School of Information Systems


Consider several areas of information ethics in which the control of information is crucial. Richard O. Mason identified four such areas, which can be summarized by the acronym PAPA: Privacy, Accuracy, Property, and Accessibility.

Area Critical Question
Privacy What information must people reveal about themselves to others? Are there some things that people do not have to reveal about themselves? Can the information that people provide be used to identify their personal preferences or history when they don’t want those preferences to be known? Can the information that people provide be used for purposes other than those for which they were told that it would be used?
Accuracy Who is responsible for the reliability, authenticity, and accuracy of information? Who is accountable to errors in the information?
Property Who owns information? Who owns the channels of distribution, and how should they be regulated? What is the fair price of information that is exchanged?
Accessibility What information does a person or organization have a right to obtain, with what protection, and under what conditions? Who can access personal information in the files? Does the person accessing personal information “need to know” the information that is being accessed?


Many consider privacy to be the most important area in which their interests need to be safeguard. Privacy has long been considered “the right to be left alone”. While it has been argued that so many different definitions exist that it is hard to satisfactorily define the term, it is fundamentally about protections from intrusion and information gathering by others. Typically, it has been defined in terms of individuals’ ability to personally control information about themselves. But requiring individuals to control their own information would severely limit what is private.


The accuracy or the correctness of information assumes real importance for society as computers come to dominate in corporate record-keeping activities. When records are inputted incorrectly, who is to blame?


One of the most complex issues we face as a society is the question of intellectual property rights. There are substantial economic and ethical concerns surrounding these rights; concerns revolving around the special attributes of information itself and the means by which it is transmitted. Any individual item of information can be extremely costly to produce in the first instance. Yet, once it is produced, that information has the illusive quality of being easy to reproduce and to share with others. Moreover, this replication can take place without destroying the original. This makes information hard to safeguard since, unlike tangible property, it becomes communicable and hard to keep it to one’s self. It is even difficult to secure appropriate reimbursements when somebody else uses your information.


In the age of the information worker, accessibility, or the ability to obtain the data, becomes increasingly important. Would be users of information must first gain the physical ability to access online information resources, which broadly means they must access computational systems. Second and more important, they then must gain access to information itself. In this sense, the issue of access is closely linked to that of property.


Strategic Management of Information Systems, 5th Edition International Student Version

Jennifer Alexandra