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Computer Ethics - Essay Example

Ethics Is a set of moral principles that govern the behavior of a group or Individual. Therefore, computer ethics is set of moral principles that regulate the use of computers. Some common issues of computer ethics include intellectual property rights (such as copyrighted electronic content), privacy concerns, and how computers affect society. For example, while it is easy to duplicate copyrighted electronic (or digital) content, computer ethics would suggest that it is wrong to do so without the author’s approval.

And while it may be possible to access someone’s personal information on a computer system, computer ethics would advise that such an action is unethical. As technology advances, computers continue to have a greater Impact on society. Therefore, computer ethics promotes the discussion of how much Influence computers should have In areas such as artificial Intelligence and human communication. As the world of computers evolves, computer ethics continues to create ethical standards that address new issues raised by new technologies.

FOUNDATION: To understand the foundation of computer ethics, it is important to look into the different schools of ethical theory. Each school of ethics influences a situation in a certain direction and pushes the final outcome of ethical theory. Relativism is the belief that there are no universal moral norms of right and wrong. In the school of relativistic ethical belief, ethicists divide it into two connected but different structures, subject (Moral) and culture (Anthropological).

Moral relativism is the idea that each person decides what is right and wrong for them. Anthropological relativism Is the concept of right and wrong Is decided by a society’s actual moral belief structure. Demonology Is the belief that people’s actions are to be guided by oral laws, and that these moral laws are universal. The origins of Deontological Ethics are generally attributed to the German philosopher Emmanuel Kant and his ethical school of thought to apply to all rational beings, they must have a foundation in reason.

Kant split this school into two categorical imperatives. The first categorical imperative states to act only from moral rules that you can at the same time will to be universal moral laws. The second categorical imperative states to act so that you always treat both yourself and other people as ends in themselves, and never only as means to an end. Utilitarianism is the belief that if an action is good it benefits someone and an action is bad if it harms someone.

This ethical belief can be broken down into two different schools, Act Utilitarianism and Rule Utilitarianism. Act Utilitarianism is the belief that an action is good if its overall effect is to produce more happiness than unhappiness. Rule Utilitarianism is the belief that we should adopt a moral rule and if followed by everybody, would lead to a greater level of overall happiness. Social contract is the concept that for a society to arise and maintain order, a morality based set of rules must be agreed upon.

Social contract theory has influenced modern government and is heavily involved with societal law. Philosophers like John Rails, Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau helped created the foundation of social contract. Virtue Ethics is the belief that ethics should be more concerned with the character of the moral agent (virtue), rather than focusing on a set of rules dictating right and wrong actions, as in the cases of demonology and utilitarianism, or a focus on social context, such as is seen with Social Contract ethics.

Although concern for virtue appears in several philosophical traditions, in the West the roots of the tradition lie in the work of Plato and Aristotle, and even today the tradition’s key concepts derive from ancient Greek philosophy. The conceptual foundations of computer ethics are investigated by information ethics, a branch of philosophical ethics established by Lucian Florid’. The term computer ethics was first coined by Dry. Walter Manner, a professor at Boston University. Since the sass the field has started being integrated into professional development programs in academic settings.

HISTORY: The concept of computer ethics originated in 1950 when Norte Wiener, an MIT professor and inventor of an information feedback system called “cybernetics”, published a book called “The Human Use of Human Beings” which laid out the basic foundations of computer ethics and made Norte Wiener the father of computer ethics. Later on, in 1966 another MIT professor by the name of Joseph Whizz-bang published a simple program called ELISE which performed natural language processing.

In essence, the program functioned like a psychotherapist where the program only used open ended questions to encourage patients to respond. The program would apply pattern matching pattern rules to human statements to figure out its reply. A bit later during the same year the world’s first computer crime was committed. A programmer was able to use a bit of computer code to stop his banking account from being flagged as overdrawn. However, there make sure another person did not follow suit, an ethics code for computers was needed.

Sometime further into the sass Don Parker, who was an author on computer crimes, led to the development of the first code of ethics in the field of computer technology. In 1970, a medical teacher and researcher, by the name of Walter Manner noticed that ethical decisions are much harder to make when computers are added. He noticed a need for a different branch of ethics for when it came to dealing with computers. The term “Computer ethics” was thus invented.

During the same year, the ACM (Association of Computing Machinery) decided to adopt a professional code of ethics due to which, by the middle of the sass new privacy and computer crime laws had been put in place in United States as well as Europe. In the year 1976 Joseph Whizz-bang made his second significant addition to the field of computer ethics. He published a book titled “Computer power and Human reason” which talked about how artificial intelligence is good for the world; however it should never be allowed to make the most important decisions as it does not have human qualities such as wisdom.

