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Ethical and privacy issues emanating from the use of digital media

Today, digital media is found throughout all business and personal activities making it necessary to have a high level of understanding of both the sources of content, as well as the methods in which the information is consumed. The responsible utilization of digital media requires individuals to have an awareness of the global, social, ethical, and legal contexts in which the digital media is consumed.

Deliverable for Project 3

Students are required to select a topic related to either global, social, ethical, or legal issues with digital media. You will perform in-depth research and provide an explanation of how issues associated with your selected topic relates to the consumption of digital media. An example of one such topic would be: Legal & Ethical Issues in News Media for the Digital Age.

Be sure to use the Research Assignment Calculator (TRAC) to help with this project.

Ethical and privacy issues emanating from the use of digital media





Digital media ethics focuses on distinct ethical issues, norms and practices of the digital news media. This type of media is inclusive of blogging, the utilization of the social media, and online journalism among other considerations. In the contemporary society, digital technologies are raising a considerable number of questions, most of which are ethically challenging to the professional as well as citizen media practitioners or journalists. Conversely, the aspect of privacy comprises of one of the most vital social issues connected to the use of digital media. With these considerations, an individual is likely to raise questions regarding the most appropriate manner in which individuals should use digital media to research or make publications. The questioning also relates to the most appropriate manner to consider when using images or texts available online. However, an overriding factor is that the epic technological advances of the digital media have created radical changes in the disclosure, distribution, and the modes of information.

The digital frontiers

The digital media has made way to a significant number of new sets of frontiers (James et al., 2009). An appropriate description of a frontier is that it is an open space that lacks a comprehensive and well-enforced set of regulations or rules. For this reason, frontiers harbor great promises as well as noteworthy perils. In relation to the promises, the digital media encourages the aspect of “participatory cultures.” James et al. (2010) define this culture as one that has relatively low barriers to civic engagement and artistic expressions. For this reason, it encourages creation and sharing. Conversely, an elemental factor to consider is that the perils and potentials of the digital media are reflected in contrasting disclosures. Skeptics could describe the internet as a chaotic environment that has few formal social contracts.

Just as all frontiers, it would be vital to regulate the cyberspace. However, the dilemma remains to be the determination of the most appropriate way to regulate it. Considering the growth in the presence of commercial interests in the digital spaces, it would be essential to reflect on the extent to which the market forces will impact the regulation of the digital frontiers. The other factor to consider is the ethical implications that the regulations will have. The emergence of ethical participation is ultimate for the delivery of positivity and privacy within the new digital media.

The digital media provides individuals with a powerful opportunity to exchange crucial information. Conversely, the digital media is elemental for seeking sources, creating interconnectivity between audiences and it can also lead to the creation of errors. The quick dissemination of information through the digital media demands the development of suitable and new ethical guidelines (Fowley, English & Thouësny, 2013). The creators of the existing ethical codes take note of the consideration that it may not be possible to create absolute codes. However, the question to consider when deliberating on the digital conditions relates to the most suitable online circumstances that warrant the truth of information available in the digital platform. Information is not hard to come by when an individual utilized the digital media, which is a factor that is essential for the determination of the need for clear expectations in the virtual world. Ginny Whitehouse (2010) indicates that useful standards for the creation of a balance in privacy and ethical considerations when utilizing the digital media platform require an understanding of a mixed-rule deontology.

Digital media ethics codes

Several theorists define ethics in relation to the principles that determine the appropriate or moral conduct. There is a possibility of questioning whether ethics is either absolute or situational. This deliberation focuses on whether there are ethical practices or principles that supersede any situation, or whether the practices and principles depend on a particular situation. In journalism, ethics refers to the principles articulated in a journalistic code, which assists the professionals in the field to act responsibly. Most of the codes are both absolute as well as situational. An example of an absolute principle is that journalists are required not to plagiarize their work. However, they should identify their sources whenever viable. Depending on the situation, journalists can include anonymous sources in their publications. These codes assist in the provision of guidance, but updating them is essential in the face of the digital age.

Codes of ethics are essential for accountability in the journalism profession. They provide guidance to the occurrence of ethical actions in spite of the consequences that would be applied when an individual fails to follow these guidelines. The value attached to developing these codes of ethics includes the fact that they outline the values, priorities and the procedures to consider when utilizing the digital media. Some of the codes honor notable efforts that involve educating the public regarding the embedded principles, which is essential for holing professional journalists accountable for their behavior when using digital media (Berkman & Shumway, 2003). These considerations are an indication that in contemporary media action, supreme values are placed on the ethical codes.

