Recent work in natural language processing (NLP) has focused on ethical challenges such as understanding and mitigating bias in data and algorithms; identifying objectionable content like hate speech, stereotypes and offensive language; and building frameworks for better system design and data handling practices. However, there has been little discussion about the ethical foundations that underlie these efforts. In this work, we study one ethical theory, namely deontological ethics, from the perspective of NLP. In particular, we focus on the generalization principle and the respect for autonomy through informed consent. We provide four case studies to demonstrate how these principles can be used with NLP systems. We also recommend directions to avoid the ethical issues in these systems.