Are computer ethics moral standards or rules governing technical conduct? Ethics based on morality would entail placing value on those standards. Computers cannot discern the nuance of right and wrong as it doesn't matter to the central processing unit whether or not the computer and its program is harming a human through user misuse. It's algorithm can flow yes or no to a question such as "If this, then that?" It cannot intuitively know that if it "snoops" around in another computer's memory files that it needs to pull back and stop before it harms the data. It doesn't know that human consensus has put a negative value on interfering with someone else's computer work unless it is told that it is. Computers are not yet sentient beings.
Computers have been integrated into society for over 30 years. Users have been emailing, banking, reading, writing, and using their computers for every aspect of their daily lives. Because of this assimilation and for the fact that the information highway that we utilize everyday, the Internet, is largely unregulated, the Brookings Institution, a U.S. think-tank began a project to compile all the ensuing discussion over what is ethical computer use into ten easy to understand guidelines regarding what constitutes acceptable behavior for computer usage.
- History of Computer Ethics
- Metaethics: The Underlying Conditions of Ethical Judgment
- The Moral Responsibility of Computing
- The Ethics of AI Sentience
The "Thou Shalt's"...
The Computer Ethics Institute came up with the three discussed "commandments" replete with "Thou shalt's..." These are the no harming, snooping, and interfering with a computer. Of the other seven, the fourth deals with copyright infringement, or the use or copying of unpaid for software. The fifth and sixth are more Biblical in nature about using your computer not to lie or steal. Unauthorized usage is what the seventh mandates against, while the last three call for thinking about social consequence of writing programs, not using intellectual property that isn't your own, and about consideration and respect.
- The 10 Commandments of Computer Ethics
- Cyberculture Resources
- Certified Ethical Computer Hacking
- Ethical Computer Scenarios to Ponder
Computer Ethics in Laymens Terms
So what is computer ethics? Merely a consensus about the value we, as humans, put on the right or wrong uses of a computer. Is it a moral issue? The consequence of computer misuse can result in job loss, loss of intellectual property, identity theft, fraud, and loss of a quality of life that has come to be expected in a technological society. There have always been laws against theft of property and physically harming another person. These laws have mitigated society's ideas of right and wrong over time. Extending those ideas to the misuse of an inanimate object that has the potential to harm a human being is a natural extension of ethics.
Computer ethics encompass commerce, speech, social justice, privacy, criminality, and intellectual property issues. In business, each company has its own version of what is acceptable behavior for computer use. Most mandate that computers be used for work-related activity only, no personal surfing the Web, emails that are unrelated to work; and no illicit activity, such as downloading pornography. Companies track computer usage and log it. Some employees believe that this activity is an invasion of privacy, arguably another facet of ethical behavior. Other corporate computer issues include anticompetitive practices and fraud. School computer misuse is mostly allocated to harming another due to using intellectual property without proper permission, or plagiarizing, which ultimately harms the user. Students downloading music and software without paying the license-for-use fees, and using social networking sites to harm another's reputation, are issues that computer ethicists address.
- Unique Problems of Computer Ethics
- Types of Intellectual Law and Computer Ethics
- Case Studies in Computer Ethics
- Employee Dismissed After Visiting Inappropriate Sites
- Privacy and Anonymity: Computer Security Issues
Laws, Rights and Privleges and Further Resources
The main four ethical issues are how to make sure that the computer information is accurate, who owns it, and how accessible is it, and what can be done to keep private information private. How much information is safe to reveal online? Can we be forced to reveal personal information on the Internet? If the Internet is not regulated, who is accountable for error and and how can someone injured by someone on the Internet get restitution? Who creates the value of the intellectual property on the Internet? What are rights and what are privileges in regard to computer use? Every one of these questions are evolving, fluid, and thus far, save a few ethical laws, nothing is set in stone.
- PAPA: The four ongoing issues of the information age are: privacy, accuracy, property, and accessibility.
- Online Ethics: This organization highlights cases and guidance regarding ethical codes of conduct for research and engineering scientists.
- Define the Line: Student fact sheets on why students feel it is okay to download digital copyrighted files and facts on software piracy.
- Internet Law: Covers the basics of online law, privacy, virtual trespass, hacking, commerce, jurisdiction, intellectual property, and encryption.
- Cybercrime Resources: Recent legislation, federal code, and computer crime resources from the Department of Justice.
- Electronic Privacy Information Center: International, federal, state, and local electronic information issues such as body imaging, biometrics, children's online privacy, and social networking.