Scandinavian Journal of Information Systems


Remote diagnostics technology is embedded into physical products in order to prevent breakdowns by monitoring the products’ condition via sensors. However, this technology also hides indirect possibilities to monitor the users. The aim of this paper is to explore how remote diagnostics technology changes surveillance and its ethical consequences by studying which surveillance dilemmas users and suppliers identify in remote diagnostics technology and the rationale behind their perspectives. The results show how visibility and non-visibility are of decisive importance concerning whether or not users can examine ethical dilemmas in computer use as visibility seems to be what triggers employees’ feelings of being monitored or not. Despite their monitoring possibilities, remote diagnostics systems do not seem to evoke such feelings. By embedding technology and thereby also the monitoring into physical things, both the technology and the cues of surveillance become concealed, both literally and virtually for the user. To the user the direct reminders of surveillance are thus embedded together with the technology, creating an embedded panopticon. As the users cannot examine possible ethical dilemmas the responsibility remains with the suppliers and challenges them to pick a strategy for how to handle ethical questions.