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Book Contents

Ch. 12
Evaluating Decision Support Systems Projects

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Ethics and Privacy Issues

Projects can fail for many reasons. A systematic evaluation process and the appropriate use of evaluation tools and a systematic examination of evaluation issues can reduce project failures. One set of issues that can create problems are easy to minimize or overlook. These issues relate to the ethics of using a specific Decision Support System or privacy issues raised by using specific data in a Decision Support System. Both managers and MIS professionals need to be sensitive to ethics and privacy issues.

One might think that a Decision Support System is ethically neutral and that project proposals shouldn’t raise any moral or value issues. This view ignores the important role that principles and values play in making decisions. When Model-Driven or Knowledge-Driven DSS are constructed, developers make assumptions that can have ethical impacts on choices. Also, some decisions are considered so value-laden that many people would be uncomfortable with developing a Decision Support System to assist a decision-maker. One cannot specify all of the ethical issues that might be relevant to a specific DSS proposal, but once a proposal reaches the feasibility stage, the project sponsor needs to specifically address the ethical issues associated with the project.

Privacy concerns are also easy to ignore during the evaluation of a Decision Support System proposal. In many societies, people expect that certain personal and behavioral information about them will be kept private. This information belongs to the person and doesn’t belong to a company, the public, or the government. Managers need to insure that data used in Decision Support Systems doesn’t infringe on the privacy rights of individuals. The exact extent of privacy rights for employees, customers, and other data providers is not always clearly defined. In general, unless there is a clearly compelling reason to risk violating an individual’s privacy, the "fence" to protect privacy of data should be higher and larger than minimum requirements.

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