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Ethics Case Study On COVID-19 And The Privacy Problem


Task: This assessment has two tasks as described below.
Task 1: Argument Visualisation
In Task 1 you will create a simple argument visualisation using the MindMup software and you will produce a report in Task 2, which details the argument you construct in your argument visualisation. Choose ethics case study on COVID-19 and the Privacy Policy and undertake further research discussing about the ethical issues involved in the case.

Identify some logical arguments and construct an argument visualisation using MindMup software. Your visualisation should contain the conclusion, and all of the reasons and objections leading to that conclusion.

Task 2:Applying Ethical Theories
Write a report based on your argument visualisation created in Task 1 and the media article or case study you selected in Task 1.

Analyse the ethical issue applying the classical ethical theories, including utilitarianism, deontology, contract, and virtue. Your report should present well-reasoned arguments, logically leading to appropriate recommendations.


The case study is based on ethical issues regarding privacy problems due to the COVID-19 pandemic situation. The research aims at creating an argument visualization based on the ethical considerations and privacy policies of individuals. A report is generated giving proper evidence about the security using theories of ethics like utilitarianism, deontology, contract, and virtue. The research concludes with recommendations about maintaining ethical values while formulating privacy policies.

Task 1: Argument Visualization

Argument Visualization in ethics case study

Task 2: Applying Ethical Theories
Privacy is a significant issue when it comes to the use of digital data which has become natural during the covid19 pandemic. Several theories of ethics like utilitarian, deontological, virtue, and contract are being discussed in the lights of providing security and ensuring the privacy of a patient. All these theories are based on the virtue of ethics and morality and aim at providing better results for a large group of people.

1. Utilitarianism Theory
Utilitarianism is an ethical theory which determinism the right policy by focusing on the outcomes of the process (Mandal et al. 2016). The philosophy of the system is to produce good results for a greater number of people. The moral value is the focus where it is easy to understand what is right but making it practically work is difficult. The utilitarian process deals with decision making to reach the best possible outcome. But it is quite time consuming for reaching conclusions. Although the ethic is based on rules and evidence that proved to be beneficial in the past (Mandal et al. 2016), but still the process is very complex. The laws regarding privacy can follow the utilitarian theory for designing new rules and revising the existing laws regarding data security. The utilitarian theory of moral judgment is to choose the item that is of the greatest personal value. But there is a dilemma when rational and emotional choices compete with each other (Cohen &Ahn, 2016). Ethics and morality are a primary concern whenever concerned with the personal information of individuals. In the current social context, the Covid19 Apps ask for information regarding the health condition of an individual, and the data is spread within a certain distance to inform the community. The Apps takes permission from the users before sharing the information. Data is power and the government tries to increase its power to fight the battle of the pandemic. Power eradicates the effect of negative emotions and encourages in taking deliberate decisions based on cognitive thoughts (Fleischmann et al. 2019). Deliberation will lead to favorable outcomes and the decision-making process becomes free from emotional dilemmas. The privacy of an individual is considered under human rights. Violation of rights is a punishable offense under the law. Hence, confidential data must be kept securely and it must be ensured that the purpose is only for the controlling of the Covid19 virus. Personal information must not be leaked and security measures must be enforced while maintaining the databases of the information. The government must make people more aware of the usage of the Apps and try to win the confidence of a larger number of people. The citizens should not feel vulnerable while using Apps. Also, the use of Apps cannot be made mandatory. The use of big data in fighting the Covid19 pandemic cannot be ruled out. Collecting data regarding the health-related symptoms of a particular are using surveillance methods and mobile tracking devices helps in the spreading of the disease to a large extent. But handling sensitive information should be under proper jurisdiction. Laws of data protection and human rights must be followed. Only necessary information must be collected that helps in creating awareness among the spread within a community. Unnecessary use of data must be dealt with proper actions under the law. If a breach of trust occurs then it may lead to disagreement between the citizens and the government which will further slowdown the process of preventing the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic (Ienca&Vayena, 2020).

