Original Paper

Ethics and Information Technology

, Volume 11, Issue 2, pp 105-112

First online:

The ethics of information transparency

  • Matteo TurilliAffiliated withOxford University Computing Laboratory (OUCL), University of OxfordOxford e-Research Centre (OeRC), University of OxfordInformation Ethics Group (IEG), University of OxfordResearch Group in Philosophy of Information (GPI), University of HertfordshireCentre for Ethics and Economics and Business, Universidade Católica Portugueasa Email author 
  • , Luciano FloridiAffiliated withInformation Ethics Group (IEG), University of OxfordResearch Group in Philosophy of Information (GPI), University of HertfordshireDepartment of Philosophy, University of Hertfordshire

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The paper investigates the ethics of information transparency (henceforth transparency). It argues that transparency is not an ethical principle in itself but a pro-ethical condition for enabling or impairing other ethical practices or principles. A new definition of transparency is offered in order to take into account the dynamics of information production and the differences between data and information. It is then argued that the proposed definition provides a better understanding of what sort of information should be disclosed and what sort of information should be used in order to implement and make effective the ethical practices and principles to which an organisation is committed. The concepts of “heterogeneous organisation” and “autonomous computational artefact” are further defined in order to clarify the ethical implications of the technology used in implementing information transparency. It is argued that explicit ethical designs, which describe how ethical principles are embedded into the practice of software design, would represent valuable information that could be disclosed by organisations in order to support their ethical standing.


Information transparency Semantic information Computer ethics Software design