Unit 2 Data privacy

Learning outcomes

By the end of this unit you should:

  • practised supporting your standpoint with evidence
  • be able to describe four ethical frameworks
  • have considered how data can be used to create information
  • know the structure of the five valid propositional forms
  • practised supporting your standpoint with evidence
  • have an opinion on privacy in relation to governments, companies and organisations

Activity 1: Starter quiz

Work alone. Analyze the following dilemma. Identify the issues involved. Decide your stance on the issues. Identify supporting reasons for your stance. Evaluate the strength of the evidence. Use precise terminology. Write a bullet-plan showing your argument, and then write the draft below. Most likely, you will not have time to finish your draft.

Which is more important: the privacy of the individual or the security of the nation?

  1. State your standpoint.
  2. Provide supporting evidence.
  3. Acknowledge opposing viewpoints.

Activity 2: Laws, morals and ethics

Discuss the differences between laws, morals and ethics.

Activity 3: Preparatory debate

Debate the topic given below.

The debate over good versus evil in information ethics explores the moral implications of how information is created, distributed, and used. Various ethical frameworks offer different perspectives: deontological ethics focuses on inherent moral duties like truth-telling, teleological ethics evaluates actions by their outcomes such as public well-being, virtue ethics emphasizes the moral character of individuals involved in information practices, and rights-based ethics considers the respect for fundamental rights like privacy and freedom of speech. Each framework provides its own criteria for assessing the goodness or evilness of actions related to information, making the debate complex and multi-faceted.

Activity 4: Seminar discussion 1

  1. Read your ethical framework card.
  2. Check your understanding of the framework with people with the same card
  3. form groups of 4. Each person should have a different card (In groups of 5 two people will have the same card)
  4. Discuss the topic set with reference to the ethical frameworks.

Set topic: A technology company you work for has developed an app that can easily trace the location and contacts of individuals infected with a contagious disease. Releasing the app could potentially save lives, but would also raise serious data privacy concerns. What's the ethical course of action?

Activity 5: Five valid propositional forms

There are five valid propositional forms. For these forms, when the premises are true, the conclusion must also be true. These forms can be verified using truth tables. The truth value of each element is considered in turn.

Read each of the valid propositional forms. Write an argument related to information technology using at least one of these forms.

  1. Modus ponens (MP)
  2. If one part is true, then the other will also be true. The first part is true. Therefore, the second part is also true.

    If A, then B. A. Therefore, B

  3. Modus tollens (MT)
  4. If one part is true, then the other will also be true. The second part is denied. Therefore, the first part should also be denied.

    If A, then B. Not B. Therefore, not A

  5. Hypothetical syllogism (HS)
  6. If one thing happens, another thing will also happen. If the second thing happens, a third thing will also happen. Therefore, if the first thing happens, the third thing will also happen.

    If A, then B. If B, then C. Therefore, if A, then C

  7. Disjunctive syllogism (DS)
  8. There are two options. One option is denied. Therefore, as there is only one option remaining, it must be true.

    A or B. Not A. Therefore, B

  9. Constructive dilemma (CD)
  10. There are two options. If the first option happens, there is a particular outcome. If the second option happens, there is a separate outcome. Therefore, either the first or second outcome will happen.

    A or B. If A, then C. If B, then D. Therefore, C or D

Read your argument aloud to a partner to see if they can identify which valid form you used.

Activity 6: Four ethical frameworks


Deontological Ethics

Deontological ethics focuses on moral principles, rules, and duties to determine the rightness or wrongness of an action. It evaluates actions based on their inherent qualities, irrespective of their outcomes. Kantian ethics, developed by Immanuel Kant, is a well-known form of deontological ethics that emphasizes universal moral principles.

Teleological Ethics

Also known as consequentialism, teleological ethics evaluates the morality of actions based on their consequences. The aim is often to produce the greatest good for the greatest number of people. Utilitarianism, formulated by philosophers like Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill, is a prominent form of teleological ethics.

Virtue Ethics

Virtue ethics emphasizes moral character and the virtues one should cultivate. Rather than focusing on rules or consequences, virtue ethics asks what sort of person one should be and what actions would reflect good character. This approach draws heavily from the work of ancient Greek philosophers like Aristotle.

Rights-based Ethics

Rights-based ethics posits that individuals have certain fundamental rights that should be respected and protected. These could include the right to life, liberty, and personal autonomy. Actions are considered ethical or unethical based on how well they respect these rights.

These four types of ethics serve as foundational frameworks for moral reasoning and can be used individually or in combination to analyze various ethical dilemmas.

Activity 7: Data privacy and customer loyalty cards


A young woman bought a cocoa-butter lotion, a large purse, vitamin supplementsk (iron and magnesium) and a bright blue rug. This information was analyzed by Target, a discount department store and hypermarket in the United States. The result was the store sent the customer a pregnacy pack, congratulating the shopper on her pregnancy. The combination of purchases produced a pregnanacy score of 87% indicating birth was likely within 6 months. This customer, however, was living at home with her parents who did not know she was sexually active and had no inkling she might be pregnant. Each purchase is a single data point from which a prediction was impossible, but the combination of data points provided sufficient data to support a prediction.


Consider the following questions.

  1. Which companies track your data?
  2. Who owns your data?
  3. What can organisation derive from your data?

Activity 8: Privacy online

Discuss what you know about the following in terms of information ethics:

  1. Privacy settings
  2. Incognito window in Window
  3. Control illusion
  4. Oversharing

Activity 9: Taxonomy of identity

Read about the different types of identity.

Source: Henschke, A. (2017). Ethics in an Age Of Surveillance: Personal Information and Virtual Identities. Cambridge.

  • Numeric identity: In what way do you continue to be the same?
  • Character identity: How do you characterize yourself?
  • Group identity: Which social community do you align with?
  • Essentialized identity: Which specific subcommunity do you identify as?
  • Virtual identity: What identity could be constructed from datapoints related to you?

Here is an example identify.

  • Numeric identity: I am the same person I was yesterday.
  • Character identity: I am hardworking.
  • Group identity: I am an expatriate.
  • Essentialized identity: I am a researcher.
  • Virtual identity: male, academic, middle-aged, English speaker, limited social circle

Consider your own identity. Think carefully about what the datapoints that relate to you could show in aggregate.


Activity 10: Intellectual property

Be prepared.

In our next class we will discuss the following:

  1. Intellectual property
  2. Patents
  3. Copyright
  4. Trademark
  5. Trade secret
  6. Industrial design rights
  7. Public domain
  8. Fair use
  9. Plagiarism


Can you explain the differences between the following?

  1. laws and rules
  2. morals and laws
  3. ethics and morals
  4. deontological ethics and teleological ethics
  5. virtue ethics and rights-based ethics
  6. modus ponens and modus tollens
  7. hypothetical syllogism and disjunctive syllogism
  8. disjunctive syllogism and constructive dilemma

If you do not, make sure that you do before your next class.

Running count: 23 of 61 concepts covered so far.