Research Brief

October 11, 2019

Societal and ethical issues of digitization

Ethics and Information Technology

In this paper, the researchers discuss the social and ethical issues that arise as a result of digitization based on six dominant technologies: Internet of Things, robotics, biometrics, persuasive technology, virtual & augmented reality, and digital platforms.

This article essentially focuses on the developments within the digitizing society that appear to be at odds with the six recurring themes on the dominant technologies: privacy, autonomy, security, human dignity, justice, and balance of power. According to the authors, this study shows that the new wave of digitization is putting pressure on these public values. Stakeholders need to have a clear understanding of what such issues might be in order to effectively shape the digital society in a socially and ethically responsible way.

Due to the digitization of the material, biological and sociocultural world, more on more data is created and is being made available commercially. In that digital world, the data which is processed and analysed forms the basis as to how automated systems make decisions that subsequently have an impact on the physical world. As digital and physical world become more and more entwined, we make increasingly more use of digital technologies and we are becoming increasingly more dependent on digital systems for all kinds of essential services and products such as healthcare, banking, media, education or the justice system. The digitization of society is entering a new phase, and has blurred the distinction between online and offline.

This study shows that the new wave of digitization is putting pressure on public values as ICT services and products are having a radical impact on society. Due to this unprecedented implications, it is necessary to ensure that public values and fundamental rights are safeguarded in the new digital era. In order to deal with the ethical issues created by this new era, governance parties need a deeper understanding of the social and ethical issues implications of the digitization.

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