Society for Business Ethics 2008, Morning 2

Blogging live, again, as Day 2 begins, at the Annual Meeting of the Society for Business Ethics.

The first talk I heard was “Walking the Talk Matters to Boundary Spanners,” by Richard Mays Owen. Owen reported on a study he did about the relation between perceived ethical leadership and the attainment of short-term goals by employees. Very roughly, what Owen found is that, in a sales environment, attainment of short-term (30-day) sales quotas was positively correlated with salespersons’ perception that they worked within an workplace with values-based ethical culture (but not positively correlated with compliance-based ethical cultures).

Next, I heard “Ethics and Compliance Initiatives: A Holistic View for Deployment,” by Bob Krug, who talked (based on experience) about the complexities of and desiderata for implementing a corporate ethics/compliance program.

In the first talk of the second session, my friend Denis Arnold presented on “Occupational Safety and Coercion.” The key element of Denis’s talk was a claim about the morally required level of occupational risk-disclosure. Denis argued against a “reasonable person” standard, and in favour of what he called a Kantian conception, according to which an employer should reveal whatever information she herself would want if she were the employee.

Next was “Four Possible Factors in Unethical Marketing to Minors,” by Whiton Paine. Pain (himself a former marketing consultant) argued that much of what is wrong with marketing to kids is rooted in what he called “ethical insensitivity” (which he says comes from a combination of stupidity, ignorance, greed, and hubris).

Finally, I heard “Stakeholder Theory and Direct Child Marketing,” by Russell Fail. Fail talked about various gaps in the empirical research about (and in particular research about ethical perceptions about) marketing to children. One particularly interesting point: he noted that while there is controversy over using expert input from child psychologists to help market to children, there seems to be a lack of information about what child psychologists themselves think of their peers providing such expert input.

The last session of the morning featured 2 presentations about Facebook.

First was “Facebook, Lady Godiva, and Privacy Zones,” by Kirsten Martin. Martin spoke about Facebook’s controversial “Beacon” system (a system that takes information about certain on-line activities and posts it to your Facebook newsfeed, for all your friends to see). She used the Beacon case as a way to illustrate different aspects of privacy (e.g., the difference between collecting & controlling information, and the difference between access to, and use of, information). (p.s. here’s a link to a BusinessWeek story about this story: “Facebook CEO Admits Missteps.”

Finally, I heard “Generation Facebook and the Facebook Phenomenon: An Argument For a Heightened Duty of
Care,” by Tara Radin. She argued that Facebook results in exchange of excessive information and deterioration of face-to-face communication, along with facilitating stalking. Her boldest claim is that Facebook might be tortiously liable for the individual & social harms that she says result from Facebook.

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