Privacy is one of the fundamental human rights that need to be protected in whatever profession one is involved in (O’Brien & Chantler, 2003; Waldo, Lin & Millett, 2007). Respecting the clients’ rights is one of the ethical values that social workers uphold all the time (O’Brien & Chantler, 2003). In fact, social workers seek private information from clients in the circumstances that the information needed is to help in offering services or used for research purposes (Waldo et al., 2007).
In other words, private information is solicited only for important purposes. As such, social workers have to ensure that private information received from the clients is confidentially shared and kept within the professional context (Waldo et al., 2007). Ensuring that the clients’ private information is kept confidential is one of the core ethical functions of the social worker (Waldo et al., 2007).
The professional core principles require that the social worker keep the private information retrieved from the client indefinitely even after the social worker has ceased contact with the client. However, when the disclosure is greatly required particularly when the information required is needed to prevent serious foreseeable and imminent harm to the client or others the information can be disclosed (O’Brien & Chantler, 2003).
Nevertheless, keeping confidential information is influenced by various factors including the mode of electronic applications, accessibility, modern information and communication technology as well as the level of confidentiality of the information (O’Brien & Chantler, 2003). Essentially, current advances have a greater effect on the manner in which private information can be confidential. While the contributions of modern technology to daily applications are immense, information technology can also be applied invariably in such a way that it impedes the right of privacy of the information (O’Brien & Chantler, 2003).
The manner in which technology influences information poses a great threat to the individual right to privacy particularly the professions that directly deal with the protection of the individual right to privacy. In other words, technological advances have enabled access to information including classified data through the emphasis of free-flow of information (Waldo et al., 2007). In fact, it is through access and free-flow of information that the protection of individual privacy is threatened. Moreover, ethical issues also relate to the right of individuals to privacy, which is in effect is threatened by the new technological applications particularly in the manner in which private information is stored (Waldo et al., 2007).
As such, the study is critical in the understanding of the manner in which technological applications influence the storage, access as well as the processing of private information. Essentially, the study will be examining moral implications and challenges social workers face while applying modern technology in the processing of private information. In most cases, the applications of modern technology in the processing of private information have not been perceived as neutral (Waldo et al., 2007). The moral confines in which social workers operate in relation to ensuring the privacy of individuals are constantly being threatened by the new technological applications in the storage and processing of information (Waldo et al., 2007).
Waldo et al. (2007) assert that the current professional activities are information-based. In other words, all social, economic and political actions are influenced by information communication technologies. In fact, the main characteristics of the current information age are openness in relation to communication and the internationalization of the flow of data (Waldo et al., 2007). Even though technology has come with increased benefits including access to information, its applications also have limitations.
Ideally, the applications of modern technology have raised moral questions in relation to issues such as the right to privacy and the manner in which such rights can be upheld in situations where openness, accessibility and information flow are highly emphasized (Waldo et al., 2007). Within the precincts of the study, it is critical to explore the concepts of ethics, privacy as well as how modern technology affects these concepts and applied to the social work professional practices.
Ethics can be described as activities conducted within the criterion of what is obligated. In other words, ethical actions have to be morally acceptable or are within the acceptable values of the society (O’Brien & Chantler, 2003). Essentially, ethical actions correlate to wrong or right based on human actions. As such, social workers are obligated under the moral principles to uphold the privacy of individuals. However, social workers normally find themselves in the circumstances of ethical dilemmas particularly where two rights issues converge (O’Brien & Chantler, 2003).
The Concept of Technology in Social Work, Privacy and Confidentiality
When technology is applied within the standards of social work practice, it is described as the electronically arbitrated actions applied in the performance of aptitude and deliverance of social work services (Waldo et al., 2007). The upsurges of the application of modern technology have influenced every aspect of the social work profession at all levels.
In the social work practice, a number of discretion and confidentiality concerns are given greater focus. For example, clients’ right to privacy is critical. In other words, the social workers only seek essential confidential information that is imperative in the provision of services. Additionally, social workers only reveal confidential information to a client given the availability of legitimate consent from the client as well as an individual certified by law to sanction on behalf of the client (O’Brien & Chantler, 2003).
Social work practice also focuses on issues such as the revelation of private information to media agents, law enforcement agencies, protective service officials and collection agencies as well as social service organizations (Sewpaul & Jones, 2004). However, such release of private information must be within the precincts of core principles of social work
Confidentiality and privacy issues including disclosure of private data concerning nationality, race and substance abuse treatment, deceased clients as well as giving out private information regarding participants in the family, couples, marital status also receive considerable consideration in an ethics evaluation (O’Brien & Chantler, 2003).
