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PHIL 003 : Applied Ethics Theory

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PHIL 003 : Applied Ethics Theory

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Course Code: PHIL 003
University: University Of California Merced

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Country: United States


Write an essay according to the following instructions.
Your lecturer will provide few links for relevant articles and/or case studies. These will be available to you just after your second assignment submission date.
Choose one of the media articles or case studies listed by the lecturer in your Interact 2 subject site. Use the title of the article/case study provided in interact 2 as the title of your essay, so that the lecturer knows which article you are analysing.
Undertake further research about your chosen case, to assist you in analysing and discussing it in your essay. Analyse the article/case study from the perspective of four classical ethical theories including utilitarianism, deontology, contract, and virtue. Your essay should present well-reasoned arguments for your assessments and recommendations. 
Write an overall conclusion that justifies your recommendations made in your essay.

The importance of data privacy has grown because the threats relating to private of data has increased as well. Organisations and individuals are required to maintain a high standard of care in order to ensure that they ethically manage their operations and avoid breaching privacy of others. The University of Arizona uses big data technology to found out the reason for the attrition of their students. The university provides CatCards to its students that are used by them while entering or existing from places in the campus (Raicu, 2018). This data is collected by the university to determine how students interact with others and evaluate the social circle of the students. Based on this data, the university wanted to found out the reason due to which around 20 percent of students did not join the university in the second year. The university is also proposing to install 8,000 Wi-Fi hubs on the campus which will assist in given a more accurate picture of the movement and behaviour of students. The university collects this data without the consent of the students from their first day in the university (Ehrenkranz, 2018). A large number of students are not aware that their data is being collected by the university. Moreover, the university keeps the data anonymous by hiding the identity of students; however, such information can be given to the academic advisors of the students. In this report, various ethical issues raised in this case will be evaluated by using different ethical theories which include Utilitarianism, Deontology, Virtue and Contract ethics theories.
Utilitarianism theory/perspective
The Utilitarianism theory is a popular ethics theory which is also known as consequentialism theory. The theory focuses on the consequences of a situation while determining whether the actions of a party were ethical or unethical (Hayry, 2013). The theory provides that people should focus on the greater good for a greater number of individuals. The decision taken by the university could have negative consequences due to which this decision is considered as unethical according to the Utilitarianism theory. The objective of the university to start this research is to find out the reason for the attrition of students who did not move forward with their academic career after one year. The university wanted to found out the reason for the attrition of employees by evaluating their social circles and behaviour in the university. However, the consequences of this research could be negative if the data of the students are leaked to cybercriminals who can misuse such data to gain personal advantage. Moreover, students are unaware of the fact that their personal data is being collected by the university without their permission or consent which is unethical (Liao, 2018). Since this research could have negative consequences, it is important that the university terminate this research or give the option to the student if they did not want to be part of this study.
Deontology theory/perspective
The Deontology ethical approach focuses on the rightness or wrongness of the actions of individuals or entities which determining the morality of a particular situation (Dougherty, 2013). This theory is opposed to the Utilitarianism approach which emphasis on the rightness and wrongness of the consequences of particular actions while determining the morality of a situation. The theory provides that parties should not breach their duty under any circumstances irrespective of the fact that it could have positive consequences. The decision taken by the university to collect the private data of students was taken without their approval (Mobiria, 2018). The university owes a duty to ensure the privacy of its students; however, it violates such duty for the research. This study could have positive consequences;nevertheless, this theory focuses on the morality of the actions based on which the actions of the university are unethical. The university also wanted to install 8,000 Wi-Fi hubs in the campus to accurately track the movement and behaviour of the students. It is a violation of their privacy,and the university is violating its duties as well. The university should maintain transparency and give the option to the student who did not want to be a part of this research in order to collect their data ethically.
Virtue theory/perspective
