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Employee Online Behavioral Monitoring – Ethical Dilemma matrix

This assignment gives you an opportunity to analyze a key IT-related organizational ethical privacy issue subject to relevant laws, regulations, and policies. Both of the following sites provide sources and an excellent backdrop for issues relating to privacy protection and the law.

Normative Ethics List
Autonomy: the duty to maximize the individual’s right to make his or her own decisions.
Beneficence: the duty to do good both individually and for all.
Confidentiality: the duty to respect privacy of information and action.
Equality: the duty to view all people as moral equals.
Finality: the duty to take action that may override the demands of law, religion, and social customs.
Justice: the duty to treat all fairly, distributing the risks and benefits equally.

Non-maleficence: the duty to cause no harm, both individually and for all.

Understanding/Tolerance: the duty to understand and to accept other view points if reason dictates doing so is warranted.
Publicity: the duty to take actions based on ethical standards that must be known and recognized by all who are involved.
Respect for persons: the duty to honor others, their rights, and their responsibilities. Showing respect others implies that we do not treat them as a mere means to our end.
Universality: the duty to take actions that hold for everyone, regardless of time, place, or people involved. This concept is similar to the Categorical Imperative.
Veracity: the duty to tell the truth.

Ethical Dilemma Matrix:
Ethical dilemma:
Step 1: Identify the ethical dilemma based on one of the broad categories identified. An example (following here) might be to falsify your personal profile in a social networking site.
Step 2: Identify the stakeholders involved. You, someone who reads your personal profile in a social network site, potential employers, etc. Be sure that each stakeholder category is unique and not similar to another category you use.
Step 3: Choose any three of the principles that might apply such as autonomy, publicity, and veracity.
Step 4: identify how the dilemma affect each stakeholder based on the principles you identified. Put this statement in the matrix next to the stakeholder.

Ethical Dilemma matrix

Ethical dilemma: Employee Online Behavioral Monitoring
Stakeholders Understanding/Tolerance Respect for persons Publicity
1: Employees They have a duty to understand that their employers own the IT equipment and have a  right to monitor and ensure that those resources are utilized in a productive manner. They have a duty to conduct themselves in a manner that is accountable and respectful to their employer’s

decision to monitor their activities and not to commit discourteous acts.

Employees have a duty to act ethically, observe proper employee behavior and comply with the Code of Conduct in relation to their industries and related organizations.


2: Employers/ owners They have a duty to empathize and tolerate their employees’ invasion of privacy concerns.


They are responsible for informing their employees of the organization’s online behavioral monitoring policy and carry out diligent monitoring for the organization’s benefit without making employees feel violated. They have a duty to ethically supervise their  employees’ work,  protect against the misuse of IT resources, professionally  evaluate their workers and encourage their employees to be more productive.
3: Internet Service Providers They have an obligation to understand and accept to limit the sharing of employees’ personal information and network access to employers and law enforcement They have a duty to develop a strategy to address the scope of how online monitoring will be conducted and how the personal information will be handled in a respectful manner. They have a duty to formulate and monitor Acceptable Use Policies in order to recognize and stop any threatening incoming traffic from individual users.


4. Legislators/Lawmakers They have a duty to understand that as much as employers should be legalized to monitor their employees online behavior, there should be clear restrictions to avoid invasion of employee privacy.


They have a duty to regulate and enforce legislation on online behavioral monitoring in a manner that honors both the employees and their employers’ rights and responsibilities.


The government and lawmakers have a responsibility to enforce current ethics  laws and  standards that provide guidelines for regulating online employee monitoring.


The U.S. Office of Technology Assessment  defines online behavioral monitoring as the “computerized collection, storage, analysis, and reporting of information about employees’ productive activities” (Peters, 1999). The practice of employers monitoring their employees online activities is undeniably on the increase (AMA, 2008). Online behavioral monitoring has therefore become an ethical dilemma to organizations due to the increased disparity between concerns about employee privacy invasion and the monitoring gains to the employers. The present labor laws do not necessarily outlaw employee monitoring but the practice’s effectiveness and ethics is subject to question. The key stakeholders identified for the Ethical Dilemma matrix are the employees, the employers, the internet service providers and the legislators. These 4 stakeholders are therefore separately considered with regard to the following three normative ethics principles; understanding / tolerance, respect for persons and publicity.


The emergence of new technologies and software that are used to monitor employee online activities have begun raising worries about the vulnerability of the privacy rights of employees.  It is becoming exceedingly difficult to balance between employee privacy concerns, the internet service providers  security rights and the employers duty to supervise their  employees’ work and protect against the misuse of IT resources (McEvoy, 2002). It is due to this ethical dilemma that significant privacy issues are at the center of this debate between the business community and government. These issues range from  reading of private e-mails and  retrieving information about employees from their access to particular Internet websites to unauthorized access of  personal profiles and credit card numbers and illegally obtaining information from different online sources to enhance the employees marketing services (Woodbury, 2003).

