Welive in a world where the internet plays a pinnacle role in our dayto day lives. Discuss how the internet has caused an ethical debateon our information privacy.
EthicalDebate on Information Privacy
Informationtechnologies and electronic networks have currently becomeubiquitous. Organizations, businesses and individuals have come todepend on technology not only for competition, success and survival,but also for conducting everyday transactions and activities. Suchactivities are accomplished through the use of the internet, whichhas become an inherent part of our daily lives and business processesand transaction. However, the advances in information technology havecontinued to exert substantial impacts on social, moral and ethicalissues in electronic business. Some common ethical issues that areassociated with the increased use of information technology, as wellas, the dramatic explosion of e-business include establishinginformation rights and protecting personal privacy on the internet.
Internetinformation privacy has presented a controversial subject on ethicsfor internet users and online companies. Hongladarom and Ess (2007,p.132) defines information privacy as the control over thecirculation of an individual’s personal information, includingaccess to exchange and transfer of communication. The use of newtechnologies has raised moral and ethical issues for both individualsand societies and they create opportunities for intense socialinteractions and rapid social changes. Like other technologies, theinternet can be used to not only to attain social progress, but alsothreaten personal privacy and cherished social issues, as we as, commit online crimes. Personal privacy is then violated when nosypeople tend to read, or even worse, modify other people’s messages,when hackers get in another person or an organization security systemto test their security or to steal information, when security isbreached in order to sell out the company’s competitive marketingplan, when some people snoop around to read other people’s emails,or when using the internet for terrorism. Therefore, the internet andinformation technologies actually present serious security issuesthat should not be overlooked.
EthicalIssues in information privacy
Theincredible rate of increase in the use of the internet andinformation technologies comes with several ethical dilemmas. Ascommon with any other form of new technology, it is hard to predictall of the issues and ramifications that may arise. However, thereare some that are already evident and need to be addressed. Theseethical issues include freedom of speech, privacy on personalinformation, cyber crime, internet censorship, free fromsurveillance, and terrorism.
Researchhas established that many online customers are concerned about theironline privacy, especially on personal information. Today, thegrowing competitiveness in the e-commerce is forcing organizations tocollect a vast amount of personal information from their customers.Many a time there is a good intent in doing so since many businessesmay seriously want to customize their products and services for thebenefit of the customer. However, the subsequent and wrongful use ofpersonal data or the use without prior authorization of the customerraises privacy concerns. This often ends up questioning the intentbehind collecting private information at the first place.
Similarly,the advancement in information technology has not only made itpossible to record personal information at the point of sale, butalso maps the patterns of online behaviors. There is much evidencethat many internet active businesses use subscription forms orcookies to collect their customer`s behavioral and demographicinformation, especially on the sites the customers visit. Inexchange, these organizations promise personalized services andbetter value for services. More so, they promise in their privacydisclaimer to use collected data only for purposes specificallyaccepted by the client. However, this personal information may bemisused through unsolicited promotional e-mails, credit card fraud,or selling the integrated data to a third party.
Intoday’s highly networked world, there has been increased risk ofinformation privacy and security on social media. It is possible thatteens today face more possible risks to privacy and security due tothe growing modern social interaction taking place online. Personalinformation is available on social networks to more people than everbefore and, therefore, the questions of personal privacy andinformation security must be considered. Furthermore, onlinecommunication often leaves written and visual records ofinteractions, which can be easily accessed various people. Postingand sharing information that is personal on social networks isrisky especially when users are minors.
Surveillancetechnologies have rapidly proliferated throughout most workingenvironments. These technologies have enabled the invasion ofemployee privacy on an unimaginable scale through surveillance. Thereare often hidden cameras, electronic recorders and wireless devicesin various organizations, which make it possible to watch, monitor,and check up on their employee as they work. In fact, majority ofthese companies do not no include any human involvement in monitoringtheir employees, but rely on various IT solutions includingcomputers, video, hidden cameras, and telephones among others(Craver, 2006). The major ethical issue in surveillance is that theorganization invades the privacy of the employee. Studies haveestablished that surveillance creates stress. In turn, stress mayhave detrimental impacts on performance of employee and productivity.Thus, employees are increasingly concerned about the extent to whichtheir employers are monitoring their work-related activities andpossibly their personal lives.