By far the most important point he makes in the book is the distinction between choosing and deciding. He argued that deciding is a computational activity while making choices is not and thus the ability to make choices is what makes us humans. At a later time during the same year Babe Monstrosity, a professor of Computer Science at the City College of New York, published an article titled “On approaches to the study of social issues in computing”. This article identified and analyzed technical and non-technical biases in research on social issues present in computing.

During 1978, the Right to Federal Privacy Act was adopted and this drastically limited the government’s ability to search bank records. During the same year Terrible Ward Benumb, the professor of Philosophy at Southern Connecticut State University as well as Director of the Research Center on Computing and Society there, developed the first ever curriculum for a university course on computer ethics. To make sure he kept the interests of students alive in computer ethics, he launched an essay contest where the subject students had to write about was computer ethics.

In 1985, he published a Journal titled “Entitled Computers and Ethics”, which turned out to be his most famous publication to date. In 1984, the Small Business Computer Security and Education act was adopted and this act basically informed the congress on matters that were related to computer crimes against small businesses. In 1985, James Moor, Professor of Philosophy at DartMouth College in New Hampshire, published an essay called What is Computer Ethics”.

In this essay Moor states the computer ethics includes the following: “(1) identification of computer-generated policy vacuums, (2) clarification of conceptual muddles, (3) formulation of policies for the use of computer technology, and (4) ethical Justification of such policies. ” During the same year, Deborah Johnson, Professor of Applied Ethics and Chair of the Department of Science, Technology, and Society in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences of the University of Virginia, got the first major computer ethics textbook published.

It didn’t Just become the standard setting textbook for computer ethics, but also set up the research agenda for the next 10 years. In 1988, a librarian at SST. Cloud University by the name of Robert Huffman, came up with “information ethics”, a term that was Near the same time, the Computer Matching and Privacy Act was adopted and this act restricted the government to programs and identifying debtors. The sass was the time when computers were reaching their pinnacle and the combination of computers with telecommunication, the internet, and other media meant that many new ethical issues were raised.

In the year 1992, ACM adopted a new set of ethical rules called “ACM code of Ethics and Professional Conduct” which consisted of 24 statements of personal responsibility. 3 years later in 1995, Gordian Cassocks, a Professor of Philosophy at Southern Connecticut State University, Coordinator of the Religious Studies Program, as well as a Senior Research Associate in the Research Center on Computing and Society, came up with the idea that computer ethics will eventually become a global ethical system and soon after, computer ethics would replace ethics altogether as it would become the standard ethics of the information GE.

In 1999, Deborah Johnson revealed her view, which was quite contrary to Cassock’s belief, and stated that computer ethics will not evolve but rather be our old ethics with a slight twist. CHAPTER 2: CODES OF ETHICS IN COMPUTER Information Technology managers are required to establish a set of ethical standards common to their organization. There are many examples of ethical code currently published that can be tailored to fit any organization. Code of ethics is an instrument that establishes a common ethical framework for a large group of people.

Four well now examples of Code of Ethics for IT professionals are listed below: RFC 1087: In January 1989, the Internet Architecture Board (BIB) in RFC 1087 defines an activity as unethical and unacceptable if it: 1 . Seeks to gain unauthorized access to the resources of the Internet. 2. Disrupts the intended use of the Internet. Destroys the integrity of computer-based information, or 5. Compromises the privacy of users (RFC 1087, 1989). The Code of Fair Information Practices: The Code of Fair Information Practices is based on five principles outlining the requirements for records keeping systems.

This requirement was implemented in 1973 by the U. S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare. 1. There must be no personal data record-keeping systems whose very existence is secret. 2. There must be a way for a person to find out what information about the person is in a record and how it is used. 3. There must be a way for a person to prevent information about the person that was obtained for one purpose from being used or made available for other purposes without the person’s consent. 4.

There must be a way for a person to correct or amend a record of identifiable information about the person. 5. Any organization creating, maintaining, using, or disseminating records of identifiable personal data must assure the reliability of the data for their intended use and must take precautions to prevent misuses of the data (Harris, 2003) Ten Commandments of Computer Ethics: The ethical values as defined in 1992 by the Computer Ethics Institute; a nonprofit organization whose mission is to advance technology by ethical means, lists these rules as a guide to computer ethics: 1 .

Thou shall not use a computer to harm other people. 2. Thou shall not interfere with other people’s computer work. 3. Thou shall not novo around in other people’s computer files. 4. Thou shall not use a computer to steal. 5. Thou shall not use a computer to bear false witness. 6. Thou shall not copy or use proprietary software for which you have not paid. 7. Thou shall not use other people’s computer resources without authorization or proper compensation. 8. Thou shall not appropriate other people’s intellectual output. . Thou shall think about the social consequences of the program you are writing or the system you are designing. 10. Thou shall always use a computer in ways that ensure consideration and respect for your fellow humans (Computer Ethics Institute, 1992). (SIS)2 code of Ethics: (SIS)2 an organization committed to certification of computer security professional has further defined its own Code of Ethics generally as: 1 . Act honestly, Justly, responsibly, and legally, and protecting the commonwealth. 2.

