ZAMBIA ICT COLLEGE
IN CONJUCTION WITH
THE UNIVERSITY OF ZAMBIA
COURSE: SOCIAL AND ETHICAL ISSUES IN ICT
PROGRAM:BSC OF ICT WITH EDUCATION-ODL
ASSIGNMENT NO: TWO
DUE DTAE:31st August, 2018
LECTURERS NAME:MR. KAIRA
QUESTION: You are to research and investigate on the common social and ethical issues facing professionals in the field of information technology. Describe the background; then identify the social or ethical issues, problems, or questions that you think are important.
Information technology advancements have given people more power than ever before. Nowadays, most jobs involve using computers, with computer technology having penetrated all areas of education, business and industry. IT advancements without the presence of integrity and ethics are pushing users towards wane, and at the same time, the chance for unethical use increases. Incorrect usage of information technologies has been one of the biggest issues in the recent past. People in most developed countries love to use advanced technologies which is comparable to the level at which technology is advancing. Among the technologies in question, internet, computers and phones have been embraced in corners of the society making them quite popular and influential in these areas (Yaman, 2007).
The use of computers to process and store data and using the internet to have access to information have quickly become developing habits in society. Regardless of the fact that computer technology is used in most jobs that we do in business, education and industries, we must realize that IT advancements without integrity and regulations or ethics are driving users towards committing computer related crimes. These unethical activities cause harm to many individuals and society at large and computer misuse and abuse are likely to continue in the future if not critically put into consideration.
Consequently, the misuse of these rising technologies has created several ethical dilemmas which have led to ethical problems with regards to technology use. The most evident of all ethical problems include privacy of personal information in the virtual environment, accuracy of the information used, intellectual property rights and equal access rights (Moor, environemnt1985).
Computer ethics is a complex field to address because it is not based on solid rules that can be monitored. Al-A’ali argued that the main ethical issues related to IT are associated with hacking, privacy, software piracy and sex and dating as well as IT personnel work ethics.
Computer ethics is defined as principles with regards to the use of computers and IT. Ethics is a word which derived from a Greek word “Ethike”, which means Character. Although the Greek puts emphasis on character as the basis of ethics, our emphasis is however bordered on action. Our belief is that some actions are right or wrong regardless of their impact on character. One’s reputation is for being the kind of person who will continuously behave well, but good character is by no means our only concern with regards to what people should do. Investigations on computer ethics have predominantly been undertaken in developed countries. Today, however, increased use of information Technology has a huge impact on people, organizations, in both developed and developing countries. Computer ethics has been a major issue that emerged with increase in computer and information technology. Now, the question is that why is it so important that we treat an issue as an ethical issue? The basic idea is that ethical problems arise because they involve conflicts between different interests that cannot be resolved on the level of interests alone. To fully understand what is at stake; let us now take a preliminary look at certain ethical issues that arise as result of the use of ICT issues.
PRIVACY AND SECURITY
Privacy and security are one of the first critical topics involving the interface of individuals with Information Technology. The reason why these two topics behave as if they are connected is that in order for privacy to be possible in an online world, one need to ensure security first. A multi-million dollars question which we need to ask is that: What is the ethical basis for the right to privacy? And another question is that; exactly in what way does the use of IT impact or change the right to privacy? As end users of emerging technologies, we are ethically required to maintain security to meet the individual’s rights to privacy.
Privacy is simply the right of an individual. Meaning that it would be wrong for other people or institutions to compromise an individual’s privacy. According to Rawl’s work on justice (1999:2001), society should strive to ensure that limits are set in terms of dominion over the individual, as each and every person has the right to privacy. Each individual has the right to keep to himself or herself all issues not in the legitimate interest of the public. I will call this, “The right to privacy”. According to (Warren ; Brandeis, 1890), the current right to privacy becomes necessary because of the growth if mechanical reproduction of information. They consider the “right to be left alone” by the media: “Gossip has become a trade pursued with industry. They discuss in details the bad social consequences of newspaper gossip, and they feel that the law about defamation and slander does not properly protect individuals harm done by violation of privacy.
“According to Warren and Brandeis (1890)”, there are valid public interests that supersedes the Right to Privacy. The ethical issue is to provide guidelines for what legitimate public interests can supersede the right to Privacy. Warren and Brandeis suggest the following points: Individuals have the right to keep private any information not related to their performance of any public role, typically a role they have voluntarily assumed. Publication of otherwise private information is also permitted if necessary for ethical (or legal) reasons.