 Employers/ owners rationale

In present day organizations, IT resources and the internet are essential tools for work. The open nature of computers and internet access is prone to abuse by employees and therefore productivity and efficiency to suffer. Employers therefore claim their right to oversee their employees deeds during working hours in order to discourage counter-productive activities and promote productivity and efficiency from their employees (Bezek, Britton, 2001).

Employers are also more concerned in evaluating whether employees are acting ethically and that they are following the stipulated Code of Conduct compliance. These actions also assists managers in the prediction of outputs, ensuring quota targets are achieved and the rewarding of exemplary employees. Employers therefore view monitoring of their employees online behaviors  as a way to ethically supervise their work.

Employees defense

From an ethical viewpoint, most employees feel that online monitoring by their employers should be effectively regulated. The present laws and standards offer limited precepts for regulating online employee monitoring. Nonetheless, employees argue that the Federal common law protects them against the violation of the person, the sanctity of confidential communications, and the privacy of personal information. Therefore, in many ways, the actions of their employers to monitor their online activities is unethical and constitutes violation of their legally enshrined rights (Woodbury, 2003).

Aside from the legislation, employee privacy rights are established in philosophy. John Locke’s  foundations contend that employees as humans have natural rights such as the preservation of life, liberty, and property (Peslak, 2005). This ethical framework therefore grants employees the right to privacy regarding their online activities and information which constitutes as personal property.

 Internet Service Providers (ISPs) View

While the protection of employees  rights to privacy and confidentiality of their personal information  when they are online has been a key debate for some time, the creation and propagation of worms, viruses, and other malicious attacks  is leading to calls for ISP’s to be more responsible for monitoring of Internet useWith the ‘social’ networking sites also increasingly being utilized by employees the prospect of them spreading  malicious programs  to their employers’ IT networks is very real (Peters, 1999).

The ISPs dilemma is therefore anchored on the question of who should control the users in this case employees online content? The ISPs face the dilemma whether to grant employers the rights to monitor their employees online  content and ensure that nothing malicious is created or spread or to limit the employers powers to restrict the employees internet access and by extension be vulnerable to undesirable content getting through (Woodbury, 2003). The obvious concern for ISPs is to balance between both the employees privacy concerns and the security of their network.

Legislators / Lawmakers Role

The Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 (ECPA) dictates that proper authorization in the form of a search warrant or prior consent is mandatory for the police, government agencies and any other third parties such as employers to intentionally access personal oral or electronic communication. (Aftab, 1996). The government and lawmakers  therefore appreciate that as much as employers should be enabled to monitor their employees online behavior, there should be clear restrictions to avoid invasion of employee privacy. Their duty is to regulate and enforce legislation on online behavioral monitoring in a manner that is just to both the employees and their employers’ rights and responsibilities.


Employee online behavioral monitoring poses both ethical and legal dilemmas. Employees are concerned with the protection of their privacy rights while employers argue that they have a duty to monitor their employees work in an effort to promote their productivity and efficiency. The current laws provide little guidance on the subject but prescribe that the employees’ privacy rights should not be infringed upon (Pal, 1997).

Finally, as technology advances, the dilemma over appropriate monitoring will definitely widen. The development of adequate organizational policies will therefore be essential in addressing the practice of employee online behavioral monitoring.




(2008). 2007 Electronic Monitoring & Surveillance Survey. American Management Association, Retrieved Feb 28, 2008, from surveillance-survey/

Aftab, P. (1996). Monitoring communication on the internet: Big brother or responsible business? The New York Law Journal. Retrieved from http://www,, html.

Bezek, P.J., & Britton, S.M. (2001). Employer Monitoring Of Employee Internet Use And EMail: MEALEY’S Cyber Tech Litigation Report, 2, Retrieved April 7, 2009, from

McEvoy, S. (2002). E-mail and Internet Monitoring and the Workplace: Do Employees have a Right to Privacy? , Communications and the Law, 24(2), 69-84.

Peslak, A. (2005). An Ethical Exploration of Privacy and Radio Frequency Identification. Journal of Business Ethics, vol. 59, pp. 327-345.

Peters, Thomas A. (1999). Computerized Monitoring and Online Privacy. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company.

Pai, R., Underwood, G., Wobbrock, J., Nelson, L., & Chong, P. (1997). Monitoring in the workplace. Retrieved from: …electronic-monitoring/

Woodbury, M. (2003). Computer and information ethics. Champaign, IL: Stipes Publishing LLC.

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