1. Ethical & Legal Issues ::
Impact of Technology
Last modified: 1st August 2019
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4. Different Issues in Computer Science
morally ‘right’ or ‘wrong’.
considered right or
wrong by the law.
How people of different
cultures (e.g. religion,
country, ethnic group)
are affected, but also its
Impact on the natural
world, e.g. carbon
Respecting users’ wishes on the
level of disclosure of information,
and protecting this data.
5. Different Issues in Computer Science
Large tech corporations have a
mixture of lawyers and consultants
to guide them on their legal,
ethical, privacy, cultural and
! Stakeholders are individuals or groups of people that have an
interest in a business or scenario and can either affect or be affected
by this, e.g. the business’ actions regarding a particular technology.
People the could be stakeholders:
Local community, suppliers, employees, customers.
Different stakeholders have different concerns and priorities
depending on their interaction with the technology.
7. Environment issues
Issues we might consider
• Use of renewable energy by production
• Consideration of the use of electrical energy by
technological products, e.g. for cooling. Can they be
made energy efficient?
• Raw materials used for the product – are they
sustainable? (e.g. precious metals, plastic)
• Services such as Skype/Facetime reduce the need for
travel. Services such as Remote Desktop allow
people to work from home, reducing travel
• Use of electronic documents/messaging cuts on
• Lifetime of the device (average in UK is 2 years) –
what is the impact of disposal/on landfill?
(“e-waste”) – a lot of which is shipped to Asia/Africa.
EU law will soon
oblige retailers to
accept small electrical
items for recycling.
8. Cultural Impact
Issues we might consider
• Does use of technology (e.g. social media) reduce face-to-face interaction?
• Prevalence of a particular technology in everyday life – mobile phones
means people are always contactable.
• Effect on personality: does aspects of social media/selfies/picture filters
lead to a more narcissistic culture?
• The technology’s capacity to create ‘viral’ posts, e.g. pictures, stories,
messages, videos. Often becomes entwined with the media.
• The capacity for users to express themselves via art, photography, writing
(blogging) and share with others.
9. Issues we might consider
Just as financial and social background can have a
large influence on lifestyle and opportunities in life,
the same can be said about individuals’ access to
technology. This can be influenced by local
infrastructure (e.g. high-speed broadline
availability) and consumer affordability (is it too
expensive for some?).
• Rural areas tend to have poorer phone network
coverage, and lower speeds for internet.
• Inequality has increased globally due to access
to technology in ‘First World’ countries vs ‘Third
• Newer technologies less used by the older
generation, but increasingly becoming less of an
10. Issues we might consider
The ‘digital divide’
‘One Laptop Per Child’ provided
free lost-cost laptops to children
in low-income countries.
The UK government outlined the following
benefits of reaching out to communities on the
wrong side of the digital divide:
1. “acquiring knowledge and developing skills
2. developing confidence and self-esteem which
reinforce family and community cohesion
3. pursuing leisure interests and opportunities
4. publishing and broadcasting their opinions
and ideas and relating that experience to that
of others globally
5. supporting and developing small businesses
6. being empowered to campaign and
participate in the democratic process.”
11. Ethical Issues
Issues we might consider
• Consumer health:
• Eyestrain from excessive screen-time.
• Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) – damage due to repetitive movements.
• Back problems from poor posture.
• Can addiction (e.g. excessive mobile phone use/gaming) rob time from more
meaningful activities, or distract from work?
• What impact will a technology have on jobs? e.g. Streaming services impacting
musician royalties. Uber impacting the taxi industry.
• Will a product allow a company to have a monopoly? (i.e. an overwhelmingly dominant
business within a particular sector)
• Is there a conflict of complying with a particular country’s government’s regulations
and human rights? e.g. Censorship of certain aspects of a product or government
monitoring of client usage.
• Will the product allow children to access inappropriate material? Should we
implement parental controls?
• To what extent should we use anonymity to tackle cyber-bullying and ‘trolling’
(deliberate attempts to start public arguments for amusement/attention)
Issues we might consider
• Websites store a significant amount of information about you:
• Some required for specific purposes, e.g. banking.
• Social media often builds up a profile of you based on what posts you
view, what ads you click, what you list your interests as, what you
purchase, etc. in order to provide targeted advertising.
• Cloud computing stores your files externally.
• Face recognition software can even identify who you’re in photos
• Capacity for abuse: sharing your personal information with 3rd parties.
• Sites usually provide a privacy agreements, although these are rarely read.
• Sites also tend to have privacy controls (e.g. who can see your posts, what
information about is available to ‘friends’ and other users), although
companies (e.g. Facebook) are often criticised for not making these
• Often personal data on personal devices (laptops, phones, …) which might
13. There was a major political scandal in early
2018 when it was revealed that Cambridge
Analytica had harvested the personal data
of millions of people's Facebook profiles
without their consent and used it for
political advertising purposes.
It has been described as a watershed
moment in the public understanding of
personal data and precipitated a massive
fall in Facebook's stock price and calls for
tighter regulation of tech companies' use of
14. Stakeholder Exam Questions
Exams typically have an short essay-based question (worth lots
of marks!) on the impact of a technology on stakeholders.
Have a go at writing a short essay for the above question,
ensuring you cover the bulleted points.
We’ll then analyse the mark scheme. There is an example
student submission for another similar question on the next
slide, with examiner comments, which may be of help.
15. Examiner: “This candidate began by
describing the advantages to
business, and then the benefits to
inhabitants in paragraph 2. They
have identified a drawback to
inhabitants, and a general drawback
of security risks – covering
privacy/ethical issues. The
candidate has covered at least
three of the bullet points given in
the question and given both
positive and negative impacts. It
was not credited with full marks
because it was felt there could have
been further expansion e.g. how
the lack of security could impact the
businesses, and an overall
conclusion as to the impact.”