2. Deontology Theory
Deontology is an ethical theory where choices are based on moral values (Xu& Ma, 2016). The decision making is intuitive and the outcome is biased. It never takes a decision that is not ethical and against the morality of human behavior. It is the drawback of this theory as the necessary outcome is not achieved. The dilemma faced by the deontologists is making a decision may violate the constraints of the theory (Tarsney, 2018). Subjective permissibility may be provided whenever the outcome is for a greater cause and is good in a larger perspective. Digitization is affecting every sector of our lives. Human decision making is influenced by the digital world. The security issue of this research is relating to the digital data being collected and the process for controlling the spread of the Covid-19 virus. Digital information is subject to more threats as the security threat is always a cause of concern (Ienca&Vayena, 2020). The collection and usage of digital information must be ethically and morally viable. Deontology deals with the correctness or wrongness of moral actions irrespective of the consequences of the decision. In the present context, humans are not only the primary actors as the objects are based on technologies where decision making is achieved through artificial intelligence. Deontology deals with three theories of rationalism. One is ethical where the actions can be judged by its moral values and ability to give reasons. AI-based systems may take decisions on the basis of provided theories of mortality and judgments. The second theory is based on the individual behavior or motivational rationalism. Here comes the role of the data collecting organizations to remain ethical while dealing with data of individuals. The third theory is about deliberation rationalism where the needs of the whole society must be combined (Spahn, 2020). Every person should have their views regarding the use of technology for data collection that is personal and self-identifiable. Feedbacks must be taken whether people agree to this process or not. The best possible argument in favor or against of the process of data collection must be taken into consideration. In the era of communication through the digital platform, privacy literacy (Hagendorff, 2018) is necessary to make the users aware of the terms and conditions of the software being used, assuring them about the data is secure and the options for privacy is personalized and can be changed. The proper awareness can help in properly using the personal systems while dealing with data of the company in remote systems. It will ensure that cybercrime is minimized by protecting the confidential data of the organization. Deontology provides subjective permissibility which will allow the sharing of information of a COVID-19 effected patient among its neighbors. It will further stop the spread within a particular area.

3. Virtue Theory
This theory states that decisions regarding a particular situation must be taken based on virtue and not influenced by emotional feelings or circumstantial reasoning. It is defined as taking the right action for the right reasons in the proper circumstances (Ahrens &Cloutier, 2019). Virtue is a decision based on high moral standards. Morality is necessary when dealing with privacy regarding the person’s health status and also regarding the data sent along with the web-based platform. The COVID-19 virus is highly contagious and it is creating panic among society. People are completely neglecting and out casting individuals affected by this virus. The morality of an individual comes into consideration while taking the right actions towards an affected patient. Hence, disclosing the identity of a Covid19 patient collected from the mobile tracker apps can be hazardous. The only limited information that is necessary for people to become extra cautious must be transmitted. The name of the patient must not be given and the identity revealing information must never be shared. Ethical values are related to respecting individual privacy and security. The right to privacy and the right to data protection are not similar. Privacy does not extend to the collection of private and nonprivate data whereas personal data in the data protection act may include any information that may identify an individual. The right to privacy is related to having privacy regarding family, personal life. No public authority must interfere in the personal life other than necessary issues relating to national security, rules against crime by safeguarding the security of individuals, health and morals, freedom of rights (Van der Sloot, 2017). The right to data protection is regulated by the Right to Data Protection Directive which contains rules: store data only if necessary, safety is the major issue, processing of personal data only if legitimate, and providing transparency regarding the use of the data. Privacy by virtue helps in dealing with security and privacy which is morally sound and infringement does not unnecessarily occur. Illegitimate intervention by any government organization or private concerns is considered as punishable by law. Contact tracing is a mobile tool used for suppressing the spread of the pandemic (Cho et al. 2020). It identifies the person affected by the disease and its exposure to society. That helps control the spread of the disease but the privacy is highly affected. Better proposals must be introduced which is morally justifiable and also meets the need of preventing the COVID-19 virus disruptions. Virtue ethics believe that policymaking is equally fruitful if it is based on theories and universally accepted norms or benchmarks or the basis of consequences leading to current actions. Hence, it is justified to consider virtue ethics for designing the rules and principles of privacy policies and data security during the COVID-19 pandemic. Contemporary virtue ethics is disadvantageous because it is an abstract, algorithmic approach (Woodcock, 2019). It is highly influenced by a person's own practical ability to judge among the good and bad relying on its intelligence and knowledge. It defines a problem in a crude manner which is too simple and insignificant.

