Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to examine the risk arising from technological devices, such as closed circuit television (CCTV) and nuclear power plants and the consequent effect on the rights to privacy and security of individuals. Design/methodology/approach – The paper presents critical and conceptual analyses of CCTV, nuclear power plants and the rights of individuals. It also analyses how communitarianism and liberal individualism would respond to right‐infringements and risk‐imposition. It draws on W.D. Ross's prima facie and actual duties to explain the pre‐eminence of duty when certain duties conflict in a bid to improve technology. Findings – The paper discovers the importance of rights to individuals, particularly the rights to privacy and security. It shows that, in some situations, government's duty to respect the right to the privacy of individuals conflicts with the duty to provide public goods, such as CCTV. The paper, therefore, stresses that one duty has greater moral force than the other. In essence, the more incumbent duty can be employed by government in justifying right‐infringement and risk‐imposition, though this does not disvalue the rights of individuals. Originality/value – The paper offers insight into ways of addressing questions such as: when is it morally acceptable or justifiable to expose others to risk? When is infringement on people's rights permissible? Also, the paper is relevant to those in the areas of ethics and technology because it offers an ethical analysis of risk‐imposition and right‐infringement by examining how ethical theories, such as communitarianism and liberal individualism, would assess risks resulting from CCTV and nuclear energy. It argues that consent is not enough to justify risk‐imposition and right‐infringement. It concludes by drawing on W.D. Ross's prima facie and actual duties as a means of justifying risk‐imposition and right‐infringement by government.
Journal of Information, Communication and Ethics in Society – Emerald Publishing
Published: Nov 9, 2010
Keywords: Risk assessment; Closed circuit television; Ethics; Human rights; Nuclear power