Codes of ethics create a variety of expectations from journalists even though they might not consult the available code of ethics websites for assistance in decision-making. There is a possibility for a journalist to make decisions based on his or her gut. However, Whitehouse (2010) argues that gut instincts “might be informed by ethical codes.” Any of the provisions for promise keeping or veracity that exist in an ethical code are imperatives of the Kantian category (Whitehouse, 2010). For this reason, the codes of ethics are essential for the provision of guidance, not only across the different digital media platforms, but to the public as well. This guidance is applicable to individuals that use the philosophical approach to make decisions.

The digital media and the aspect of privacy

Privacy contributes to some of the most critical social issues associated with digital media. Privacy concerns are generated not because the existing technological developments are diminishing control over an individual’s personal information. These concerns are not also triggered because the technological developments provide easier access to such information. Instead, the privacy concerns come about since information technologies interferes with what an individual might consider as the normal flows. Digital media and information technologies have extended the capacity of people to obtain information through communication, capturing, surveillance, and the monitoring of information. The digital media has enabled individuals to utilize novel ways to collect information, store it, and analyze it. These procedures are made available by the hardware and software advancements, the protocols made available by the digital platform, and the utilization of appropriate statistical methods.

The epic advances that are characteristic of information technology systems of the digital media and networks comprise of the drastic changes in the modes of information disclosure and distribution. For this reason, in order to ensure information privacy, researchers have over the years developed rich and formal languages that are essential for expressing privacy rules. Conversely, they have developed new metrics for the evaluation of data releases that are inclusive of differential privacy. The other developments related to this aspect include the provision of secure data storages, effective cookie management as well as the creation of a deep understanding of the aspect of anonymity. The Federal Networking and Information Technology Research and Development (NITRD) organization is party to the enabling of the numerous advancements through program investments (Berkman & Shumway, 2003).

Privacy provisions available in the ethics codes

Whitehouse refers to statements from the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) to indicate that the overriding public need is the only justification for intruding in an individual’s privacy (Whitehouse, 2010). For this reason, the ethics codes address the issue of privacy in relation to the minimization of harm and creation of fairness. The ethical codes call for individuals to be compassionate and sensitive when they are working with individuals that are grieving, those that are not accustomed to being in the limelight, and children. Conversely, the Radio Television Digital News Association share similar provisions when dealing with private matters. These provisions emphasize on the aspect that journalists should recognize and respect some of the unique cultural content available in the virtual community. For this reason, when posting their opinions or personal information through the digital media, these professionals should continue to utilize the privacy and security controls (Whitehouse, 2010).

It would be unethical for a journalist to use the digital media to publicize private people’s information unless the subject information would be of interest to the public. For this reason, it would be essential for such professionals to observe great care when using the digital media when reporting about suicides, and victims of accidents or crimes. The consideration is also applicable to individuals providing details about political affiliations, ethnicity, occupations, and gender issues among other sensitive topics. They should only make public such information if it is a vital factor that features or contributes to a given story (Whitehouse, 2010). However, prohibitions to publicize anything that offends moral consideration creates a narrow definition of what is considered private, which might make journalists fell somewhat restrained.


A general view regarding the ethical and privacy issues that emerge from using digital media is that the epic technological advances of digital media have led to the creation of radical changes in the disclosure, distribution, and the modes of information. However, the value of explicit ethical codes create an opportunity for professional and citizen journalists, as well as bloggers, to improve the trust of their audiences. The improvement is in reference to the appearance of their information as well as the actual credibility of this information. There are times that people should consider in determining the most appropriate personal information they could share with other people. However, this is not an indication that people should invade into the privacy of others simply for the reason that the technological tools are easily available, or that the digital media platform provides the avenue that could spread the information quickly.


Berkman, R. I., & Shumway, C. A. (2003). Digital dilemmas: Ethical issues for online media professionals. Ames: Iowa State Press.

Fowley, C., English, C., & Thouësny, S. (2013). Internet research, theory and practice: Perspectives from Ireland. Voillans:

James, C., Davis, K., Flores, A., Francis J. M., Pettingill, L., Rundle, M., & Gardner, H. Young people, ethics, and the new digital media: A synthesis from the goodplay project. MacArthur Foundation.

Roco, M. C., Bainbridge, W. S., Tonn, B., & Whitesides, G. (2013). Convergence of Knowledge, Technology and Society: Beyond Convergence of Nano-Bio-Info-Cognitive Technologies. Cham: Imprint: Springer.

Whitehouse, G. (2010). Newsgathering and Privacy: Expanding Ethics Codes to Reflect Change in the Digital Media Age. Journal Of Mass Media Ethics, 25(4), 310-327.

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