4. Contract Theory
The social contract is the submission of individual goods in terms of social causes in terms of health, safety, the security of the community as a whole. Our powers give rise to a public power which results in the common good of the society (Denton &Voth, 2017). It ensures collective participation in building the rules and principles of the laws and regulations. Freedom and equality are inherent in this theory. Hence, it is useful for regulating the issue of privacy in the COVID-19 pandemic situation. It is the right of an individual to safeguard its privacy relating to the family. Hence, exposing the information of being affected by the virus is violating its freedom. The government policies regarding the tracking of affected people must be done in moderation and respecting the rules and state legislations. Safety measures are necessary for controlling the outbreak of the virus but everything must be done in moderation. The social contract aims at creating a society that is good for all. It is a noble choice to use for building the laws of dealing with the identity issue of the patients. The data collection procedure must be in alignment with the laws of the government and must be supervised by professionals. It is mandatory to talk permissions before processing the data of any individual. The use of data must be legitimate and it is to be stored only for a specific amount of time. The data must be deleted from the server to stop the illegal use of data. The policy must be governed by cybersecurity technologies and free from cybercrimes. High-end data security measures must be used to stop malicious use of data by hackers. Since the data is collected through the mobile tracker, they are susceptible to cyber theft. Hence, only a limited amount of data practically used for the specific purpose must be collected. The drawback of the contract theory lies in the principle that every individual is equal irrespective of economic class and social standards. Secondly, no contract in real life ensures equality. Conflict of interest will always arise leading to dilemmas on the different perceptions of morality (Iqbal&Beigh, 2017).

5. Conclusion
The privacy of an individual must be protected and its violation must be dealt with corresponding laws framed within the government legislation. Covid-19 pandemic has brought the issue of protection of data security in an internet-based framework in the limelight. Cybercrimes and vulnerability of data exist in the current scenario. Hackers may utilize this adverse situation to their advantage and steal confidential data. The data can be personally collected through Apps of the mobile tracking system or institutional data that are been remotely accessed outside the organization's environment. Security and privacy are the entitlement of the government and other organizations as it ensures ethical policy and morality. Several theories have been identified which suggest ways of addressing the problem of security. Each one has its strengths and weaknesses. The practical implications must take into consideration the positive aspects of each of the theories while dealing with the issue of protection of data. The consensual approach must be followed while collecting data and processing must be an organized and regulated operation. The balance should be maintained while deciding over the extent of the use of personal data. All the operations must contribute to the greater cause of creating awareness among the society about the preventive measures for the disease. It must follow the guidelines and steps must be taken to minimize the spread of the virus. Panic is already being spread due to the contagious nature of the virus. Sharing information of a patient to stop the community spreading must not escalate the fear within the society.

Ahrens, A. H., &Cloutier, D. (2019). Acting for good reasons: Integrating virtue theory and social cognitive theory. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 13(4), e12444.

Cho, H., Ippolito, D., & Yu, Y. W. (2020). Contact tracing mobile apps for COVID-19: Privacy considerations and related trade-offs. arXiv preprint arXiv:2003.11511.

Cohen, D. J., &Ahn, M. (2016).A subjective utilitarian theory of moral judgment. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 145(10), 1359.

Denton, R. E., &Voth, B. (2017). Democracy and the “Social Contract”: Prescription for Freedom and Equality. In Social Fragmentation and the Decline of American Democracy (pp. 19-37). Palgrave Macmillan, Cham.

Fleischmann, A., Lammers, J., Conway, P., &Galinsky, A. D. (2019). Paradoxical effects of power on moral thinking: why power both increases and decreases deontological and utilitarian moral decisions. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 10(1), 110-120.

Hagendorff, T. (2018).Privacy literacy and its problems.Journal of Information Ethics, 27(2), 127.

Ienca, M., &Vayena, E. (2020).On the responsible use of digital data to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic. Nature medicine, 26(4), 463-464.

Iqbal, J., &Beigh, B. M. (2017). Computer Ethics: Job of Computer Scientist. Int. J. Adv. Res. Comput. Sci. Softw. Eng, 7(6).

Mandal, J., Ponnambath, D. K., &Parija, S. C. (2016). Utilitarian and deontological ethics in medicine. Tropical parasitology, 6(1), 5.

Spahn, A. (2020). Digital Objects, Digital Subjects and Digital Societies: Deontology in the Age of Digitalization. Information,11(4), 228.

Tarsney, C. (2018). Moral uncertainty for deontologists.Ethical Theory and Moral Practice, 21(3), 505-520.

Van der Sloot, B. (2017). Privacy as virtue.Intersentia.

Woodcock, N. (2019). Why Virtue Ethics?. Aporia, 19(1).

Xu, Z. X., & Ma, H. K. (2016). How can a deontological decision lead to moral behavior? The moderating role of moral identity. Journal of Business Ethics, 137(3), 537-549.


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