 2013, from:


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