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Computer Ethics

The power of the personal computer is no secret. PCs and the Internet are often connected to give us unprecedented tools for helping to improve businesses. But the power of the PC can be used for evil as well as good. Among the wrongdoers, you may be the person staring back at yourself each morning in the mirror. Most of us, most of the time, try to do the right thing, but with PCs, this can be easier said than done. Just because something isn’t illegal, it isn’t ethical, even if you don’t get caught, that doesn’t mean you are better off. Say you chatted on the computer when you were suppose to be working, you are unethically wasting money that you business give you to perform. With the introduction of the World Wide Web in 1990 it has catalyzed the expansion of the Internet, which is still growing today at unprecedented rates. Now many business corporations are using the Internet for marketing, communication, and productivity.

The recent growth of the Internet it has r! esulted not only in an increase in the amount of available knowledge, but in an increase in the problems inherent to its usage and distribution. It

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has become clear that traditional rules of conduct are not always applicable to this new medium, so new ethical codes are now being developed. According to Webster’s Dictionary ethics, “refer to the rules and standards governing the conduct of an individual with others”. As technology and computers became more and more a part of our everyday lives, we must understand that the problems that have always plagued businesses will continue to be a problem. Since the introduction of the World Wide Web into businesses, the definition of ethics has evolved. A new type of ethics known as computer ethics has emerged. Computer ethics is concerned with standards of conduct as they pertain to computers.

One ethical decision that has plagued business websites is that many domain names (www.walmart.com) are being attacked. Unethical people are buying and then selling the website to the highest bidder. For example, a man bought the name www.walmart.com and auctioned it off. Many people are purposely buying up company names and selling them to those companies at outrageous prices. President Clinton calls these people ‘Squatters’ and wants to pass a law forbidding them to buy up already existing company names. Also script kiddies, unethical people who deface websites, are attacking websites just for the fun. There are hacking websites which give these script kiddies programs that exploit the vulnerabilities. Some recent attacks on Microsoft have took down the website for hours or slowed the site down considerately. This has resulted in money lost or customer dissatisfaction. Checking email also has been introduced as an ethical decision. Many people have been tricked my e-mail scam, claiming that they will make you a millionaire. It is the same sort of pyramid scheme that exists over telephone or mail, but no laws covered it for a while.

Also, many email chain letters have allowed urban legends to spread at an accelerated rate and created alarm over hoaxes concerning many food and drug products. These emails only bog down email systems and servers. A term called piracy is hitting the street of America now the Internet is so available. Many people are taking the advantage of program called Napster, MIRC and Scour. These program are file-sharing program that people us to get expensive music or software. Now for works made available over a communications network (such as the Internet), the copyright protection laws are questioned. It is not ethical for a business to use software that they did not pay for or install a program that only have licen! se on more than one computer. This, of course, applies only to those who wish to obtain the copyright. But just as limitations exist with all software, only some programs can be distributed freely. Although these exceptions to the rules make things more difficult, everything described until now probably seems relatively simple.

The above discussion, however, is just an over-simplified explanation of the relationship between copyright laws and computers. With the increasing popularity of computers and the growth of the Internet, matters have of late become more complex. New situations arise daily, and these are often unprecedented. That is, they are indeed so new, that the copyright laws currently available are not adequate to deal with them. Traditional copyright laws often seem outdated in the ever-changing technological world. Because the copyright laws that are currently available do not clearly enough define what should be done in such cases, controversy is often the result. The most controversial areas in Internet cases nowadays seem to be those involving copyright laws. An issue that has become fundamental to computer usage and computer ethics, therefore, is copyr! ight. Copying is defined as the use of someone else’s intellectual property, and it is therefore illegal. Another aspect of computer ethics is online privacy. One is a need for protection for yourself.

Business workers online has been a problem, with people chatting with new ‘friends’ online and sometimes even threatening them. The second is a need to protect your data from strangers. All these unethical decisions hurt a business. There are three levels of online privacy provided by systems administrators (admin), like the guy in the back room at school or system monitors. The first is Complete Privacy. Here, the admin agrees not to read any of your e-mail or keep track of where you go on the web in any way. This obviously allows the most privacy, but often creates a liability to admins and Internet Service Providers (ISP). The second level is Almost Complete Privacy. Here admins will look at your e-mails and chats if they suspect any sort of illegal activity. The third level is No Privacy. Now is it ethical for a company violate us? Well yes, because the computer equipment that we are using is there’s, so it is out of our hands. Censorship, has to be one of the biggest ethical decisions. Every since porn hit the Internet, censorship has been the talk to the Internet.

The crux of the argument for Internet regulation are the children, but now business workers are distracted but this smut. The protection of business is the focus of those who favor regulating the Internet. These people claim that there workers are being distracted by accidental exposure to pornography and other sundry things to be found on the information superhighway. Fortunately for regulation advocates, pornography on the Internet does not just happen, a person must go out and look for it. It’s very difficult to happen upon it accidentally. This is bad news for those forces who would have the public believe that pornography is at every turn on the Internet. The so called anti-smut software is now being distributed among many homes with children.

These programs are advertised to be able to block site which are objectionable. The browser software that view these sites use is one of searching each document for offending words and blocking access to those offending sites. It does not take into account the context in which those words are contained. The software that is currently available is not sophisticated enough to perform at the level advertised or intended. The US Senate Commerce Committee approved two Internet censorship bills on March 12. One would require schools and libraries and business corporations to use filtering software. Computers present us not only with vast new potential in technology, but also in ethics. Morality must play catch-up to technology that has leaped ahead.

Without a knowledge of computer ethics, you will not be fully equipped to enter the new world of information technology. Many corporations have fired their employees, because of chatting and offensive emails. Even though computers are helping business decisions they can also be a threat to productivity. Most employees now take an ethics course in computers to stop the frequent mishandling of the Internet. Knowledge of computer ethics is very important while using computers and should be considered in all business environments

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