Harris, Lisa, Coles, Anne-Marie and Davies, Richard
Emerging ethical perspectives of e-commerce
Journal of Information, Communication and Ethics in Society, 1, (1), .
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A key debate about the nature and role of e-commerce centres around the question of whether it is merely an old activity in a new form, or a discontinuous process that rewrites the ideas and assumptions of the 'old' economy. The objective of this exploratory and qualitative study is to shed some light on this issue through the lens of business ethics. We will examine whether established ethical principles still apply to e-commerce, or instead if the 'rule book' now needs to be re-written.
Such debate needs to be prefaced by considering what is actually meant by the terms 'e-commerce' and 'ethics' as they can be understood in a variety of ways. We therefore begin by discussing various definitions of e-commerce and introduce the associated ethical issues that are raised by the adoption and diffusion of a wide range of e-commerce activities. To inform the debate, we will draw briefly upon a series of ongoing empirical case studies in the areas of 'ethically-traded' products and social responsibility, piracy and intellectual property rights, online banking and permission marketing. We acknowledge that applying a wide range of ethical issues to what is a diverse understanding of the scope of e-commerce activities can only scratch the surface and we will perhaps raise more questions here than we answer. However, the findings of this preliminary study will inform the direction and focus of future research projects in this rapidly developing area.
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