One of the critical aspects of social work ethics is the assessment of policies and practices utilized in the revelation of private information. In other words, ethics assessments check the procedures applied when conveying information through mediums such as computers, electronic mails, facsimile machines, telephones as well as phone-related answering machines (O’Brien & Chantler, 2003). Further, an ethics appraisal gives greater attention to the practices and procedures used to guard confidential data regarding private information. Moreover, practices put in place to stop social workers from talking about private information in public areas and during legal proceedings form a critical component of social work ethics assessment (O’Brien & Chantler, 2003).
The evaluation of competencies of the utilized practices and procedures in updating clients and agencies about privacy matters indicates the manner in which technology influences the processes.
The major aim of the paper is to determine the extent to which modern technology affects the level of confidentiality of private information. However, the direct objectives of the study include
- To determine the type of modern technological applications are used in keeping private information
- To determine the influence of modern technological applications in ensuring the confidentiality of the information
- To determine the level at which modern technology influences how the social worker keeps private information
With the use of the above study objectives, the study will tend to answer the following questions
- What kind of new technological advances do social workers use to ensure the privacy of the information?
- To what extent do modern technological applications affect the confidentiality of the information?
- Do modern technological applications used in storing information ensure privacy?
The study will test the following hypothesis
- H1: New technological advancements have a positive influence on privacy and confidentiality in social work
- H0: New technological advancements have a negative influence on privacy and confidentiality in social work
The research study will be qualitatively conducted to establish the extent to which modern technological applications are used in the protection of private information. The empirical data will be collected within the specified number of participants. In addition, the number of participants will be limited to 20 respondents and will be chosen through simple random sampling procedures.
Besides, since the study is qualitative, the methods of data collection that will majorly be applied include surveys and interviews. The methods of data collection are chosen due to their effectiveness in reaching out to the respondents and the quality of the obtained data (Mason, 2005). Moreover, the data will be gathered from respondents selected through random sampling procedures. Besides, in terms of data analysis, qualitative data analysis methods including content data analysis will be applied (Mason, 2005). The analyzed data will be presented through the application of line graphs, tables as well as statistical bar charts. Further, the methods of data collection are chosen due to the reliability and validity of the obtained results (Mason, 2005).
Different measures will be applied particularly within the study questionnaires to establish the variability of some aspects of the study. For instance, diverse scales will be applied in the survey questionnaire during data collection to ensure the reliability and validity of research questions (Mason, 2005). However, in this study, the Likert scale will specifically be used. The Likert scale is chosen because the study is qualitative and some aspects of attitude measurements may be required. Further, the Likert scale is suitable since the respondents are given answers from extreme ends to choose the one they feel is the most suitable (Mason, 2005).
The advantage of the use of this measurement is that the findings will not only be on the respondents’ choices but also the strengths and emphasis with which they hold the opinion. Moreover, the form of measurements is advantageous during data analysis since the information can easily be categorized (Firebaugh, 2007).
The qualitative information needed for the study will be gathered from the social work students within the college. Therefore, all the social work students are deemed viable for the study. However, only a small number of participants including 20 students will be selected through random sampling procedures and depending on the frequency with which they have been engaged in the field and applying technology in their daily work processes (Firebaugh, 2007).
In addition, other personal attributes including gender, age, experience and academic qualifications will also be taken into consideration. From the total number of students that may be sampled, just 20 participants from the department will be selected via a technique dubbed as convenience simple random sampling strategy (Mason, 2005). Given the limitations of the study, twenty participants are expected to be the most suitable for the research. The interviews as well as a survey will be conducted to help in addressing the formulated research questions.
Data Collection Procedures
As one of the most important studies in social work practice, the information will be collected through administering properly designed survey questionnaires as well as conducting well-structured in-depth interviews to unbiased selected participants (Mason, 2005). The soundly designed survey and interview questionnaires will be administered to 20 participants constituting of majorly social work students.
Each part of the questionnaires will constitute key items that suitably attend to the research questions. For instance, part one will constitute the kinds of modern technological applications used by social workers to ensure private information are confidentially kept (Firebaugh, 2007). Other parts will generate insights amidst offering recommendations on the manner in which modern technology should be used to enhance the confidentiality of private information. Some items in the questionnaire will throw light on the increased application of modern technology in the daily working processes of the social worker.
