PartyLine Case Study

PartyLine Case Study













PartyLine Case Study

Relevant Facts

The case study revolves around the commercial activities of Manning Technologies that includes discovering and developing innovative technology. The workers of the company are allocated approximately 0% of their time on a single project. This grace period is until a feasible project can be presented to the board for approval. One of the employees, Leslie High developed PartyLine, an application that could monitor cell phone interactions that was eventually approved for development as an intelligence instrument. The software works by analyzing the data moving through cell phone towers for key phrases that are defined by the user. Later on, the director of human resources proposed the use of PartyLine as an investigation tool to discover the perpetrators behind drug dealing in the office. The human resource manager was interested in using PartyLine to trace the calls on the local landline system and discover if any instances of drug usage was occurring in the establishment. PartyLine exploits the weakness in cell phone technology by coding the data from phone calls into conversations that can be passed through data mining systems to avail conversations. Furthermore, the application can add caller information to the conversations.

Specific Ethical Issue

The activities of Manning Technology are legal and ethical since they produce innovative technology for human consumption. However, several ethical issues emerge from the final phase of developing PartyLine. One, considering the use of the application in the intelligence division of the company to trace the calls among employees is a violation of the employee rights to privacy. Bob Smith represented the company and consequently, its interests to maintain a close watch over the dealings of its employees. The fact that the executives contemplated sanctioning a private program for observing employees raised a significant ethical issue that could hold possible legal ramifications. Manning Technology could be facing lawsuits from individual employees, employees union. Another ethical issue lay in the use of company property for spying purposes. Using an application developed by a private company such as PartyLine to spy on the activities of employees presents several ethical issues. The company can be held liable for the leaking and usage of sensitive private data for private gain.

Stakeholders Involved

Manning Technologies are the main stakeholders involved in the ethical issue concerning the application, PartyLine. The company is squarely responsible for the development, distribution, and administration of all their projects and products. The organization is responsible for the developers and therefore emerges repeatedly in the arguments concerning the ethical dilemmas. The employees are another major stakeholder in the ethical decision. In this case, the employees were the subjects of the privacy violation given that they would be secretly monitored without their official consent. The last major stakeholder is the intelligence division within Manning Technologies that ultimately controls the distribution and use of the application.

Isolating the Major Ethical Dilemma

In this particular situation, Bob Smith desired to find a way to tap into the local landline system and use it to monitor the conversations between employees in Manning Technologies. The human resource manager planned to use the application, PartyLine to spy on the employees for possible drug users within their establishment. By deciding to spy on his employees, Bob Smith would be violating the right to individual privacy. Conversely, if he chooses not to spy on his employees, Bob Smith will have decided to respect the rights and privileges of the employees that include right to privacy. Either alternative presents several consequences that make the decision highly difficult for the human resource manager as well as the rest of the stakeholders.

Analyzing the Ethicality of Both Alternatives

The implementation of the spying program using the PartyLine application has several implications. One, it violates several levels of private information that are privileges reserved for to the employees of Manning Technologies. By violating this law, the employees’ rights to private information would be infringed. All their private information including conversations with colleagues, families, and friends would be compromised and exposed to the public. The human resource manager would be privy to personal information that would damage to the reputation of employees. In the event that the human resource manager refuses to implement the spying program using the PartyLine application, the following parties would be harmed. The HR manager will risk his own position in the event that he fails to uncover the drug peddlers and consumers within his watch. Drug abuse within the workplace is an offense that holds a heavy penalty in most states. Furthermore, the charges for drug handling and abuse may extend to include the executives in Manning Technologies in the form of accomplices to the offence. Internally, the HR manager would have problems in terms of loss in reputation and potential dismissal. In the above situation, choosing to avoid spying on employees’ calls represented the least harm since many of them stand to suffer if the alternative is adopted.

In the event that the spying program under PartyLine is implemented, the human resource manager and his employer, Manning Technologies will stand to benefit greatly. Both parties have a bigger objective that is to maintain the reputation and performance of the firm. Therefore, in the event that several employees are discovered to be drug abusers, the two mentioned parties are direct beneficiaries. Conversely, by providing the recorded information using the PartyLine, Bob Smith violated the rights of employees to privacy. Apart from that, he also lost the trusting relationship he had built with his subordinates.