Work diligently and provide competent services and advance the security profession. 3. Encourage the growth of research – teach, mentor, and value the certification. 4. Discourage unsafe practices, and preserve and strengthen the integrity of public infrastructures. 5. Observe and abide by all contracts, expressed or implied, and give prudent advice. . Only those Jobs you are qualified to perform. 7. Stay current on skills, and do not become involved with activities that could injure the reputation of other security professionals (Harris, 2003).

CHAPTER NO 3: EXAMPLES IN COMPUTER ETHICS No matter which re-definition of computer ethics one chooses, the best way to understand the nature of the field is through some representative examples of the issues and problems that have attracted research and scholarship. Consider, for example, the following topics: Computers in the Workplace: As a “universal tool” that can, in principle, perform almost any task, computers obviously pose a threat to Jobs.

Although they occasionally need repair, computers don’t require sleep, they don’t get tired, they don’t go home ill or take time off for rest and relaxation. At the same time, computers are often far more efficient than humans in performing many tasks. Therefore, economic incentives to replace humans with computerized devices are very high. Indeed, in the industrialized world many workers already have been replaced by computerized devices- bank tellers, auto workers, telephone operators, typists, graphic artists, security guards, assembly- line workers, and on and on.

In addition, even professionals like medical doctors, lawyers, teachers, accountants and psychologists are finding that computers can perform many of their traditional professional duties quite effectively. The employment outlook, however, is not all bad. Consider, for example, the fact that the computer industry already has generated a wide variety of new Jobs: hardware engineers, software engineers, systems analysts, webmasters, information technology computer-generated unemployment will be an important social problem; but in the long run, information technology will create many more Jobs than it eliminates.

Even when a Job is not eliminated by computers, it can be radically altered. For example, airline pilots still sit at the controls of commercial airplanes; but during much of a flight the pilot simply watches as a computer flies the plane. Similarly, those who prepare food in restaurants or make products in factories may still have Jobs; but often they simply push buttons and watch as computerized devices actually perform the needed tasks.

In this way, it is possible for computers to cause “De-killing” of workers, turning them into passive observers and button pushers. Again, however, he picture is not all bad because computers also have generated new Jobs which require new sophisticated skills to perform- for example, “computer assisted drafting” and “keyhole” surgery. Computer Crime In this era of computer “viruses” and international spying by “hackers” who are thousands of miles away, it is clear that computer security is a topic of concern in the field of Computer Ethics.

The problem is not so much the physical security of the hardware, but rather “logical security’, which Scaffold, Happy and Breaches divide into five aspects: 1. Privacy and confidentiality 2. Integrity- assuring that data and programs are not modified without proper authority 3. Unimpaired service 4. Consistency- ensuring that the data and behavior we see today will be the same tomorrow 5. Controlling access to resources Malicious kinds of software, or “programmed threats”, provide a significant challenge to computer security.

These include “viruses”, which cannot run on their own, but rather are inserted into other computer programs; “worms” which can move from machine to machine across networks, and may have parts of themselves running on different machines; “Trojan horses” which appear to be one sort of program, but actually are doing damage behind the scenes; “logic bombs” which check for particular conditions and then execute when those conditions arise; and “bacteria” or “rabbits” which multiply rapidly and fill up the computer’s memory.

Computer crimes, such as embezzlement or planting of logic bombs, are normally committed by trusted personnel who have permission to use the computer system. Computer security, therefore, must also be concerned with the actions of trusted computer users. Privacy and Anonymity: One of the earliest computer ethics topics to arouse public interest was privacy. For example, in the mid-sass the American government already had created large databases of information about private citizens.

In the US Congress, bills were introduced to assign a personal identification number to every citizen and then gather all the government’s data about each citizen under the corresponding ID number. A public outcry about “big-brother government” caused Congress to scrap this plan and led the US President to appoint committees to recommend privacy legislation. In the early sass, major computer privacy laws were passed in the USA. Ever since then, computer-threatened privacy has remained as a topic of public once.

The ease and efficiency with which computers and computer networks can be used to gather, store, search, compare, retrieve and share personal information various kinds of “sensitive” information (e. G. , medical records) out of the public domain or out of the hands of those who are perceived as potential threats. During the past decade, centralization and rapid growth of the internet; the rise of the world-wide-web; increasing “user-friendliness” and processing power of computers; and decreasing costs of computer technology have led to new privacy issues, such as ATA-mining, data matching, recording of “click trails” on the web, and so on.

