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Computer Ethics

Computer Ethics Abstract The computer is considered one of the most technological advances of the twentieth century. As the general public becomes increasingly computer literate,’ the gap between technology and peoples’ intellect notably shrinks. The readily available computers, software, and assorted output devices have enlightened many but, in turn, have increased the using of computers for unethical activities, privacy invasion and illegal purposes. Legal sanctions against abusive use of computers are a reactive approach. A proactive approach is to teach students about computer ethics in classrooms.

An effective teaching method are the presentation of ethical scenarios. It is anticipated that through this method, students will personalize the need for developing ethical standards of behavior. The ultimate goal is for students, if necessary, to change their set of personal beliefs to include ethics. INTRODUCTION The computer is considered one of the most important technological advances of the twentieth century. Security and privacy issues have been in existence long before the computer became a vital component of organizations’ operations. Nevertheless, the operating features of a computer make it a double-edged sword.

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Computer technologies with reliable error detection and recording capabilities, permit the invasion of a supposedly secure environment to occur on a grand scale and go undetected. Furthermore, computer and communications technology permit the invasion of a persons’ privacy and likewise go undetected. Two forces threaten privacy: one, the growth of information technology with its enhanced capacity for surveillance, communication, computation, storage and retrieval and two, the more insidious threat, the increased value of information in decision making. Information has become more vital in the competitive environment, thus, decision makers covet it even if it viol! ates another’s privacy. Violation of ones personal privacy, via computers, may in part be due to the incomplete understanding of responsibility on the part of those involved.

Is it a management or a technical concern? Ethical standards that evolved over the history of Western civilization deal with interpersonal relationships. What is right or wrong? What one should do and not do when dealing with other people. Ethical behavior in a business environment has not been as clearly defined. When businesses were small and the property of a few individuals, traditional ethical standards were applied to meet different situations. However, as businesses became larger, the interpersonal ethical relations did not provide any clear behavioral guidelines.

Likewise, the principles of ethical relationships were even less pertinent to the corporate environments. Recently, there has been an increased interest in ethical standards for computer professionals using computers. This concern is heightened by the current focus on the people side’ of computer security. Is it a violation of copyright laws to copy software? Is this as serious as stealing’ data or illegally infiltrating and viewing data in a computer database? NEEDS ASSESSMENT As the general public becomes increasingly computer literate’, the gap between technology and people’s intellect noticeably shrinks. Computer systems are no longer composed of one large, simple, straightforward batch-oriented computer.

They are now integrated real-time query-based currently available computers, software, and assorted output devices have enlightened many. The danger is now more apparent that computer abuse will soon increase dramatically if it is not curtailed by legal sanctions and if people do not adapt some code of ethic. Sometimes people employ ethics when it is convenient and to their advantage. At other times they set any ethical standards aside by rationalizing that there is a greater good that should be considered. Unfortunately ethical behavior is not part of the law of nature, but part of a person’s set of beliefs and behavior.

An important aspect of computer users’ ethical abuse includes the privacy question. Why exactly is a person’s privacy important? There is no simple answer to this question, as long as people have concerns and commitments that may be harmed by personal disclosures. 1. There are several reasons why medical records should be kept private, having to do with the consequences to individuals that facts concerning them becoming public knowledge. The average patient does not realize the importance of the confidentiality of medical records. Passing out information on venereal disease can wreck a marriage.

Revealing a pattern of alcoholism or drug abuse can result in a person losing his job or make it impossible for the person to obtain insurance protection. 2. When people apply for credit they are often investigated, and the result is a fat file of information about them. Now there is something to be said in favor of such investigations. Organizations granting credit need to know if the credit applicants are financially reliable. The trouble is that all sorts of other information go into such data bases.

For example, it is possible that information exists about the applicant’s organization membership, political views, and so forth. Clearly it is unfair for one’s application for credit to be influenced by such irrelevant matters. We live in an information-based society. More and more institutions are collecting more and more data about more and more people and more and more of their activities. Every time you get on an airplane, rent a car, apply for a job, registering an educational institution, you invariably cause a file to be created. You may also become another entry on an existing file.

These are not transient files since most of them are permanent or periodically modified. These types of files can be used to relate you to others and infer conclusions such as: Who are you traveling with? Have you rented a car through this agency before and where did it occur? Who else registered with you? There can be many other implications. “I like to think of it as a variant on Parkinson’s Law. Namely, any institution that gets a computer inevitably figures out ways to fill the capacity of that computer. And when it’s filled to the capacity of that computer, like in Parkinson’s Law, it goes out and gets itself another computer.” What is the solution to this increasing penetration by computers that violate security and invade a person’s privacy? Are laws and legal sanctions the only resolution? The paramount problem with relying on legal sanctions to protect information and punish violators are that they are reactive approaches.

A proactive approach is teaching students about the need for ethical standards of behavior for computer professionals and users in classrooms. This may help assure that people who have an ethical code of behavior will not be tempted to illegally penetrate and copy data. ETHICAL ISSUES IN THE CLASSROOM The first issue is which students should be introduced to ethical standards of behavior when using computers. The second issue is when this exposure takes place. The need for clear ethical standards can penetrate one’s life and is a pertinent topic for discussion in all disciplines. However, this paper is concerned only with computer-related disciplines. Maybe the eighteen year old freshman in an introductory computer course can be exposed to ethical standards for computer users. Yet, the curriculum of this course covers many other important topics.

Upper level students majoring in computer information systems or computer science are a better group for developing a teaching method for instilling ethical standards of conduct when using computers. These topics can be taught as one computer-related course or included in the curriculum of another course. There are …

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