Ethics of blockchain

Yong Tang (Center of Cyberspace and Security, School of Computer Science and Engineering, School of Management and Economics, University of Electronic Science and Technology of China, Chengdu, China)
Jason Xiong (Walker College of Business, Appalachian State University, Boone, North Carolina, USA)
Rafael Becerril-Arreola (Darla Moore School of Business, University of South Carolina, Columbia, South Carolina, USA)
Lakshmi Iyer (Walker College of Business, Appalachian State University, Boone, North Carolina, USA)

Information Technology & People

ISSN: 0959-3845

Publication date: 30 August 2019



The purpose of this paper is fourfold: first, to provide the first systematic study on the ethics of blockchain, mapping its main socio-technical challenges in technology and applications; second, to identify ethical issues of blockchain; third, to propose a conceptual framework of blockchain ethics study; fourth, to discuss ethical issues for stakeholders.


The paper employs literature research, research agenda and framework development.


Ethics of blockchain and its applications is essential for technology adoption. There is a void of research on blockchain ethics. The authors propose a first theoretical framework of blockchain ethics. Research agenda is proposed for future search. Finally, the authors recommend measures for stakeholders to facilitate the ethical adequacy of blockchain implementations and future Information Systems (IS) research directions. This research raises timely awareness and stimulates further debate on the ethics of blockchain in the IS community.


First, this work provides timely systematic research on blockchain ethics. Second, the authors propose the first research framework of blockchain ethics. Third, the authors identify key research questions of blockchain ethics. Fourth, this study contributes to the understanding of blockchain technology and its societal impacts.



The authors sincerely thank editors and anonymous reviewers for the constructive comments and suggestions which greatly improved this work. The authors also thank participants of ACM SIGMIS – Computers and People Research Conference 2019 Nashville, TN, USA and Dagstuhl Seminar 19261 on Distributed Computing with Permissioned Blockchains and Databases, Wadern, Germany, for their valuable discussions. Finally, the authors would like to show our gratitude to the support of ACM SIGMIS research funding for the academic year 2018–2019.


Tang, Y., Xiong, J., Becerril-Arreola, R. and Iyer, L. (2019), "Ethics of blockchain", Information Technology & People, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print.

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