Computer Ethics


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.
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. 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?
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