Naked CIO: Where's the morality in technology?

IT chiefs have a finger on some ethical hot buttons...

IT directors are at the centre of two of the greatest moral issues of the day in the form of privacy and climate change. But just how moral can we afford to be, asks the Naked CIO.

A recent comment posted by a reader on a Peter Cochrane column got me thinking. His piece was about prognostication and the inevitable inaccuracy of predicting anything in technology. It prompted one reader to suggest innovation should be as much about changing the world, such as the internet and freedom of expression, as about making money.

It's a very interesting proposition. We have some business initiatives that are supposedly predicated on improving the world, such as well-publicised green initiatives. But anyone dealing with implementing green technologies will know two things.

how green should cios go?

Have CIOs got a moral duty to go green?
(Photo credit: Shutterstock)

First, do it if it makes money and, secondly, do it if it can improve your brand image and awareness. Businesses do not do it because it's right but because it is right for their bottom line.

Do CIOs have a moral obligation?
Are CIOs morally obliged to look at technology in a more socially conscious light? Is there any value to a business that pursues a social conscience agenda with purely unselfish motivations?

I know I am guilty of rarely, if ever, considering the impact of the initiatives I have proposed. In reality, even in real life, I hold fast to the notion that I only ever really work to change that which I know I can directly affect.

Which means I don't do enough for global warming - I have a gas-guzzling car that goes fast and I like it; recycling - I am still not sure what goes in which bucket and which bag; and human dignity - I still don't give money to the homeless or use my right to protest even when I have, which is rare, considerable opinion on these issues.

In IT we have several hot buttons that impinge on the wider social conscience and the moral debates that prompt those with more conviction than me to speak out.

There is privacy. Not just in protecting it for compliance but privacy as it relates to respecting individual rights and ensuring systems and processes go beyond legislation to the heart of the matter.

I have worked for a number of companies whose survival is based on...