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Ethics case study on social networking application ‘Path’


Task: Assessment items 3 & 4 are linked. In Assessment 3 you will create a simple argument visualisation using the MindMup software. In Assessment 4, you will produce a report which details the argument you construct in your argument visualisation (this assessment).

Choose ONE of the following media articles or case studies:

  1. Data Collection: “Harvesting” Personalities Online - An Ethics Case Study
  2. Who decides who dies in driverless car accidents?
  3. Do We Want Robot Warriors to Decide Who Lives or Dies?
  4. If computers think for themselves, should they have human rights?
  5. Apps and Privacy - An Ethics Case Study

This assessment task will assess the following learning outcome/s:

  • be able to identify ethical issues related to ICT.
  • be able to apply ethical theories to ethical problems.
  • be able to analyse ethical situations using critical thinking techniques.

This assessment, together with Assessment 4, extends the skills practiced in Assessment items 1 and 2, to help you to achieve majority of the learning objectives of this subject.

In addition to identifying a contentious situation in ICT and dissecting the argument(s) about it, you must also now demonstrate the ability to evaluate the elements of the argument by applying classical ethical theories, where appropriate.

Since Assessment item 1 and 2, your knowledge will have grown, and you will now realise that almost all ICT ethical dilemmas can be classified under one of the main ICT ethical issues that are discussed in this subject; for instance, surveillance is a sub-issue of privacy, harmful software is a sub-issue of ICT professionalism, and piracy is a sub-issue of intellectual property.

In ICT, the main ethical issues are taken to be:

  • ICT professionalism
  • Privacy
  • Security
  • Cyber-crime
  • Intellectual property
  • Regulation on the internet
  • Social inclusion
  • Community and identity
  • Pervasive and convergent computing

The assessment item is designed to help you to build skills towards achieving the learning objectives, by requiring you to:

  • identify an ICT-related ethical issue from a media article or case study;
  • apply classical ethical theory to the analysis of an ethically dilemma to determine the rightness or wrongness of actions/decisions made therein;
  • derive logical and justifiable conclusions to resolve the ethical issue(s);and,
  • present the argument in a visual format.


Privacy is a major concern in the Ethics Case Study which is very essential to be taken into consideration by companies as well as users. Additionally, the mobile apps attached with mobile phones cannot be trusted today. It has become a major concern for users because they are not sure whether information in their mobile is safe or not. The social networking application Path was established in the year 2010 by Dave Morin. This app’s primary function was to share a person’s life with their friends and family for the iPhone. Also, messaging and photo sharing with others were another important feature of this app. Author (Moreau, 2019) in her article suggests that Path was also a similar platform to Facebook Timeline. However, only difference was that Path only worked among small groups. This app was very popular among masses but had small drawback. The security and privacy was major concern which lead to application closure.This paper will represent major ethical issue related to case study. Furthermore, analyse the ICT concern with three ethical theories utilitarianism, deontology, and virtue.

Ethics Case Study Analysis: The case study proposes the major security concern for mobile app designed for iPhone named as ‘Path.’ The app indirectly offended the users after a blogger pointed out the ICT concern. The application was collecting the user’s information present in the contacts were stored in path’s servers (Raicu, 2012). The privacy violation became serious concern for many other iapp providers. Still, company did fixed the issue by officially accepting their moral responsibility among customers. According to the Los Angelis Times, the company deleted entire collection of user contact information from their servers (Olivarez, 2012). The company even agreed to pay $800,000 fine as per Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (Raicu, 2012). Path’s mistake should be taken effectively as it raised several questions for ICT professionals. Author Mendy (2015) suggest that Path’s failure was a developer error that lead them for privacy policy assessment. Still, the ICT concern here is breaching of security unknowingly due to iPhone app malfunction.

ICT Ethical Issue: Information and Communication Technology (ICT) has major concerns pertaining to the ethics. The IT professionals are required to follow the rules and regulations while designing any software. Three ICT ethical issues were involved in this case such as privacy and security. Dave Morin established an application for iPhone mobile similar to Facebook timeline. Path was very attractive app that could share photos, messages among small group of people. The Singapore blogger Arun Thampi addressed the ethical concern surrounding this app. Privacy of users were violated when contact list was copied on the server location of Path. What could be the reasons for such ICT concerns coming up? To answer this question, companies building such apps are taking concerns lightly. Besides, ICT professionals today are not clear about where they stand. The professionals are only trained for utilizing their knowledge and skills (Shinder, 2005). However, they lack to understand how security and privacy concern are much more important. Similarly, Path went through such problems because of small development error. It is essential to focus on these concerns for user safety. Hence, classical ethical theories can also be implemented to address ICT ethical concern for privacy and security of mobile app.