Increasingly,companies and managers are monitoring their employees usingsophisticated new technologies. Trends also suggest that the numberof firms monitoring their employee internet social networks is alsoon the rise. This approach include scrutinizing social media toestablish the content posted by employees on personal socialnetworking sites including Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn Facebook, andMySpace among others. On the other hand, monitoring emails andinternet use is another frequent form of workplace surveillance. Thisis the most intensely checked activity because employers believe thatemployees tend to spend more time online than when performing theirtask. Disciplining results from network surveillance has led toemployees being fired for the inappropriate use of internet such asemailing and pornography, as well as, disciplining employees fortheir violation of policies. Craver (2006) point out that most peopleview surveillance as an outright transgression of employee privacythat causes problems of stress, decreased job satisfaction, and anaffront to human dignity.
Theimpact of technology on online crime crosses borders as it isbecoming prevalent and larger in scale every day. Online crime is anethical issue, which has far reaching effects on individuals and manysectors of modern society. Online or cyber crime is committed whenthe world wide web, the internet and computers are used as tools andvehicles to commit crimes such as auction fraud, online bankingfraud, cyber stalking, investment fraud, cyber extortion, onlinegambling, tax scams, cyber terrorism, and telemarketing schemes.Online crime also includes the use of the internet for theproduction, possession, sale and distribution of hate crime materialsand materials harmful to minors. Anonymous threats, abuse of anyperson, harassment, and posting annoying emails can be described asonline stalking, online extortion, and online terrorism, which arealso criminal offenses.
Cybercrime is a unique form of crime influenced by technology. Theemerging technologies such as mobile banking, cyber payment,e-commerce and pay-as-you-go are opening up new avenues for criminalsto commit related financial fraud and online abuse. Online financialfraud is recognized as one of the most common and serious e-crime,which takes the lion share of e-costs, and in most cases they arecommitted by authorized insiders. The weapons of online crime includecodes, commands, and software made with malicious intent described asmalware. Malware such as Trojan horse, viruses, spyware, and virusesare designed to delete and suppress information and damage or destroythe hard disk.
Freedom of expression
Theinternet well known to a great extent as a communication medium,which relates to the expression of ideas in blogs, social networks,and wikis among others. The rights to freedom of expression, as wellas, personal privacy relate to each other in complex ways. Today,privacy is a concept that encompasses among other things the freedomof thought, expression of ideas and protection of one’s reputation.In most cases, the right to privacy supports the freedom ofexpression, as it does other domestic right. However, respect forprivacy can clash the right to freedom of expression. For instance, anewspaper may publish private details about a leading politicianbecause the newspaper believes this in the public interest. In thiscase, freedom of expression is negatively impacted because theprotection of privacy is poor. Hacking into another person`s accountin order to serve the public interest is unethical and is liable toserious prejudice freedom of speech on the internet and to prejudicethe privacy of the message sender.
Onthe other hand, the possibility of transmitting messages anonymouslyon the internet is one of the important tools in the protection ofprivacy and empowering freedom of speech. This possibility, whichincludes the ability to transmit messages and collect informationwithout disclosing the surfer’s identity gives the surfer greatfreedom of action that does not require disclosing his/her trueidentity. This is a specific aspect of the right to privacy embodiedin the freedom of expression. Conversely, some countries haveattempted to extend the scope of privacy protection in a way thatnegatively impacts on freedom of expression. For instance, in acountry like Argentina, privacy rules have been applied to searchengines on the basis that they led the searcher to privacy infringingdata (Glasser, 2013, p.17). If this practice is exercised widely, itwill make it almost impossible for countries to continue providingthe important freedom of expression enabling services that arecurrently offered to internet users.
