Even if we were to aim for some sort of autonomy, such as a Faden and Beauchamp-satisfying sufficient level of understanding and autonomy for an autonomous action (see section 1.2.1), it would be particularly difficult to even define, let alone achieve. What would an autonomous action be defined as when using a computer? How can we test for sufficient levels of competence, and thus autonomy, when almost anyone can use and will expect to be able to use a computer? There is such a range of levels of computing ability amongst users, and an even wider range of tasks that computers can be used to complete that require different levels of user ability to control. Too many tasks require very specific knowledge and training to understand completely, and one could not expect to base informed consent principles on requiring a certain level of knowledge and understanding when these are unattainable practical goals. This, therefore, forces us to move away from using autonomy as a base justification due to the inability to attain the basic requirements for an autonomous action. Information technology needs a much more flexible theory of informed consent that can be easily tailored to meet the specific requirements of each situation. A general theory that relies on one value (autonomy, in this case) in particular for its justification is therefore not as suitable as one that can be adapted according to the needs of the parties involved in the consent decision process.
Thus rejecting autonomy for the basis for informed consent in information technology is justified. Manson and O'Neill's suggestion for moving towards using informed consent as a waiver of normative expectations is a feasible approach for IT, especially given the current climate of informed consent procedures (see Chapter 2): that of some disclosure with little to no feedback mechanisms, aimed purely at avoiding potential legal issues. It also helps to remove the focus from informed consent as being the value to be attained, instead allowing informed consent to be a mechanism by which rights to values (such as privacy) are waived or respected, which removes Brownsword's concern over ``fixation'' on informed consent in information technology.
Therefore, we should justify informed consent by appealing to the requirement of fulfilment of successful communicative transactions in order to waive legal, social, or other expected norms. It is important to note that, like Manson and O'Neill, I do not wish to set this theory out as general and all-encompassing and appropriate for every situation that might require informed consent in IT, but as a set of guidelines for consideration when establishing informed consent procedures in these situations. These guidelines, along with some examples, will be further elaborated on in section 3.2.3, and Chapter 4 will look at some applications of the theory in order to address some of the issues raised by the case studies of Chapter 2.