Technology Ethics for Small Businesses

Numerous new ethical issues are raised by the lastest advances in technology. Small business owners should take some time to think through small business technology ethics and come up with some guidelines that will keep them on the right track. Issues of privacy, protection of property rights, and freedom from unwanted materials are covered in this article on small business ethics issues that pertain to technology.

The use of technology in the workplace has transformed the way we do business.

But it has also created the potential for a seemingly endless stream of questionable and downright unethical business practices.

Staying on the straight and narrow path can be tricky, especially since every technological advance opens the door to a new set of ethical dilemmas. Even so, there are some very basic “dos” and “don’ts” that can be followed to clear your company’s technological conscience.

DO:

1. Implement a tech policy. The ethical use of technology begins by clearly defining and communicating a policy that discusses the practices that will and won’t be tolerated in the workplace. This policy should include everything from the personal use of technology resources to the consequences for employees who are found to be using technology for inappropriate uses.

2. Purchase software for every workstation. In an effort to keep costs low, many businesses download the same piece of software onto multiple machines without paying for the right to do so. This may seem harmless, but in fact it is theft. To remain ethical, purchase a copy of the software for every workstation that needs it.

3. Create an e-mail policy. In addition to (or as part of) your company’s tech policy, you should also create an e-mail and internet policy. This policy should prohibit offensive behavior and shield your company from inappropriate material (e.g. pornography). Your e-mail/internet policy should also be enforced through periodic monitoring procedures.

4. Set an ethical example for your employees. All of your attempts to create an ethical working environment will be in vain if you – the employer – fail to live up to your own rules. Reinforce your own rules by living up to them and creating an expectation that everyone else will live up to them, too.

DON’T:

1. Bootleg images or audio files. The use of bootlegged photos, sound clips, images, and other material from either the internet or another source is clearly outside of the bounds of ethical business behavior. Images and audio files for sales and promotional material can be obtained legally by asking for permission or paying for rights.

2. Engage in spam. Spam is unsolicited mass e-mails that are sent to promote a product, service, or idea. Not only is spam unethical, but in many states it’s also illegal.

3. Tolerate technological voyeurism. Technological voyeurism is what occurs when one employee reads another employee’s e-mails, personal files, or internet history. Unless the employee’s job is to monitor internet use or e-mails, no employee should have the ability to look at another employee’s information.

4. Look the other way. When unethical behavior occurs, the worst thing you can do is look the other way and pretend you never saw it. To do so is to implicitly condone the behavior. Instead, ethical violations need to be addressed immediately, according to your company’s policies.

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