The Virtue ethical theory is a popular ethical theory which emphasis on the virtues and moral character of the individuals while determining the ethical nature of a situation. This theory is considered asa character based approach which focuses on virtues rather than the consequences and duties (Audi, 2012). In case a decision is taken by a party based on good virtues such as honesty, respect, compassion, prudence, honour, integrity and others, then such decision is considered as ethical. On the other hand, if a decision is taken based on bad virtues such as cowardice, corruption, selfish ambition, carelessness, unfairness and others, then such decisions are considered unethical. The university has started this study in order to found out the reason for the attrition of students so that the university can reduce this rate (Wang, 2018). Although it will eventually benefit the students, however, the university is acting for its personal benefit. The university has failed to maintain honesty and integrity because it did not disclose the students that their private data is being collected. Moreover, the university did not give them option opt-out from this research. Thus, the actions of the university are unethical based on the principles of Virtue ethics approach.
Contract theory/perspective
The Contract ethics theory is also called Contractarianism theory which evaluates the morality of a situation by evaluating whether a party has violated social contracts while taking an action (Dunfee & Donaldson, 2017). As per this theory, there are a number of rules which governs the behaviour of society and individuals. These rules are developed by human being based on ideal social contracts which ensure that they act rationally and ethically. The decision making by the university to collect the data of its students is unethical based on the principles of this theory since it violates the social contracts. The university has not maintained transparency while collecting the data of its students and it did not give themthe option to opt out of the research. The university is requiredformaintainingtransparencyin order to act ethically in the situation, thus, it has violated the social contract based on which the decision is unethical.
What you think
The university wanted to conduct the research by collecting the data from students in order tofind the reason for their attrition rate. However, it did not collect the consent of students or private their information regarding this research while collecting this data. Due to the lack of transparency in the whole process, many ethical concerns have raised in the case. Firstly, students are not aware of the fact that their personal data is being collected by the university without their knowledge. The data is collected anonymously by the university,but the university discloses the name of the student while giving the data to the academic advisor. Moreover, the students did not have an option to opt out of this program if they did not want the university to collect their data. After the installation of the Wi-Fi hubs in the campus, it will become easier for the university to collect accurate data regarding behaviour and movement of students which is ethically wrong. In case this data is accessed by cyber criminals, then it could result in violating the privacy of students. The university should improve its security infrastructure and maintain transparency on the first day to ensure that students are aware of his research. An option should be given to students for opt out if they did not want their data to be collected by the university.
Based on the above analysis, it can be concluded that the actions of the University of Arizona are unethical since it has violated the principles of various ethical theories. The lack of transparency is the main ethical issue raised in this case because the students are not aware of the fact that the university collects their private data for a period of three years without taking their consent. In order to address this issue, the university should promote transparency in its operations and ensure that all students are aware the reason and way in which their personal data is collected by the university. The university should also establish an option in which the students who did not want to share their private data have the option to opt out of the research. The university can act in an ethical manner by complying with these recommendations which will positively influence its reputation as well.
Audi, R. (2012). Virtue ethics as a resource in business. Business Ethics Quarterly, 22(2), 273-291.
Dougherty, T. (2013).Agent-neutral deontology. Philosophical Studies, 163(2), 527-537.
Dunfee, T. W., & Donaldson, T. J. (2017).Untangling the corruption knot: global bribery viewed through the lens of integrative social contract theory. The Blackwell guide to business ethics, 61-76.
Ehrenkranz, M. (2018).The University of Arizona Tracked Students’ ID Card Swipes to Predict Who Would Drop Out. Retrieved from https://gizmodo.com/the-university-of-arizona-tracked-students-id-card-swi-1823654183
Hayry, M. (2013). Liberal utilitarianism and applied ethics. Abingdon: Routledge.
Liao, S. (2018). University of Arizona tracks student ID cards to detect who might drop out. Retrieved from https://www.theverge.com/2018/3/12/17109224/university-of-arizona-tracking-smartchips-student-ids-privacy-drop-out
Mobiria, D. (2018). University of Arizona Analyzes Big Data to Predict Dropout Students. Retrieved from https://spyadvice.com/arizona-university-predicts-dropouts-by-spying-students-big-data/
Raicu, I. (2018). Students and Sensors: Data, education, privacy, and research. Retrieved from https://www.scu.edu/ethics/focus-areas/internet-ethics/resources/students-and-sensors-data-education-privacy-and-research/
Wang, A.X. (2018). A US university is tracking students’ locations to predict future dropouts. Retrieved from https://qz.com/1226474/a-us-university-is-tracking-students-locations-to-predict-future-dropouts/

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