Classic Ethical Theories: Information Technology ethics is designed based on various classical ethical theories proposed. Utilitarianism is one of the classic ethical theories which states that, “an action is morally right if the consequence leads to happiness and wrong if leads to unhappiness” (“Business dictionary”). This theory is highly applicable to address the ICT ethical concerns.  According to Author Laudon (1995, p. 36) classic theory is based on empirical observations rather than absolute rules for consequences. The rules and regulations should not be followed blindly and must center around everyone’s good. Hence, privacy is a major concern and should be taken seriously. The good for everyone include taking preventive measures for users against privacy breach. Similarly, the happiness for all in ICT community offers positive outcomes of consequence. Authors Karlsson and Malmsjoe (2004, p. 4386) suggest utilitarianism defines advantages over risks, cost and mitigation for apps. Thus, companies could apply this theory to provide a secure mechanism with keeping happiness for all in mind.

Deontology ethics is defined as, “A system of ethics which judge actions based on whether they adhere to a rule or set of rules” (“Business Dictionary”). This is also applicable in the ICT concerns. Privacy has become a key issue which is necessary to be addressed by the professionals. This theory proposes that a set of rules and regulations can address any issues. The ICT follows code of practice which demonstrates how to work properly. The ethical issues can also be addressed if goals are set. The predefined goals for any software or mobile apps can decide how to address the issues. For example, in mobile application design process, security and privacy concern should be addressed first. Henceforth, the recommendation for ICT professionals is address the issues prior developing the apps. This will resolve their issues like security of personal information in contacts.  Besides, mobile applications are highly important for any IT organization to achieve success. Thus, security and privacy issues must be handled properly through implementing another classic theory.

Virtue ethics is third important factor which addresses the ICT concern effectively. The theory implies that individual character is helpful for performing ethical thinking rather than rule or consequences. Virtue is nothing but a self-trait which must be present in a person to make certain decisions. Author Volkman (2013, p. 110) suggest that a course of action can deliver best outcome if a person cannot justify their own actions. The virtue theory works on sample principle for professionals. The people working in the IT should be able to judge what is right or wrong on their part. The ethical concerns of ICT can only be identified if computer professionals are able to justify wrong on individual level rather than rules or consequences. Henceforth, virtue theory is highly applicable to address security and privacy concern. The privacy and security of mobile apps should be detected on individual level by ICT professionals. For instance, Path was able to detect technical error based on their good virtue. Lastly, they also fixed such concerns by apologizing the customers and fixing the problems.

Contract ethics theory is based on legal agreements conducted between people and IT organizations. This theory suggest that legal agreement assess ethical concerns rather than rules, consequences and one’s virtue. The ICT issues such as privacy and security are major concerns for anyone. In the case of Path application explored in this ethics case study, the contacts were leaked without asking for permission. However, legal contracts and documents in app verification is highly mandatory. The apps asking for permission are considered worth for users. The legal aspect build a trust among users as well as third party app vendors. This theory can be implemented in information technology is build trust with users.

On the closing note, ICT ethics concern is very important to address for any IT organization as well as professional. Path a sharing platform for small group was proposed by the Dave Morin. His purpose was to provide a mobile application similar to Facebook timeline for sharing. Additionally, the four proposed classic ethics theory were found applicable to remove privacy concern. Utilitarianism proposed that happiness for all should matter for any consequence. The action taken by the ICT professional should lead to user’s happiness. Deontology ethics is based on following rules and regulations rather than consequences of an action. Virtue ethics theory is applicable for an individual in the computing environment. One should understand moral responsibility as professional on their own account rather than company. The computer professional should not perform any offensive crime against companies. Finally, contract theory is based on legal agreement between users, professionals and companies. If this theory is implemented properly, the mobile apps can be highly secure. Henceforth, all the theories are connected to the ICT concern of privacy and security. Thus, the ethics case study recommends implementing old ethics theories in current atmosphere. As a result, the security concerns of a user can be addressed properly.

Reference List
Business Dictionary. When was the last time you said this? Retrieved 31 August 2019, from

Mendy, M. (2015). The Path “Controversy”. Retrieved 31 August 2019, from

Karlsson, I., & Malmsjoe, A. (2004). Utilitarian Ethics and Information Systems Design. AMCIS 2004 Proceedings, 545.

Laudon, K. C. (1995). ethics case study Ethical concepts and information technology. Communications of the ACM, 38(12), 33-39.

Moreau, E. (2019). Remembering the Path App. Retrieved 31 August 2019, from

Olivarez-Giles, N. (2012). Path apologizes for saving iPhone contacts, wipes data, updates app. Retrieved 31 August 2019, from

Raicu, I. (2012). Apps and Privacy. Retrieved 31 August 2019, from

Shinder, D. (2005). Ethical issues for IT security professionals. Retrieved 31 August 2019, from

Volkman, R. (2013). Being a good computer professional: The advantages of virtue ethics in computing. Professionalism in the Information and Communication Technology Industry, 3, 109.

What are deontological ethics? definition and meaning. (2019). Retrieved 31 August 2019, from


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