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Computers and Web Ethics, Essay Example

Pages: 1

Words: 903

Essay

Introduction

There is a need for computer security that covers both individual use of the internet and that of corporate use.  This covers a number of distinct areas like that of stealing copyright and credit for intellectual property, the right of privacy on e-mail, display of obscene imagery like that of pornography, deliberate misleading of the public, misuse of research material, stealing identity and credit information, improper commercial use of the network are but a few examples of potential abuse.  The argument is that we need a proper code of ethics and professional conduct for the use of the internet and a legal framework that enforces same. The challenge being that this is put in place without the infringement of civil liberties and right to personal freedom.

It is asserted that the majority of internet users would agree that there is a need to both prevent and restrict criminal behaviour or misuse of the internet for illegal purposes.  There is also a fringe area like the protection of children from abusive materials like pornography, misinformation and extreme graphical images of violence. This code of individual ethics is much harder to enforce and requires the co-operation of parents, manufacturers of computer software, schools and the internet search engine providers.   Certain countries like China have moved towards outright bans on information that they believe to be unsuitable for the masses i.e. political statements, certain imagery, materials they consider either invasive or divisive to Chinese culture.  This would be considered anti-democratic in the west but it has left a gap in terms of the command and control of the internet and rules governing same.

Web Ethics

The first canon of the medical profession is that of ‘do no harm’.  This might equally be well applied to the use of the internet and the computer software engineers, administrators and manufacturers that make the communications vehicle run.  Governance of the medical profession is tightly controlled by professional bodies throughout different international jurisdictions that prescribe to specific code of ethics and conduct for its members i.e. the licensing authorities to practice as a physician.  Breach of these rules may result in disciplinary committee hearings and subsequent fines or in more serious cases the revocation of your right to practice as a doctor (struck off the register).

The IT profession is somewhat more fragmented and does not have the degree of power or authority over the profession. This is because there are such a large number of practitioners that exist outside of the profession. There are bodies like the British Computer Society (BCS) that have Chartered IT Professionals and their members subscribe to a professional code of conduct governed by a Royal Charter. Equally in Canada the Canadian Information Processing Society (CIPS) confers the designation Certified IT professional and governs members in a similar fashion. Both bodies are institutional members of IP3P the world council of professional IT bodies covering some 92 country membership.  Hence the profession is moving slowly towards becoming a self-regulating body; however they have no direct control over the millions of people who exist outside the governance of these professional bodies.  “the international management of the internet should be transparent, multilateral and democratic with the involvement of governments, private sector and civil society” (Gunning).

The Computer Ethics Institute is making an attempt to place some jurisdiction and control over the use of computers and the internet.  “Computer ethics begin where the fingers meet the keyboard,” said Patrick Sullivan, executive director of CEI. “But ethics are more than a philosophical concern. They are directly relevant to managers and system operators, for whom computer technology presents ethical problems ranging from e-mail privacy and worker monitoring to employee use of corporate resources” (Computer Ethics Institute).

Criminal or Unethical Behaviour

Intellectual Property

Forwarding, replying or sharing a material without citing its source is called as plagiarism; same rule applies to information on the Internet. The original source of the information must be cited and due for his/her efforts. Websites for sharing files and application also provides material created from others, however, copyrights is used for downloads. On the other hand, downloading material that is not copyright is equal to a crime called theft in a digital form, as compare to a physical music store, where stealing a DVD copy is a physical theft (“Intellectual Property and e-Commerce.” 52-61). Moreover, the use of automation technology can monitor pornographic material for infringements without having to have a human look through the harmful content.

Deliberate Public Misinformation

Propaganda can be a powerful and persuasive means to convince people of a specific point of view. Even more so when the information is deliberately skewed with a precise objective in mind. It can also be used to promote racial hatred and incite violent behaviour. It can be used to put forward denials like that of the holocaust, used for recruitment campaigns for subversive or terrorist groups etc.  Amongst the most damaging is putting medical information that is either erroneous or deliberately misleading. The ethical implications being that less knowledgeable third world countries might access such information and act upon it thereby putting people’s lives at risk.  There is a need for people to understand what are considered to be reliable sources of information and some quality procedure put in place that endorses same.

Works Cited

Computer Ethics Institute. Introducing Ethics. 2004. http://www.theta.com/goodman/ethics.htm. 21 11 2012. “Intellectual Property and e-Commerce.” Country Commerce.Chile (2012): 52-61. Print.

Gunning, Jennifer. “Ethics, law, and society.” Ethics, law, and society, Vol 4 (2005). Asgate Publishing.

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