Theattempt to balance security needs and the rights of freedom of speechon the internet creates complex ethical dilemma. The state is giventhe right to eavesdrop on a conversation through interception ofinformation without filtering, in order to establish suspiciousinformation. Information obtained is considered relevant in locatingpossible terrorist attacks and suspicious perpetrators. However, theinterception of all information traversing the internet has manyindirect effects on the rights of the surfers who use the internet toexpress themselves. People who wish to transmit personal informationnot related to terror or harmful acts will fear that to do so sincethe information is intercepted and documented by the state. In orderto balance between the interests of the State and interests ofindividuals in the State to allow the freedom of expression on theinternet, the state should intercept only that which it suspects tobe harmful to public order.
Theinternet use has opened up doors and many possibilities for people tocommunicate, as well as, doors for businesses to reach new markets,creating an opportunity for economic growth. It is unfortunate thatsome people have found the internet a useful tool for perpetratingcrimes, conducting terrorism and cyber crimes, for cyber bullying andeven waging war. However, companies using websites to conducte-commerce should adhere to ethical standards that other businessesfollow. However, effective measures such as formulating Web businesspolicies, use of licensed and genuine software and obligation toprivacy rights are likely to influence customer’s privacy rightsand organizations’ internet communication.
Use of licensed and authentic software
Itis evident that the internet exposes users to many types of securityrisks. Fortunately, informed users can take simple countermeasuresthat may require the use of authentic and licensed software. Somesoftware is available online, while other are packed and distributedas authentic, but is actually pirated products. Others may beillegally distributed online, breaching copyright whilst othersarrive with the PC claiming to be signed implying this makes it moretrustworthy. However, software from unreliable sources may notfunction exactly as it appears but may result to a security breach(IBM, 2006, p.5). It may contain malicious code that runs invisiblywhilst it is doing its expected functions, or it might be maliciousin its own right.
Effectivemeasures should be implemented by businesses using unlicensedsoftware due to the increased concern of hackers. There is a lot ofunreliable software that automates some of what hackers try to do.According to IBM (2006), these hackers use malicious codes onunregistered software that will be used by people of little knowledgeon programming and hacking resulting to a security threat. This leadsto a wide range of security risk including exposing passwords toleaving open doors into systems that make it easier for viruses topropagate.
Obligation to privacy rights
Organizationsshould take up the obligation of privacy rights be ensuring thecustomers personal details are not exposed. Some internet businessesare now beginning to place essential procedural fairness. Theseonline businesses ensure that websites first give notice on givingpersonal information, why this information is collected, itsusefulness and the manner in which it would be kept secure. Thenconsent is sought as to the manner in which an individual’spersonal information would be used. It is evident, that theprocedural fairness is closely coupled with social contract andtrust, which gives the business an obligation ensure privateinformation is secure. When the private information is notmaintained, it clearly means that the organization or business haslost integrity and customer trust.
Web site business policies
Thecurrent drastic growth of the internet, as well as, the advancementof information technologies is strategically influenced by three mainfactors that include privacy, trust, and security threat. Trust inpayment systems and legitimacy has raised security and privacyconcerns for internet users. In fact, information security risk hasproven to be important trade obstacles for online businessenvironment. Studies focusing on the barriers of e-marketing haveestablished that privacy and trust are the major factors affectingindividuals and organizations from fully embrace this model ofcommerce. The fear of losing trade secrets to e-business has createda reluctance utilizing e-commerce due to lack of confidence andtrust, especially in legal issues concerning e-transactions. However,resolving these problems and taking effective preventive measures iscritical for the development and operation of new payment systems, aswell as, ensuring future growth of e-commerce. Therefore, acombination of security, privacy enhancing technologies, and greaterunderstanding of this new electronic phenomenon must be covered toestablish a sound internet transaction environment on a global level.
Craver,C.B. (2006). Privacy issues affecting employers, employees andlaboring organizations. Louisiana Law Review, 66, 1057-1078
Ess,C., & Hongladarom, S. (2007). InformationTechnology Ethics: Cultural Perspectives.Hershey: Idea Group Reference..
Glasser,C. J. (2013). InternationalLibel and Privacy Handbook: A Global Reference for Journalists,Publishers, Webmasters, and Lawyers.New York: John Wiley & Sons.
IBM(2006). Stoppinginsider attacks: how organization can protect their sensitiveinformation.NY: IBM Corporation