Business Ethics

Organizations and individuals in a given society are expected to behave or act in certain way. The actions and behaviors of individuals have the effect of determining if they are ethically correct in the society. However, the extent of determining if an action or a behavior is ethically correct can be subjective depending on the opinion and perception of the respondents (Crane and Matten 117). The potential of the judgment been subjective has seen a number of actions by individuals and organizations facing dilemma in determining the ethical action or behavior that should have been undertaken. One of the ethical dilemmas that has been experienced recently is the action of Edward Snowden in leaking classified information regarding the surveillance been undertaken by the National Security Agency and the CIA on personal communications. Accordingly, the ethical dilemma faced under the scenario has been discussed in the paper.

Moral Argument

The action by Snowden has received both praises and accusation from different quarters depending on their interest. The group arguing the action by Snowden was unethical cites individuals have a duty and an obligation to respect the privacy of the clients or organizations they serve. The argument is based on the deontological ethics theory, which provides an ethical behavior or act is determined by honesty, privacy, and gratitude. This ethics theory requires an individual to act within the binding and absolute rules in a given circumstance. The deontology ethics theory does not consider the consequence of the action on been right or wrong in determining if the action is morally correct (George 71). In contrast, the morality of an action is depends on the wrongness or rightness under the prevailing rules. Accordingly, the action by Snowden to leak the classified information against the wish of the National Security Agency (NSA) that has contracted was a violation of honesty, gratitude, and privacy under the deontology ethics theory (Shaw 76). Indeed, the action was against the espionage act that prohibits persons accessing classified information from leaking it to unauthorized persons or organs.

In contrast, the group arguing the action by Edward Snowden was ethical cites the good it promoted to the majority in the society. The rationale is based on the utilitarianism ethics theory, which holds the ethical action is the one that produces the greatest utility (Singer 182). Utility under the utilitarianism ethics theory implies the well-being of the respondents. Accordingly, the action by Snowden promoted the rights of the individual citizens of privacy against the government surveillance. The consequence of the action undertaken by Snowden under the utilitarianism ethics promoted the well-being of the American citizens by exposing the wrong the government was doing on its people. Furthermore, the supporters of Snowden action cite the virtue ethics that hold the action of an individual are the determinant of an ethical action (George 68). In this respect, the action by Snowden is seen as having been motivated by his character of promoting the rights of the citizens against wrongs been conducted by the government. Accordingly, the action by Snowden under the utilitarianism and the virtue ethics theories is ethically correct.

The diverse argument advanced by the differing groups demonstrates the controversy surrounding the action by Snowden. If Snowden had failed to reveal the wrongs the government was undertaking by intruding into the privacy of citizens without their consent, he would be blamed for failing to protect and promote the rights of the private citizens. On the other hand, his action is judged by people and organization opposed to his approach as unethical for compromising the security of the nation. This scenario demonstrates any of the action has a negative reaction from the different audiences. Accordingly, a balanced step would have been appropriate for Snowden to observe in ensuring his action is not judged unethically by the diverse interested groups. Thus, an alternative action that Snowden would have applied under the given scenario has been discussed.


Owing to the controversy surrounding the action undertaken by Edward Snowden, the alternative action that he should have employed is seeking a legal approval from a court of law to release the information for public good. The action to seek a legal approval would have been ethical under the deontology, virtue, and the utilitarianism ethics theories. The action would be ethical under the deontology theory because it will within the laws of America. Thus, the revelation of the classified information will not be contempt, dishonesty, and infringement of the client’s privacy which will be unethical. Similarly, the action will be ethical under the utilitarianism ethics theory because it will generate the best result to the country. The court has the potential of giving a guideline on the release of the classified information in way it will not compromise the public security while ensuring the public is adequately informed.

In contrast, the leakage approach employed by Snowden has been cited for compromising the security of the country by exposing the security strategy to the enemies. Furthermore, the extent of seeking a legal approval will demonstrate Snowden to be ethically oriented under the virtue ethics theory due his character of following the law in promoting the well-being of the people. Snowden will be viewed to acting in good faith by seeking the approval of the court to inform the public on the wrongs been done by the government against their rights (Henn 17). Consequently, Snowden will not receive negative comments from the government defenders and security analysts for hurting the security interests of the country. In contrast, he will receive commendations from the country for protecting the civil rights of the people.


An action undertaken by an individual or an entity has the potential of receiving diverse judgment depending on the morality understanding of the respondents. Even though the action could be right, it might be reflected to unethical due to its consequence to different people in the society. The action by Snowden of whistle blowing the wrongs conducted by the government against its own people is permissible in a society but controversial due to the diverse interpretation of moral values under the ethics theories. The action is permissible because it ensures the privacy of the citizens is protected. In contrast, the action is viewed to be immoral for been conducted in dishonesty of the government agency that contracted him to formulate a system to check the communication of citizens. Consequently, an alternative of seeking a legal approval from the court of law would have ensured the situation is ethically balanced. The approach would have been ethically balanced it would be done in good faith and honestly while ensuring are informed adequately find more details in this business ethics essay.

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