Rights and Duties Violated

Depending on the legal description of privacy, two significant aspects that are strongly relevant in the information field must be stressed. The first aspect is that privacy as a notion is closely associated with information. Privacy points to the totality of facts and information that are applicable to a person when they are isolated. That privacy is manifested as information implies that privacy can be distinguished into several categories such as private and public communications. Each of these has their own characteristics. Private communications are concerned with the individual information in a person’s body while public communication deals with the information outside a person’s body. The articulated will to privacy discusses a significant aspect of information that is relevant to the ethical dilemma. The desire for privacy means that it is only valuable and admissible in any case if the parties desired for their conversation to be private. For instance, a private conversation between two individuals should be considered private if there is an explicit desire to maintain its privacy. The instant that this desire is surrendered, the information is no longer considered private. The same argument applies to all forms of information. In the event that an individual makes a private number, a form of personal information, available to his employer, it is immediately considered as public information. Legally, such kind of information can be regarded as business resources that can be included in trading activities. The expressed will to privacy is therefore an important aspect of conversations that was violated in the Manning ethical dilemma. Employee monitoring frequently works against employees’ privacy. Observation often gathers not only occupation-related information, as well as employees’ personal matters that are unrelated to the job. Spying does not imply that the company lacks limits to the type of information that is collected. Monitoring employees in the office may create a conflict between employers and employees given that both parties attempt to safeguard personal interests.

The issue of whether employers can  monitor telephone calls of their employees boils down to the state in which the company operates as well as the nature of the organization. In the Manning Technologies case, the employer has the opportunity to monitor the calls given the software development environment. Such monitoring restricts the dissemination of sensitive applications that may cause corporate complications for instance, in the event of corporate espionage. However, in certain states for instance, California, the state law demands that all organizations notify their employees that their calls are being recorded by setting a beep tone or a pre-recorded message. However, personal calls are exempted from the rule. Therefore, employers should seek to stop any recordings of personal calls as soon as this is established. Again, this is dependant on whether the employee announced certain calls would be monitored.

Making a Decision and Planning the Implementation

In Step II, the final decision was to desist from using the application, PartyLine to monitor the telephone calls of all of company’s employees. This was the ethical decision to make given that violating the privacy rights of the employees was a direct violation of code of ethics as well as federal and state laws. Furthermore, it would be difficult for the employer to prove that the monitoring program was a business-related initiative. The need for the monitoring was triggered by an intuition within the human resource manager that some of the employees were abusing drugs. There is a significant conflict in privacy laws particularly federal ones concerning monitoring. In some states, employee monitoring is not prohibited and this offers employers the leeway to exploit the loophole and tap into private conversations. However, in other states, federal law restricts the monitoring of private telephone calls. In such regions, employee rights take dominance over employer rights.

Steps Needed to Implement Ethical Decision

Monitoring of telephone calls is an important tool in ensuring that the productivity among individuals remains high. However, in the Manning Technologies case, the human resource manager planned to use spy application to monitor local calls for discovering any drug-related activity. It is necessary for a policy document to be developed that can regulate the privacy environment within Manning Technologies. Before the policy document is developed, it would be prudent for the employer to inform his workers that their calls would be monitored for accountability purposes. This eliminates potential reactions in the form of lawsuits.

The policy document is developed in the following steps. Step 1 involves outlining the policies of the organization. These policies complement federal law and consequently, prohibit the common offence such as drug abuse. It is important that employees be clearly briefed on the company’s policies. Step 2 involves reformulating the clauses in the policy document to include new changes and demands in the work environment. This section includes the use of new technology such as PDAs and mobile phones. The last stage is the declaration of penalties that correlate with the new policies.

Effect on Stakeholders

The major stakeholder, Manning Technologies will have to adjust their financial allocations to include tighter security measures and protocols. The company exhibited the ease with which breaches in security could go unseen. This might ensure that security is reinforced at the firm. However, it involves increased budgetary allocation since the added security will require more personnel and resources. The employees stand to benefit from increased freedom to have personal contact with their relatives and friends.

Long Term Changes That Can Prevent Employee Monitoring

In the long-term, several technical changes should be implemented. These changes should improve the alternatives for employees to have private communication without the interference of employers. For instance, the installation of secure lines in the workplace reduces phone-tapping practices. On the political front, increased pressure should be placed on technocrats and legislators to support the reinforcement of federal laws concerned with employee privacy. Legally, the employee rights should be give preference especially by lawyers and judges. This will ensure that they can enjoy the freedom of speech and association. In the Manning case, care should have been taken to ensure that the employee roles are clearly outlined. This would have avoided the problem of possible drug abuse in the first place.

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