Student Question

Does the availability of information justify its use ethically?

Quick answer:

The availability of information doesn't always justify the use. The answer to this question depends on the information and the intended use of this information. In cases of life and safety, many argue that it is ethical to use any information in any way to save lives, but others may argue about the concern to personal freedom.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Like many broad philosophical questions, if you asked this to ten different people you'd probably get ten different answers and they'd all be correct. Here are two hypothetical scenarios that might help you narrow down your answer as you complete your assignment:

Consider, for example, that you're on a crowded train. The man you're sitting next to is carrying a briefcase, and he looks nervous. That's not too unusual, you think—he's probably on his way to a job interview or a big meeting. When he opens it to sneak a peek, though, you catch a glimpse inside and realize something terrifying: it's full of explosives.

Would you be justified in reporting this man because he might be about to do something dangerous? What if you knew for sure that he was going to? Where does his personal privacy end and the safety of others begin? Many people would probably say you would be justified to report him.

On the other hand, consider this recent example from the news: in 2012, a number of Hollywood actresses' phones were hacked. The hackers leaked their private photos—most of them nude—to the internet-at-large. That information, too, was obtained by violating the privacy of the women involved. The difference, in this case, is that accessing or using that information would, to some degree, further violate those women. Most people, in this case, would probably argue that using this information would be unethical.

Think about whether you agree with these conclusions as you write your answer. Do you agree with my conclusions? What makes these two scenarios different? Can both answers be correct at the same time?

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial