In order to examine ethical issues, it is first necessary to define ethics. Today, we regard ethics as a “rational process founded on certain principles.” However, I believe a definition that is more applicable to this project is the ethical theory that existed in ancient Greece. There, ethics was the study of what was good for both the individual and society. We will look at some online issues and how they may be good and/or bad for society. Cyberethics is quite simply the study of ethics on the Internet.
“Ethics begins when elements within a moral system conflict.”
Cyberethics is often called as Information System Ethics. Information System ethics can be defined as “The study of moral, legal, ethical issues involving the use of information and communication technologies”
There are many unique challenges we face in this age of information. They stem from the nature of information itself. Information is the means through which the mind expands and increases its capacity to achieve its goals, often as the result of an input from another mind. Thus, information forms the intellectual capital from which human beings craft their lives and secure dignity.
However, the building of intellectual capital is vulnerable in many ways. For example, people’s intellectual capital is impaired whenever they lose their personal information without being compensated for it, when they are precluded access to information which is of value to them, when they have revealed information they hold intimate, or when they find out that the information upon which their living depends is in error. The social contract among people in the information age must deal with these threats to human dignity. The ethical issues involved are many and varied in Information System Ethics.
Ethics is required in information Systems to overcome the following ethical issues.
Privacy: What information about one’s self or one’s associations must a person reveal to others, under what conditions and with what safeguards? What things can people keep to themselves and not be forced to reveal to others?
Accuracy: Who is responsible for the authenticity, fidelity and accuracy of information? Similarly, who is to be held accountable for errors in information and how is the injured party to be made whole?
Property: Who owns information? What are the just and fair prices for its exchange? Who owns the channels, especially the airways, through which information is transmitted? How should access to this scarce resource be allocated?
Accessibility: What information does a person or an organization have a right or a privilege to obtain, under what conditions and with what safeguards?
Information System ethics explores and evaluates:
o the development of moral values in the information field,
o the creation of new power structures in the information field, information myths,
o hidden contradictions and intentionality’s in information theories and practices,
o the development of ethical conflicts in the information field. etc
Now let us take a look at privacy by the following examples. A few years ago, Florida lawmakers gave the go ahead to have monitors stationed in bathrooms at Tallahassee Community College to determine if the facilities were being underutilized. Students and faculty vehemently protested that the monitors violated their privacy. State officials said that the value of the information gained through the study was more important than the threat to privacy. Other issues like collection of private data of the users using internet by monitoring the traffic is strongly related to one’s policy as that information can be further used for illegal purposes. These types of privacy issues are needed to be addressed properly so that they should not exploit one’s freedom. One issue that I kept thinking about when I was constructing my Web page was whether it was ethical to lift an image from someone’s home page and use it on my Web page without crediting the source. Such ethical issues come under property.
One reason that topics such as online gambling and pornography have become such firestorms of controversy in cyberspace is the simple fact that so many people have access to the Web sites. Simply put, if no one had access to online pornography no one would care. With this another issue “Censorship” comes which should be deal in efficient way as it is not easy to implement. Ethical issues can also be religious, moral or any other.These type of issues are not easy to deal with.
Similarly, let us take China into consideration on the issue of “Censorship”. China has implemented the methods of censoring the internet that are somewhat harder to bypass for people generally unfamiliar with the way internet works. There is ,for example internet censorship as implemented in China–using a list of banned words that are censored on the fly. As users in china request a webpage , the incoming page is first inspected by government servers n blocked if a banned term such as “Democracy” is present. Human censors are also actively looking at what people browse on the internet, and block websites as they see fit.
Crimes on internet are also increasing in a continuous manner.Computer crime is a general term that embraces such crimes as phishing, credit card frauds, bank robbery, Industrial espionage, child porn, kidnapping children via chat rooms, scams, cyber terrorism, viruses, spam and so on. All such crimes are computer related and facilitated crimes. Many recent cases seen like Microsoft’s website was brought down for a little time resulting in a huge loss to Microsoft. Similarly, NUST, one of the best considered university in Pakistan got Hacked and redirected to another domain. Credit card fraud have grown in an increasingly manner. Leakage of Military information from internet is another internet crime. Software known as Google earth, which shows information about different places including military land or can lead to robbery planning, is becoming an ethical issue around the world. Many people protest against this leakage of information but still one can’t deny that it is one of the major enhancements in Information Technology.
The question about how to police these crimes has already been constructed, but this task is turning out to be an uphill battle. Since the first computer crime law, the Counterfeit Access Device and Computer Fraud and Abuse Act of 1984, the governments have been trying to track down and stop online criminals. The FBI of different countries have tried many programs and investigations in order to deter Internet crime, like creating an online crime registry for employers .The reality is that Internet criminals are rarely caught. One reason is that hackers will use one computer in one country to hack another computer in another country. And that criminal isn’t working alone. Loosely organized groups–which security experts call “Web gangs”–conduct much of the illegal activity online. The structure of Web gangs may be patterned on that of traditional organized crime, in which the members of the group may never come into contact with one another and may never be aware of who they are working for.
We live in an exciting time in history. The widespread availability of computers and Internet connections provides unprecedented opportunities to communicate and learn. Unfortunately, although most people use the Internet as a powerful and beneficial tool for communication and education, some individuals exploit the power of the Internet for criminal or terrorist purposes.
We can minimize the harm that such individuals do by learning ourselves, and teaching young people, how to use the Internet safely and responsibly. The term “cyberethics” refers to a code of safe and responsible behavior for the Internet community. Practicing good cyberethics involves understanding the risks of harmful and illegal behavior online and learning how to protect ourselves, and other Internet users, from such behavior. It also involves teaching young people, who may not realize the potential for harm to themselves and others, how to use the Internet safely and responsibly.