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Ethics of Information Management. (Book Review).

Almost every day there are newspaper reports of unethical and illegal business activity. Much of this activity covers new and uncharted terrain; more and more of it relates to records and information management. In fact, reports indicate that the fastest growing crime in America is identity theft. And in many ways our records are our identity.

Because of concerns about ethics in society, many books have been written about business ethics, but few deal directly with information management. One book written specifically for information professionals is Ethics of Information Management by Richard O. Mason, Florence M. Mason, and Mary J. Culnan. All three authors have extensive backgrounds in this topic through their teaching, research, and consulting. Because of new challenges and ethical dilemmas, this book can be valuable in helping to sharpen the ethical focus of anyone in an information-related job.

The authors state that the primary mission of this book is to "prepare the reader to identify moments of truth concerning information, to be able to think clearly about them, and to act ethically when they occur." To help achieve this mission, the authors have organized the book into three very logical parts: Part 1 provides the motivation and a conceptual background for the book as a whole; Part 2 focuses on fundamental concepts about ethics; and in Part 3 the concepts underlying information work and the need for ethics and ethical thinking among information professionals are applied.

Chapter 7, which begins Part 3, should be of special interest to records and information managers. The authors develop a model of an information professional, and they define the wide range of jobs that these professionals hold. Among the jobs listed are records managers, archivists, librarians, and information systems analysts. Because organizations are increasingly dependent on such people, the authors suggest that information workers assume a much more powerful and prominent societal role. They also think that along with this power comes a greater need for ethical responsibility; these people must agree to a stronger "professional covenant."

The ethical concepts of this book correlate closely to those of ARMA International as reflected in its Code of Professional Responsibility. The ARMA code has two major components: Social Principles and Professional Principles. The authors also believe that the responsibilities of information professionals fall into these broad categories: "collective social responsibilities and individual professional responsibilities." The authors give an insightful discussion of these five social responsibilities:

* Develop and maintain a body of knowledge

* Educate and train professionals

* Monitor and self-regulate practice and practitioners

* Set and monitor standards of acceptable practice

* Educate the public regarding acceptable practices

The authors also discuss items from a list of 16 individual professional responsibilities, including familiar ones such as safeguarding clients' and sources' privacy, protecting records, providing quality information, maintaining client confidentiality, and abiding by laws, contracts, and license agreements. All of these will be familiar to practitioners in records and information management.

The book offers valuable appendices, including one that gives examples of codes of ethics sponsored by a variety of professional organizations. Another provides a list of the various federal statutes that can have an impact on decisions of information professionals. Most of these statutes are also discussed in the context of interesting case situations found throughout the book. The authors reflect their extensive research with an excellent list of references.

The writing is interesting and clear, and the content provides many opportunities to raise awareness of the increasing challenges to ethical decision-making that information professionals must face each day. Ethics of Information Management is a book of value for any records and information manager. Although it may not be as valuable for a highly experienced person, it should be of considerable worth to new people entering this field and to mid-career professionals.

TITLE: Ethics of Information Management

AUTHORS: Richard O. Mason, Florence M. Mason, Mary J. Culnan

ISBN: 0-8039-5756-4

PUBLISHER: SAGE Publications Inc.

PUBLICATION DATE: 1995

LENGTH: 327 pages

PAPERBACK PRICE: $32.95

SOURCE: Any bookstore or order@sagepub.com

James C. Bennett, Ed. D., CRM, FAI, is a Professor in the College of Business and Economics at California State University, Northridge. He may be contacted at james.bennett@csun.edu.
COPYRIGHT 2001 Association of Records Managers & Administrators (ARMA)
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2001, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:Review; a SAGE Publications book
Author:Bennett, James C.
Publication:Information Management Journal
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Oct 1, 2001
Words:695
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