Before the study is undertaken, the researcher will seek the consent of the respondents. In other words, the researcher will ensure that the participants take part in the study willingly without coercion or undue influence. In addition, the research will make sure that the participants in the research comprehend the rationale of the study, hazards and the prospective benefits of the study (Sewpaul & Jones, 2004).
Further, information concerning objectives, aims, significance and scope of the study will be provided to the participants in order to make informed choices about participating in the research. Moreover, the research will uphold the consent and privacy of participants during their entire participation in the research project. In fact, the consent forms will be provided to the participants on the onset to seek their consent prior to the collection of and access to information relating to the research project.
Data Analysis Plan
In order to present significant research findings, appropriate conclusions, and credible recommendations, the proposed investigative study on the effects of modern technological applications on the manner in which private information is kept will utilize qualitative data analysis techniques including content along with logical analysis techniques (Firebaugh, 2007). Moreover, the qualitative data will be analyzed and presented through the application of various models. Models such as transactional theory will be simplified and used to present the outcome of the study to the stakeholders (Firebaugh, 2007). The application of various models is to ensure that the study outcomes are practically comprehensible to the stakeholders. However, some of the data will be quantitative. Quantitative data analysis techniques will be used to determine the research respondents’ proportions that chose various responses. The method will be applied for each group of items available in the questionnaires that ideally corresponds to the formulated research question and objectives (Firebaugh, 2007). Line graphs, tables as well as statistical bar charts will be used to make sure that quantitative data analysis is simply comprehensible to the stakeholders.
Befits of the Research on the Study of Ethics Specific to Social Work Education and Practice
Adhering to moral principles is one of the fundamental duties in social work procedures. Actually, the study is critical in the understanding of the manner in which technological applications influence the storage, access as well as the processing of private information (Sewpaul & Jones, 2004). As such, the study will enable the creation and augmentation of the fundamental tenets that are significant in the enhancement of concerted work.
Accountability of the social work practitioners in terms of private information will be another gain that arises from the study (Sewpaul & Jones, 2004). For example, rules governing study misconduct, conflicts of interest, guidelines for authorship, copyright and patenting policies as well as confidentiality rules are essential in making sure that social work practitioners are held liable to the manner in which they utilize private information amid advances in technology. Through the study, moral gaps that can cause impairment and violation of private rights will be significantly prevented. Essentially, failure to abide by regulations concerning private information that puts to risk the safety of individuals will be circumvented by the study (Sewpaul & Jones, 2004).
The study will enable researchers and practitioners in the profession to strive to uphold the confidentiality and privacy of individuals as well as honesty in the reporting of data and results. The study will also enable the prevention of prejudice in experimental designs, analysis and interpretation of data (Sewpaul & Jones, 2004). Besides, the study will aid social workers to preserve private information including papers, personnel records, trade secrets as well as the records of clients. Moreover, the proposed research will promote responsible publication in research through the evasion of duplicative publication.
I, the signatory, sanction that I will participate in the research study. The researcher has explained the justification and the nature of the research in writing to me visibly.
This is to confirm that
- I have read and comprehended the data concerning the research project
- I come to an agreement to participate in the research project voluntarily
- I comprehend that I am capable of withdrawing from the study without repercussions prior to the commencement or during the study
- The techniques and processes concerning issues of confidentiality including the utilization of names, pseudonyms and anonymity of data have been clarified to me visibly
- The terms of consent for interviews and other methods of data collection have been elucidated to me clearly
- I understand that the use of concealed excerpts from my interview will be cited in research, publications and archives if I give authorization further down
Kindly tick box as suitable
- I approve to the publication of citations from my interview
- I disagree with the quotation of excerpts from my interview
Select one only
- I agree that my name be used in this study so that my inputs in this research □
- I do not want my name to be used in this research □
The researcher and I have approved to sign and date this informed consent form
Name of the Participant Signature Date
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…………………….…… ………………… ………………………
Name or Researcher Signature Date.
Firebaugh, G. (2007). Replication data sets and favored-hypothesis bias. Sociological Methods & Research, 36(2), 200–209.
Mason, J. (2005). Designing qualitative research. Qualitative Research Methods, 6(4), 24-47.
O’Brien, J. & Chantler, C. (2003). Confidentiality and the duties of care. Journal of Medical Ethics, 29(3),36-40.
Sewpaul, V. & Jones, D. (2004). Global standards for social work education and training. Social Work Education, 23(5): 493 – 513.
Waldo, J., Lin , H., & Millett, L. (2007). Engaging privacy and information technology in a digital age. Journal of Medical Ethics, 87(1), 1320-1328.