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Ethics and Governance of Digital Systems Assignment 


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In the past few years, it has been witnessed that there has been widely the implementation of automatic facial recognition system or facial recognition technology which is also called FRT across an array of social realms. The introduction of this technology is associated with the concern of social and public safety along with the application of this technology on systems like identification of bank users. Another aspect recognised regarding the use of facial recognition is its use in the education sector in schools and universities. In the present time, concerning the security of the students, the facial recognition system has been applied on several aspects like promoting campus security, automation of the roll call system, emotions of the students and the monitoring of their attention. On analysing critically, the application of facial recognition system, it has been observed that in countries like the United Kingdom, the United States and Australia, there has been little criticisms regarding the implementation of this system in almost every sector (Mann and Smith, 2017). Hence, this system has been termed as a logically extended technology which is based on the trends of surveillance. But it is also equally important to highlight the challenges of this system through its critical analysis so that the application of this system in a long run can be better understood. The presented submission is a critical reflection of the facial recognition technology which shall outline the rules and literature which has been provided regarding the governance of digital information. Further, the submission shall also discuss the social, legal and ethical issues and concerns along with the consequences regarding the governance of the digital information. Lastly, the submission shall provide for a critical reflection of the application of governance regarding the adaptation of digital technology in society.

Existing research and literature regarding the handling and governance of digital information

The emergence of the said facial recognition system has advanced from the vision processing in the computers along with the advancement and improvement in digital video camera technology. In other words, the working of the facial recognition system is by extracting the facial features which have been captured through the digital video image and then making the comparison of the image with the previously stored data. These database stores a large number of faces along with their identification and all other relevant information. On analysing the work of Bolger (2018), it can be stated that countries like the United Kingdom, the United States and Australia are making use of facial recognition system and getting it installed and operated in several different places like airports, factories, shopping malls and also government buildings. Hence, the handling and governance of the digital system is not only the concern of the private authority which has installed it but rather government also must look after its proper implementation. Further, the author has also pointed out that the handling and implementation of digital information and the cameras equipped with facial recognition technology are controlled by law enforcement agencies. They control the facial recognition system and also the already stored database to identify the criminals and search for the missing persons (Bolger, 2018).

Moreover, discussing the control and governance of the digital information, the Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation published a report in May 2020 discussing the governance of facial recognition technology. The Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation (CDEI) is an independent committee of experts which is headed by the board of specialists under the control of the government of the UK (GOV.UK. 2021). The major function of the committee is to investigate and provide guidance and advice regarding the maximisation of the benefits which could be drawn from the data-driven technology. The committee has set up its goal to provide for support to strive for ethical considerations in innovation. Further, its governance mechanism also supports the confidence of the public as there is a reflection of security regarding their data along with the security of their values in the world of technology. The committee also aims at supporting the trust of the public where they could feel that the decisions conversant by algorithms are fair. Moreover, the goal of the committee is also in identifying and addressing the risks which lie in every innovation.

Further discussing the governance and ethical consideration for digital information, Sarker et. al. (2018) has opined that smart governance serves as an important tool for smart government and it has become a demand of 21st century. Further, smart governance is required due to the advancement of technology and the digital data and information can be best protected with a system which is compatible with technological advancement. It has also been stated by the author that the use of smart governance methods for the protection of digital information has improved the security of data and has also ensured faster and error-free support system for the same. Some developed countries like the United Kingdom have already adopted for the system of smart governance which has also helped in public governance by protecting their data in the government system. The use of smart governance techniques and systems also provides for open establishment and participation by the public (Sarker, et. al., 2018).

But the report of CDEI has also provided and stated that the legality of facial recognition technology which is used by the government and the police authority is yet to be tested formally. In the year 2019 'Liberty' which is a civil liberty group moved to the court to question the right of the police authorities on the basis that their use of FRT on the public has breached the provision of Human Rights Act, Data Protection Act, Protection of Freedoms Act and Equality Act. Hence, it was stated that there is nor regulation mechanism regarding the right of police to implement FRT in its functioning (GOV.UK. 2021). Thus, this provides for the critical appraisal of the facial recognition technology as this technology has also served to be problematic in some aspects for the general public. Further, it has also been stated by some of the civil societies group that despite the ruling of the court regarding the inappropriate legislation, the current safeguards are not sufficient to protect the privacy of people and their freedom. Moreover, others have stated that the protection of digital information should not be in the hands of police authorities. Hence, due to this reason the Information Commission Office has demanded a new code to give proper guidance to the police and how to govern and handle the digital information and also properly interpret the decision of the court.

It is also important to note that the major issue which is addressed in the protection of digital information is the protection of human rights of the public. The emergence of technology especially where there is interference in the privacy of the public has been a debate regarding the hamper of human rights. It has been widely argued that how human rights have been impacted and how many dimensions of the society are affected through the interference of technology, especially facial recognition technology. In the words of Foster et. al. (2018), it has been stated that the process of capturing and organising digital information has been an integral part of the scientific activity. Thus, there has been equal debate regarding the hampering of human rights in case the government authorities take charge of the digital information. But in a country like the UK, the handling and governance of digital information are done to identify individuals especially those who have committed a crime or are missing. Further, the use of this technology in the educational sector in the UK has increased the security of the students during their study timings (Foster, et. al., 2018)

Social, legal and ethical issues and concerns along with the consequences regarding the governance of the digital information

Discussing the ethical challenges in the governance and protection of digital information stored under FRT it has been identified that the major ethical issue faced in the governance and handling this information is the public concern regarding their privacy. In the world of competition, the economic activities are governed with the use of technology and there is digital information being stored of the public. Hence, the public is majorly concerned regarding their privacy, that is, the private information the organisation is having. It has also been identified that the world has been open for communication through the digital information which has been stored either with the government or different corporations. There has been a shift from confined information to the internationalisation of information and this has led to the juridical and ethical problem which is related to the issue of the right to access information of the general public (Naker and Greenbaum, 2017). Along with this right, the public has also raised the issue of privacy as there is the flow of personal information which is stored under the technology of facial recognition. Moreover, there is yet another ethical issue identified which has been a concern of the public regarding the governance of digital information and that is the protection of the intellectual property of the concerned owners.

