Ethics and Information Technology

, Volume 7, Issue 4, pp 251–264 | Cite as

Privacy, Deontic Epistemic Action Logic and Software Agents

An Executable Approach to Modeling Moral Constraints in Complex Informational Relationships
  • V. WiegelEmail author
  • M. J. Van den Hoven
  • G. J. C. Lokhorst


In this paper we present an executable approach to model interactions between agents that involve sensitive, privacy-related information. The approach is formal and based on deontic, epistemic and action logic. It is conceptually related to the Belief-Desire-Intention model of Bratman. Our approach uses the concept of sphere as developed by Waltzer to capture the notion that information is provided mostly with restrictions regarding its application. We use software agent technology to create an executable approach. Our agents hold beliefs about the world, have goals and commitment to the goals. They have the capacity to reason about different courses of action, and communicate with one another. The main new ingredient of our approach is the idea to model information itself as an intentional agent whose main goal it is to preserve the integrity of the information and regulate its dissemination. We demonstrate our approach by applying it to an important process in the insurance industry: applying for a life insurance.

In this paper we will: (1) describe the challenge organizational complexity poses in moral reasoning about informational relationships; (2) propose an executable approach, using software agents with reasoning capacities grounded in modal logic, in which moral constraints on informational relatio nships can be modeled and investigated; (3) describe the details of our approach, in which information itself is modeled as an intentional agent in its own right; (4) test and validate it by applying it to a concrete ‘hard case’ from the insurance industry; and (5) conclude that our approach upholds and offers potential for both research and practical application.


action logic deontic epistemic insurance privacy software agents 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Agent Oriented Software-AOS, Pty. Ltd. (2004) JACK, url=
  2. Bratman, M.E. 1987Intention, Plans and Practical ReasoningHarvard University PressCambridgeGoogle Scholar
  3. J. Broersen, M. Dastani, Z. Huang, J. Hulstijn and L. van der Torre. The BOID architecture. In Proceedings of the Fifth International Conference on Autonomous Agents (Agents 2001). Montreal, 2001.Google Scholar
  4. Bynum, T.W., Moor, J.H. 1998The Digital PhoenixBlackwell PublishingOxfordGoogle Scholar
  5. Bynum, T.W., Moor, J.H. 2002CyberphilosophyBlackwell PublishingOxfordGoogle Scholar
  6. C. Castelfranchi and R. Conte. Understanding the Functions of Norms in Social Groups through Simulation, In N. Gilbert and R. Conte, editors, Artificial Societies, UCL Press, 1995.Google Scholar
  7. Danielson, P. 1992Artificial MoralityRoutledgeLondonGoogle Scholar
  8. Danielson, P. eds. 1998Modeling Rationality, Morality and EvolutionOxford University PressNew YorkGoogle Scholar
  9. M. Dastani, J. Hulstijn and L. van der Torre. The BOID Architecture: Conflicts between Beliefs, Obligations, Intentions and Desires, In Proceedings International Conference on Autonomous Agents, 2001a.Google Scholar
  10. M. Dastani, J. Hulstijn and L. van der Torre. BDI and QDT: A Comparison based on Classical Decision Theory, In Proceedings of GTDT2001, Stanford, 2001b.Google Scholar
  11. G. A. Governatori, Formal Approach to Negotiating Agents Development, In Electronic Commerce Research and Applications, 1 no. 2, 2002.Google Scholar
  12. S. Russell and P. Norvig, Artificial Intelligence, 2nd edition, Prentice Hall, 2003.Google Scholar
  13. Pollock, J.L. 1995Cognitive CarpentryMIT PressCambridgeGoogle Scholar
  14. Thagard, P. 1992Conceptual RevolutionsPrinceton University PressPrincetonGoogle Scholar
  15. J. Van den Hoven and G.-J. Lokhorst. Deontic Logic and Computer Supported Computer Ethics, In Bynum et al. editors, Cyberphilosophy, 2002.Google Scholar
  16. Walzer, M. 1983Spheres of JusticeBasic BooksNew YorkGoogle Scholar
  17. Wooldridge, M. 2000Reasoning about Rational AgentsMIT PressCambridgeGoogle Scholar
  18. Wooldridge, M. 2002MulitAgents SystemsJohn Wiley & SonsChichesterGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • V. Wiegel
    • 1
    Email author
  • M. J. Van den Hoven
    • 1
  • G. J. C. Lokhorst
    • 1
  1. 1.Faculty of Policy, Technology and ManagementTechnical University DelftDelftThe Netherlands

Personalised recommendations