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The Transformation of the US into Oceania Essay

Related Topics: Law Privacy Leaders Health Care

Pages:9 (2807 words)



Topic:Organizational Culture

Document Type:Essay


The Greatest Issue Facing 21st Century Ethical Leadership

Big Brother is Watching You. -- George Orwell, 1984

The chilling but fictitious epigraph above is becoming all too real for many people around the world today. Indeed, a growing number of authorities believe that threats to the fundamental right to privacy have become the greatest issue facing 21st century ethical leadership. Indeed, public and private sector organizations of all types routinely collect consumers’ personal information and use it in ways that are violative of the spirit if not the letter of the law, and the proliferation of the so-called Internet of Things has introduced yet more ways that individual privacy can be violated. The purpose of this paper is to provide a review and analysis of the relevant literature concerning this threat to ethical leadership, including recent and current trends in global leadership. In addition, a discussion concerning the various ways that threats to personal privacy manifest and what organizational and leadership theorists maintain should be done about them is followed by a summary of the research and the key findings that emerged in the paper’s conclusion.

Review and Discussion

Overview of threats to personal privacy

Together with freedom of speech and religion, many consumers prize their personal privacy above all else. Although the concept lacks definitional clarity, the term “privacy” is generally used to refer to “a person's ability to control access to personal information” (Cantor, 2006). More specifically, the right of privacy is defined by Black’s Law Dictionary (1990) as “The right to be let alone; the right of a person to be free from unwarranted publicity; and the right to live without unwarranted interference by the public in matters with which the public is not necessarily concerned” (p. 1195).

In theory, then, privacy therefore refers to the capacity to determine what personal information is available to others. In practice, however, few people besides some miserable hermits living in caves can be regarded as enjoying this ability completely. Nevertheless, the universal right to privacy is enshrined in the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) 1948, Article 12 which clearly states that: “No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.” Likewise, in the United States, the right of people to protect their personal privacy has been confirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court as a constitutional right in a number of historic decisions, including most especially Griswold vs. Connecticut (1965) and Roe vs. Wade (1973) (Cantor, 2006).

Despite these protections, though, there has been a clear-cut trend towards unwarranted intrusions into people’s personal lives that has been facilitated by countless innovations in technology that are intended to defeat these protections for commercial or other gain. This trend became even more accelerated following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 when U.S. policymakers made national security a higher priority than personal privacy. In this regard, Cantor (2006) emphasizes that, “Privacy remains a very fluid concept that changes and evolves as societal beliefs shift. [Following] that terrorist attack, individual privacy rights have been limited in the name of protecting the security of the country and reducing the risks of further attacks” (p. 50).

Not surprisingly, many of these privacy-limiting initiatives such as the USA PATRIOT Act of 2001 and its subsequent renewal have been the source of heated debate since these laws allow the government to actively monitor U.S. citizens in various ways (Cantor, 2006). Moreover, the disclosure that the U.S. National Security Agency has wiretapped U.S. citizens outside of the normal channels that are required for these types of surveillance efforts have raised additional questions concerning the government’s actual limits on privacy intrusions and what should be done to reverse these disturbing trends (Cantor, 2006).

Although it is reasonable to suggest that many Americans are unconcerned about these privacy-intrusion activities simply because they have done nothing wrong and therefore should not be worried about their privacy. In reality, though, the U.S. government does not have to target specific individuals in order for their personal privacy to be violated in a wide range of ways. For example, the introduction of electronic health care records a few years ago caused many health care consumers to question who was allowed access to their personal medical information and for what purposes. In response, the U.S. government enacted the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) in 1996 in an effort to provide some additional protections to personal medical information (Cantor, 2006). Despite some criticism from practitioners and policymakers alike, it is clear that HIPAA has affected the manner in which many American health care consumers think about their personal privacy today and how it affects their lives (Cantor, 2006).

The concerns over violations of personal privacy are well-founded, though, and health care is just one realm where technological innovations have introduced new and novel threats to personal privacy. For instance, one industry analyst emphasizes that, “With developments in technological security capability, employers can now monitor their employees’ activity on their computers and other company-provided electronic devices” (Ethical issues facing businesses, 2020, para. 3). In fact, fully two-thirds (66%) of American companies currently monitor their employees internet activity, and…

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…a blind eye to violations of corporate policy or efforts by consumers or other companies to defraud them, but it is to say that the mitigation of threats to privacy begins at the top. Nevertheless, even the most ethically minded leader is faced with some profound dilemmas when it comes to privacy.

As also noted above, increasing numbers of businesses of all sizes and types are routinely collecting personal information about their employees and consumers, so the failure to follow suit may place a company at a competitive disadvantage. Likewise, most companies do not enjoy the deep pockets that Amazon has to fight government efforts to violate consumer privacy, but there are some steps that virtually all business leaders can take to help ensure that protocols are in place to protect employee and consumer personal information to the maximum extent possible in today’s uncertain world. For example, Karn (2019) emphasizes the need for organization-wide state-of-the-art security protocols that prevent social engineering and other so-called “phishing” attacks from compromising personal data.

This need has been quantitatively compounded by the enormous amounts of personal information that are being routinely aggregated by third party providers, and even minor breaches can easily result in tens of millions of consumers being adversely affected (Karn, 2019). For instance, Karn (2019) notes that, “Today, with massive digitization of medical information, mobile data usage and massive system integration, everyday human errors can cause breaches that expose millions of people to potential harm” (para. 5). Of course, while it is impossible to entirely prevent human errors, it is possible to ensure that business practices are in place that can help mitigate these errors and preclude their recurrence. In addition, it is also possible for business leaders at every level to ensure that their enterprises are completely transparent about what types of personal information they collect from their employees and consumers. In other words, personal privacy protections begin at the top and business leaders have the responsibility to protect personal data in every situation.


The research showed that although “Big Brother Is Watching,” most people are woefully unaware of just how much personal information is being collected about them every day as well as the manner in which this information is being used by both the public and private sectors which in many cases is violative of their basic rights to control any information about them. Continuing innovations in technology have compounded the problem for business leaders that are faced with the need to remain competitive in an increasingly globalized marketplace where other companies are exploiting the masses of personal data for their own benefit. Unless business leaders step forward today to advocate…

Sample Source(s) Used


Black’s law dictionary. (1990). St. Paul, MN: West Publishing Company.

Cantor, M. D. (2006, Summer). No information about me without me: Technology, privacy, and home monitoring. Generations, 30(2), 49-55.

Ethical issues facing businesses. (2020). Florida Tech. Retrieved from https://www.floridatech

Haslag, C. (2018, Fall). Technology or privacy: Should you really have to choose only one? Missouri Law Review, 83(4), 1027-1033.

Karn, R. (2019). The biggest threat to data security? Humans, of course. The Privacy Advisor. Retrieved from

Sharma, P. (2017, June). Organizational culture as a predictor of job satisfaction: The role of age and gender. Journal of Contemporary Management Issues, 22(1), 35-40.

Taslitz, A. E. (2009, Spring). The Fourth Amendment in the twenty-first century: Technology, privacy, and human emotions. Law and Contemporary Problems, 65(2), 125-131.

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