The meaning and definition of privacy consist of the right to be left alone. It is also to be noted that the right to privacy is protected under many democratic states like the UK under constitutional rights. The constitutional right is also expressed under many legislative forms for example the Data Protection Act in the United Kingdom. Despite these legislations and other regulations, there are many ethical issues in the handling and the governance of digital information (McClellan, 2020).

Discussing the ethical issues, the following issues are identified which are considered as a barrier in the handling and governance of digital information:

  • The first identified issue is that the people are concerned with the electronic monitoring they are subjected to at their workplace. This is related to their privacy concern and their personal information as is discussed above. The ethical issue which is concerning the public is their privacy in the workplace is under threat due to this electronic monitoring and as a result, it has led to a feeling of fear and being watched always. In other words, the public has referred to this as the panopticon phenomenon. Though the above-mentioned issue is concerned only in the corporate sector, yet a large public is affected in the workplace and the use of facial recognition technology is most widely seen in this sector. The justification given by the companies is that facial recognition and digital strictness at the workplace ensures increased productivity, yet the public is concerned regarding their right to privacy. Thus, the handling and governance of digital information in the corporate sector require addressing this issue of the working population.
  • Another issue identified is concerned with the interception and reading of messages of the public. Hence, there arises an ethical problem which is relating to the private communication of every individual. This issue has also found its way mainly in the corporate sector in the UK as the interception of e-mail messages is done in companies to keep an eye on the activities of the employees. The handling and governance of this digital information of the employees also require attention as the working employees are concerned regarding their privacy. Further, such handling also requires to maintain the confidentiality of the private information so that the data do not get tampered and stolen for misuse (Wright, 2018).
  • Apart from the issues on the side of the public, there are also ethical issues which are faced by information professionals in handling and governing the private digital information of the public. For example, the information professional has to make sure which private and personal information he is entitled to gather regarding the public. Further, he is also concerned about the handling of this information with confidentiality as the failure of this shall make him liable.
  • Further, the information professional also has to maintain accuracy in the storing of private information digitally as inaccuracy in information shall have a direct impact on the life of the person concern. Hence, the information professional is required to follow some ethical norms to avoid the risks of such issues like truth, freedom and human rights (Al-Kawaz, et. al., 2018).

Apart from ethical issues, there has also been the identification of social issues and how the technology in handling and governing private information has far-reaching effects on society. The effects of technology in handling and governing the digital information on the society can be distinguished in the following ways:

  • On the level of the individual: The effect of the governance and handling of digital information through technology can be seen as a loss of dignity and impulsiveness among the public along with a threat to freedom and right to privacy. It has been stated by many scholars and researchers that technology has been regarded as a threat to privacy rather than a possible solution. The use of technology has been regarded by the public to be obstructing their right to privacy and they have also indicated that they are concerned about how technology is used to process their personal information.
  • On the socio-economic level: At this level, the effect of technology and the issues in handling and governing personal information stored digitally leads to the issue of transfer and free flow of this information. Hence, there arises a question on the role of social bodies on the privacy and personal life of the public. Moreover, the socio-economic issue has led to the rise of a legal issue as well because due to these social issues, the legislation on protecting the privacy of public is lagging and proves to be incomplete in the changing world of technology (Andrejevic and Selwyn, 2020).

Lastly, the legal issues as stated above have also come up in the handling and governing of digital information in the United Kingdom. The major legal issue in the UK in the handling of personal information is the inaccuracy and inefficiency of the legal provisions regarding the protection of privacy of the public. The Act provides for the seventh data security principle to be complied by the organisations who are possessing personal information. This principle requires the organisation to have appropriate security measures to protect the data of the public (Akhtar and Rattani, 2017).

Governance implications of adopting digital technologies in the modern working environment and society

On critically analysing and observing the implication of governance in the modern working and society, it can be reflected that the adoption of technology and digital information has been done to make the identification of the public easy. But the application governing this storing of information and handling of this information has proved to be ineffective as there has aroused numerous ethical, legal and socio-economic issues.

The loss of data due to the inefficiency of various organisations provides evidence that the 10-year-old law has been ineffective now to meet the latest requirement of society. Further, another inefficiency of the Data Protection Act 1998 is that the legislation lacks definition which makes it neutral legislation and it is also indiscriminate which makes its application equal for both small business and global companies. Moreover, the legislation provides for global data network but the protections enacted under the legislation is confined to domestic one (Singh and Prasad, 2018).


Thus, to conclude, it can be settled that ethics and governance of digital information stored for facial recognition use the technology which converts the digital image and compares it to the already stored information for recognition. This already stored information gives the right to information professionals to get into the personal information of the public and this has become a major concern for the public as their right to privacy has come under threat. The facial recognition technology and its handling and governance in the United Kingdom are done several legislations out of which the major one is the Data Protection Act 1998. But the advancement in technology and demand for security being a major concern, the above-mentioned Act requires amendment so that it can meet the pace of the technological world. The impact of this technology of facial recognition has impacted socially, economically and legally the lives of people as the major concern regarding this technology is the privacy of the public and their human rights. Hence, there is a need for amendment and consolidation of laws for the protection of privacy of the public and also to give them a feeling of security for their personal information. The recommendation also includes the appropriate security measures to be taken in every field where FRT is used whether it be education or corporate sector.


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