Ethics in Online Environments

Ethics in Online Environments

In today’s global society, ethics in online environments is an issue of concern. Ethical practices in business is the responsibility of the company, and its leadership and employees.  The security of personal information in electronic format is the primary concern in online environments.

Responsibility:  Sources of Ethical Concerns

Ethical problems involving information include accuracy of the information, network security issues, company irresponsibility, and how the information is used. In online communication, aggressive and disrespectful behavior tend to be more frequent. However, the Ethics of Responsibility guarantees that the parties involved will not abuse the physical absence of leadership and do what they are required to do.

Communication:  Leadership’s Role in Ethics

Stakeholders are becoming more and more involved in the ethical operation of their businesses.  The Stakeholder Theory (Freeman, 1994) requires executives to increase the stakeholders’ profitability and reduce operating cost while maintaining their responsibility to the public.  Leadership must foster the communication and ethical flow of information that meets the needs of the stakeholders as well as honors the degree in which they wish to enforce their social responsibility and legal obligations.  To do this, leadership builds a trusting environment built on Ethics of Care.  Using rich media — such as nonverbal cues, immediate feedback, use of natural language, and expression of emotions – to compliment Ethics of Care, leadership focuses on the well-being of those close to them and nurtures trusting relationships.  In online environments, communication using rich media creates personal cyberspace relationships that lead to social bonding.

Ethics:  Everyone Is Responsible

Maintaining ethically sound principles is not only the responsibility of the stakeholders and leadership.  Employees and customers are also responsible for acting in a manner that is careful, responsible, and trustworthy.  We are all responsible for how we obtain, store, retrieve, and share electronic information.  Everyone involved in an electronic transaction trusts that the involved parties are providing accurate information, and are only going to use the information in the manner that both agree (or authorize) that it can be used.  In online environments, there is a degree of blind trust that everyone involved is ethically sound.

What are some ways you can protect your client’s personal information? Have you safeguarded your servers against hackers and viruses? How can you communicate with your customers that you are genuinely concerned for their online safety? Do your customers trust you with their personal information? To learn ways that ensure that your business is conducting its online business in an ethically sound manner, contact us at