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Global ICT‐ethics: the case of privacy

Göran Collste (Centre for Applied Ethics, Linköping University, Linköping, Sweden)

Journal of Information, Communication and Ethics in Society

ISSN: 1477-996X

Article publication date: 4 April 2008




The world wide use of information and communication technology (ICT) is one aspect of globalisation. In the ethical discussion of the implications of ICT the right to privacy is in focus. However, ICT‐ethics has been developed in a Western context and hence, privacy might be a Western value without relevance in other cultures. Therefore, the purpose of this paper is to discuss the general problem whether one can expect a global convergence on ICT‐ethics, with the right to privacy as a case in point. Is privacy a universal or contextual value?


In order to answer the research question, methods for conceptual and ethical analysis are used. The concept of privacy is analysed and an argument asserting that there is a deep disagreement between Western and Japanese understanding of a right to privacy is critically examined.


Privacy is a vague concept and it is not possible to identify one Western view of privacy and, hence, to distinguish between the Western and – for example – the Japanese views of privacy. Common arguments for privacy within ICT‐ethics do not presuppose contextual Western premises. While globalisation implies increasing inter‐cultural communication one may well envisage a growing global convergence of a right to privacy. Thus, there is not a deep cultural disagreement concerning the right to privacy.


The paper critically examines arguments for the view that privacy is a Western value without relevance in Japan. It clarifies the meaning of privacy and provides reasons why one can expect a global convergence of a right to privacy in particular and ICT‐ethics in general.



Collste, G. (2008), "Global ICT‐ethics: the case of privacy", Journal of Information, Communication and Ethics in Society, Vol. 6 No. 1, pp. 76-87.



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Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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