Ethics and Information Technology

, Volume 13, Issue 3, pp 199–226 | Cite as

A framework for the ethical impact assessment of information technology

  • David WrightEmail author


This paper proposes a framework for an ethical impact assessment which can be performed in regard to any policy, service, project or programme involving information technology. The framework is structured on the four principles posited by Beauchamp and Childress together with a separate section on privacy and data protection. The framework identifies key social values and ethical issues, provides some brief explanatory contextual information which is then followed by a set of questions aimed at the technology developer or policy-maker to facilitate consideration of ethical issues, in consultation with stakeholders, which may arise in their undertaking. In addition, the framework includes a set of ethical tools and procedural practices which can be employed as part of the ethical impact assessment. Although the framework has been developed within a European context, it could be applied equally well beyond European borders.


Ethical impact assessment Ethical issues Ethical tools Respect for autonomy Nonmaleficence Beneficence Justice 



The author acknowledges with thanks the thoughtful and detailed comments of the three anonymous reviewers as well as those of Guido van Steendam, professor of ethics at the University of Leuven, which have helped improve this paper. This paper is based in part on work undertaken by the author in two projects funded under the European Commission’s Seventh Framework Programme: SENIOR (Social Ethical and Privacy Needs in ICT for older People: a Dialogue Roadmap, grant agreement no. 216820) and PRESCIENT (Privacy and emerging fields of science and technology: Towards a common framework for privacy and ethical assessment, grant agreement no. 244779). The views in this paper are those of the author alone and are in no way intended to reflect those of the European Commission.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Trilateral Research and ConsultingLondonUK

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