Warren and Brandeis (1890) take great care to distinguish the right to privacy from superficially similar social and legal considerations. For them, the right to privacy is different from protection against slander and defamation. Slander and defamation must be false and must injure a person’s reputation to be ethically wrong and legally actionable. The harm caused by violation of the right to privacy is different-There is still violation even if what is published is true and even if the persons reputation is not affected.
In order to to be clear on the issue of privacy and security, let us put into consideration the U.S defense Department’s use of data mining to combat terrorism. Concerns about privacy violations are the use of Radio Frequency identification devices and privacy issues with consolidating medical information. All of the two examples outlined are examples of ethical issues.
COPYRIGHT AND PIRACY
Copyright is said to be a legal right granted to the author of an original work which determines the condition under which their work can be used. The primary object of copyright is not to reward the labor of the author, but rather to promote the progress of Science and useful Arts. Copyright provides assurance to authors the right to their original expression, but encourages others to build feely upon the Idea and information conveyed by their work. In other words, copyright is believed to be an instance of the basic kind of ethical principle. “The Rational Basis of Ethics.” Cooperative benefits occur if people don’t break the social rule “not to copy” when it is to their own advantage. The question in the case of digital copying is how far the rule “not to copy” extends, and how to balance the property rights of the copyright owners with the public’s right to free exchange of ideas as the basis for social progress. Now, one amazing thing about copyright and privacy is that some times its difficult to really determine what is ethical and unethical. For example a scenario where a popular ISP offers online registration of which any user a with a modem can dial the Home link Network and register for internet services from their computer. What the users do not realize is that as part of registration, the ISP (Home Link) scans their users hard drives assessing their system for potential new software marketing opportunities. Consequently, its hard to determine whether ethical or unethical. However, regardless of how smart this may sound, the act is still unethical.
Intellectual honesty must be applied in all aspects of information technology. One of the most common intellectual property violations is software piracy which is said to be the unauthorized duplication of software. Software piracy falls under copyright protection which considers one of the most common unethical behaviors. Less common but more serious unethical behavior is using a software patent. A software patent is intended to prevent others from using some programming techniques such as analysis and design, source code and sometimes algorithms. A good example is a situation in which
DATING AND SEX
It is not immediately clear that the Internet has introduced any new ethical issues in the areas of dating and sex. The Internet enables ready access to sexual partners and dating. What is perhaps new to the end users of the technology is probably the availability of information at any location. Users in small towns and rural locations suddenly have the same availability of sexual partners as those in densely populated big cities. The other feature of e-mail and the Web that makes a difference for this issue is the lack of censorship on the Internet. In part, this is because of inherent Internet design features—no one has to go through a central computer to be on the Internet, and therefore, effective monitoring is impossible. China has attempted to censor the Internet, mainly preventing access to pages the government doesn’t like. One censorship device which is known as the Great Firewall of China, attempts to block certain proxy servers. By all accounts, the censorship has not been very effective and seems largely arbitrary (Wikipedia, 2004).
In its effects in this and related areas, IT (through the Internet) has been a powerful force in resuscitating the freedoms of the First Principle of Justice (Rawls, 1999). Privacy, freedom of speech, and freedom of association are enhanced by the ability to communicate freely with others at any location with a computer. The abuses of that freedom in sexual areas—notably child pornography and exploitation of children—seem well within the current capabilities of law enforcement to handle. And that is just as well, because, short of shutting down the Internet, there is not much more that can be done about it that is not already being done.
OTHER ETHICAL ISSUES
There are unethical issues which in most cases are not seriously put into consideration because people feel they have the right to use technology in their own way, as long as it does not bring harm to anybody. These unethical issues include:
Using company computers for non-profit activities, such as emailing friends, and using the company’s internet.
Copying company software the company has purchased to use at home for personal use.
Reading emails or files belonging to your fellow employees
Using company computer equipment for personal profit as well as monitoring subordinates activities on company computers.
Emailing potentially offensive jokes to fellow employees as long as they are sent to employees who will not feel offended by the jokes.
Marketing software containing minor bugs, without informing customers that the bugs exists.
Browsing confidential company computer files to obtain information such as your fellow employees’ salaries.
CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATIONS
The current study of social and ethical issues identified issues faced by professionals in the field of information technology. Issues identified include privacy and security, copyright, piracy, intellectual property and other ethical issues. Now it is important to realize that In order most businesses and individuals using IT tools greatly is dependent upon
Warren, S., & Brandeis, L. (1890). The right to privacy. Harvard Law Review. IV, 5, December 15.
D.B. Parker, Ethical conflicts in computer Science and technology. Arlington, Virginia: AFFIPS Press, 1979.
In Eldred vs. Ashcroft on copyright extension. Copyright and Piracy.