Information and communication technology privacy and policies within organisations : an analysis from the perspective of the individual
The Information Society is the result of developments in information and communication technologies (lCTs) and their ability to gather, collate and disseminate vast amounts of personal data. Privacy has therefore become an important social and ethical issue. The threats to privacy include not only the collection of personal details but also the increased use of surveillance technologies, from closed circuit television (CCTV) to email and Internet use monitoring. Individuals have been largely ignored by privacy researchers in the past. This has meant that whilst surveys have revealed some trends in attitude, they did not go far enough to discover how individuals perceive privacy and how far surveillance was seen by individuals as an invasion of their privacy. This research investigated individuals within a public sector organisation and a private sector organisation. By using a hermeneutic approach combined with the interpretive interactionism tools of Denzin (1989) the research was able to undertake a qualitative investigation of the privacy perceptions of the individual. Furthermore, differences between the approaches to privacy of a public organisation and a private organisation were analysed. This thesis explores new horizons within the field of computer ethics, and utilises qualitative research techniques not previously applied to this area of enquiry. The research techniques utilised have enabled an exploration of the lived experiences of the individuals within an organisational context. The adaptation of interpretive interactionism within the hermeneutic approach has produced findings that discovered the importance of privacy and the awareness of the participants to the issues of legislation, protection and future expectations. The research found that although the individuals studied were happy to allow certain personal information to be available, privacy within the home and within personal relationships was of critical importance. Privacy was seen as a right that all should have, and yet the scope and extent of privacy was subject to individual interpretation. Further more, the nature of privacy was seen to have changed with the use of ICTs so that there has been a paradigm shift in the focus of personal information. The perceived loss of community has led to less local knowledge about an individual's affairs, but the increases in technology have created vast databases containing huge amounts of personal information, which are accessible to many individuals and organisations but to whom the information remains impersonal.