Questions of anonymity on the internet are sometimes discussed in the same context with questions of privacy and the internet, because anonymity can provide many of the same benefits as privacy. For example, if someone is using the internet to obtain medical or psychological counseling, or to discuss sensitive topics, anonymity can afford protection similar to that of privacy. Similarly, both anonymity and privacy on the internet can be helpful in preserving human values such as security, mental lath, self-fulfillment and peace of mind.

Unfortunately, privacy and anonymity also can be exploited to facilitate unwanted and undesirable computer-aided activities in cyberspace, such as money laundering, drug trading, terrorism, or preying upon the vulnerable. Intellectual Property: One of the more controversial areas of computer ethics concerns the intellectual property rights connected with software ownership. Some people, like Richard Stableman who started the Free Software Foundation, believe that software ownership should not be allowed at all.

He claims that all information should be free, and all orgasm should be available for copying, studying and modifying by anyone who wishes to do so. Others argue that software companies or programmers would not invest weeks and months of work and significant funds in the development of software if they could not get the investment back in the form of license fees or sales. Today’s software industry is a multimillion dollar part of the economy; and software companies claim to lose billions of dollars per year through illegal copying.

Many people think that software should be own able, but “casual copying” of personally wend programs for one’s friends should also be permitted. The software industry claims that millions of dollars in sales are lost because of such copying. Ownership is a complex matter, since there are several different aspects of software that can be owned and three different types of ownership: copyrights, trade secrets, and patents. A very controversial issue today owns a patent on a computer algorithm.

A patent provides an exclusive monopoly on the use of the patented item, so the owner of an algorithm can deny others use of the mathematical formulas that are part of the algorithm. Mathematicians and scientists are outraged, claiming that algorithm patents effectively remove parts of mathematics from the public domain, and thereby threaten to cripple science. In addition, running a preliminary “patent search” to make sure that your “new’ program does not violate anyone’s software patent is a costly and time-consuming process.

As a result, only very large companies with big budgets can afford to run such a search. This effectively eliminates many small software companies, stifling competition and decreasing the variety of programs available to the society. Professional Responsibility: Computer professionals have specialized knowledge and often have positions with authority and respect in the community. For this reason, they are able to have a Along with such power to change the world comes the duty to exercise that power responsibly.

Computer professionals find themselves in a variety of professional relationships with other people including: 1 . Employer- employee 2. Client- professional 3. Professional-professional 4. Society- professional. These relationships involve a diversity of interests, and sometimes these interests can come into conflict with each other. Responsible computer professionals, therefore, will be aware of possible conflicts of interest and try to avoid them.

Professional organizations in the USA, like the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE), have established codes of ethics, curriculum guidelines and accreditation requirements to help computer professionals understand and manage ethical responsibilities. For example, in 1991 a Joint Curriculum Task Force of the ACM and IEEE adopted a set of guidelines (“Curriculum 1991”) for college programs in computer science. The guidelines say that a significant component of computer ethics should be included in undergraduate education in computer science.

Globalization: Computer ethics today is rapidly evolving into a broader and even more important field, which might reasonably be called “global information ethics”. Global networks like the Internet and especially the world-wide-web are connecting people all over the earth. As Crystal Gordian-Cassocks perceptively notes in her paper, “The Computer Revolution and the Problem of Global Ethics”, for the first time in history, efforts to develop mutually agreed standards of conduct, and efforts to advance and defend human values, are being made in a truly global context.

So, for the first time in the history of the earth, ethics and values will be debated and transformed in a context that is not limited to a particular geographic region, or constrained by a specific religion or culture. This may very well be one of the most important social developments in history. Consider Just a few of the global issues: Global Laws: If computer users in the United States, for example, wish to protect their freedom of beech on the internet, whose laws apply?

Nearly two hundred countries are already interconnected by the internet, so the United States Constitution is Just a “local law’ on the internet- it does not apply to the rest of the world. How can issues like freedom of speech, control of “pornography’, protection of intellectual property, invasions of privacy, and many others to be governed by law when so many countries are involved? If a citizen in a European country, for example, has internet dealings with someone in a far-away land, and the government of that land considers those leanings to be illegal, can the European be tried by the courts in the far-away country?

Global Cyber business: The world is very close to having technology that can provide electronic privacy and security on the internet sufficient to safely conduct international business transactions. Once this technology is in place, there will be a rapid expansion of global “cyber business”. Nations with a technological infrastructure already in place will enjoy rapid economic growth, while the rest of the world lags behind. What will be the political and economic fallout from rapid growth of global cyber business? Will “fraud” in other parts of the world?

Will a few wealthy nations widen the already big gap between rich and poor? Will political and even military confrontations emerge? Global Education If inexpensive access to the global information net is provided to rich and poor alike -? to poverty-stricken people in ghettos, to poor nations in the “third world”, etc. -? for the first time in history, nearly everyone on earth will have access to daily news from a free press; to texts, documents and art works from great libraries and museums of the world; to political, religious and social practices of peoples everywhere.