The cyber world has become a most important part of our everyday lives. We spend an increasingly significant portion of our lives in it and use it to communicate with friends, acquaintances, loved ones, and business associates. We make use of our computers and Internet connectivity to look for and purchase all kinds of goods and services. We use the web and all its powerful resources to educate ourselves and to gain knowledge. We are able to look for, join and keep up with special interest groups and to discuss topics of interest to us.
We research serious as well as mundane issues on line. In summary, cyberspace has become an interactive world that many of us have fully integrated into our lives. There is dark side to this phenomenon. The ease and anonymity by which we are able to perform all and many more of these feats of contact and access with an entire universe of places and people have created a dilemma: the need of cyber ethics. Ethics is a branch of philosophy that deals with what is considered to be right or wrong.
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Definitions of ethics have been widely proposed, such as “codes of morals of a particular profession”, “the standards of conduct of a given profession”, “agreement among people to do the right and to avoid wrong”. Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary defines ethics as “the discipline dealing with what is good and bad and with moral duty and obligation”. In more simple words, it is the study of what is right to do in a given situation, and what we ought to do. It is important to note that what is unethical is not necessarily illegal.
In our everyday life, many individuals and organizations faced with common ethical problems. There have been developments in biology and cybernetics that lead to a comprehensive theory of morality in which the rational nature of ethics can more easily be explained. Not only can the rise of ethical systems be linked to biological concepts, but ethics can be tied to mathematical concepts as well by way of cybernetic science. When ethics and cybernetics are combined, the resulting theory turns on scientific principles instead of philosophical speculations.
There are several important ideas linked to the emergence of ethical systems: ???Ethical systems evolve in response to the human need to survive in an environment where they are competing with many other organisms for scarce resources; ???Humans survive and flourish by efficiently using their resources and energies; ???The evolution of ethical systems is a function of an ongoing cybernetic process involving all humans, animals, and organisms. Human experiences accumulate as a reservoir of knowledge, which influences the societal perception of which behaviors benefit people and which act counterproductive to their health and welfare.
When people deviate from behaviors that are known to be productive, feedback arises that affects their lives in both subtle and obvious ways. Thus, the way in which people write laws and attach moral significance to certain behaviors is linked to a cybernetic process that maximizes human survival, minimizes social conflicts, and increases the meaningfulness of the human experience. Feedback that inspires change enhances the human ability to survive and to compete with other animals and organisms.
What is important to note is how conflicts and potential conflicts act as a form of cybernetic feedback to society that alerts people to make changes in the way they behave. Feedback is an essential ingredient in evolutionary growth. Cybernetic ethics, in fact, is a way of viewing the evolution of ethical systems in terms of the informational feedback certain human actions generate. Feedback can arise from the consequences of specific actions that are easily observable, or from a change in a “state of affairs” that has slowly evolved as a result of the accumulation of formerly unseen problems.
In conventional ethics, reference points are not described as such; rather, they are expressed in terms of values. These values represent models of behavior, whether they are economic, educational, moral, or social. But here ethics is being placed into a context of cybernetics. Thus, the idea of morals evolving as reference points must be addressed in order to efficiently convey an understanding of ethical evolution. With the advanced computer technology, it is important to understand computer ethics related to security, privacy issues, and major negative impacts of IT (Information Technology).
Strategies must be developed which address a growing number of global ethical questions resulting from these negative impacts of IT in Cyberspace and IT society. Information Technology (IT) has a central role in commerce, industry, government, medicine, education, entertainment and society at large. Its economic and social benefits hardly need explanation. But like any other technologies, IT also has problematic implications and some negative impacts on our society.
It poses and creates some problems related to ethics, and contains in general three main types of ethical issues: ???personal privacy ???access right ???harmful actions In terms of personal privacy, IT enables data exchange of information on a large scale from anybody, on any locations or parts of the world, at any times. In this situation, there is increased potential for disclosing information and violating the privacy of any individuals and groups of people due to its widespread disseminations worldwide.
It is our challenge and responsibility to maintain the privacy and integrity of data regarding individuals. This also includes taking precautions to ensure the accuracy of data, as well as protecting it from unauthorized access or accidental disclosure to inappropriate individuals. The second aspect of ethical issues in computing systems is access right. Due to the current popularity of international commerce on the Internet, the topic of computer security and access right has moved quickly from being a low priority for corporations and government agencies to a high priority.
This interest has been heightened by computer break-ins at places such as, Los Alamos National Laboratories and NASA in the United States. Many attempts of such illegal access to United States government and military computers by computer hackers have been widely reported. Without implementation of proper computer security policies and strategies, network connections on the Internet can’t be made secure from illegal accesses. In computer ethics, harmful action means injury or negative consequences, such as undesirable loss of information, loss of property, property damage, or unwanted environmental impacts.
This principle prohibits use of computing technology in ways that result in harm to any of users, the general public, employees, and employers. Harmful actions include intentional destruction or modification of files and programs leading to serious loss of resources or unnecessary expenditure of human resources such as the time and effort required to purge systems from computer viruses. Beside the false contents of information on Internet, many people tried to access information that they don’t have rights to do so.
For this reason, computer developers have proposed and used intrusion-detection systems as basis of security systems designed to protect privacy. Typically, the intrusion detection systems determine if a user is an intruder or a legitimate user, generally by way of various internal system profiles. The growing threat to individuals is beginning to claim attention in national and international community. In many countries around the world, existing laws are likely to be unenforceable against such crimes.
This lack of legal protection means that businesses and governments must rely solely on technical measures to protect themselves from those who would pose false information, from who steal, deny access to, or even destroy valuable information. Self-protection is not sufficient to make cyberspace a safe place to conduct business. The rule of law must also be enforced. Countries where legal protections are inadequate will become increasingly less able to compete in the new economy.
As cyber crime increasingly breaches national borders, nations perceived as havens run the risk of having their electronic messages blocked by the network. National governments should examine their current statutes to determine whether they are sufficient to combat such kinds of crimes. Some countries begin to implement some initiatives, and it is clear that a great deal of additional work and efforts are needed before organizations and individuals can be confident that cyber criminals will think twice before attacking valued systems and information.
New participating countries started generating principles to protect individuals from the potential invasion of privacy that data collection and retrieval poses. These countries have adopted guidelines as statutory law, in whole or in part. The OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) in the US has specific guidelines pertaining to data privacy that directly affect those dealing with Internet data access in general, and those who use so-called “personal data” in particular.
The new world of information society with global networks and cyberspace will inevitably generate a wide variety of social, political, and ethical problems. Many problems related to human relationships and the communities become apparent, when most human activities are carried on in cyberspace. Some basic ethical issues on the use of IT on global networks consist of personal privacy, data access rights, and harmful actions on the Internet. These basic issues have been solved partially using technological approaches.
Besides these protection technologies, legal laws are also needed in cyberspace to address hundreds of countries, which are incorporated into one global network. Guidelines and strategies should be implemented so that global information can be exploited in a socially and ethically sensitive way for our future benefit and applications. These and many more ethical issues urgently need the attention of governments, businesses, educational institutions, public and private individuals worldwide.