20 November 2007

Source for Computer Ethics Problems

Sources :

  1. Fielden N.L, Kuntz L, Search Engines Handbook, North Carolina.USA,Mc. Farland & Company,2002.


The Search Engine Idea :

"The need to analyze large amount of text led to the development of search engines to automate the process"

"The basic search engine is simplicity itself: The program reads a document and notes its universal resources locator (URL), title and some text which is stored in an index. Every item in the index has a direct link to the original. When user enter a query, the search engine looks for a match in the index and displays a list of matches."



"To track the path a user takes through web sites and provide personalised advertising, search services depend on psychographics rather than demographics of their user audiences. Psychographics is a way of charting a user's thought and is accomplished by tracking user movement on the web with 'cookies' technology, which allow web publisher to deposit information on a user's hard drive. This information includes details of previous visits to a Web site such as particular search engine, time spent , and specific information accessed.


User Monitoring :

"Individual users are identified by electronic tags stored in cookies that maintain the user identification code, which can be used to access a behaviour profile in a database. The search service then use the information to offer specific advertising that matches the user's interests."

  1. Spinello R., Cyber Ethics, Morality and law in Cyberspace, London, Jones and Bartlett Publisher Inc., 2000.


A Definition and Theory of Privacy:

" Samuel Warren and Louis Brandeis in 1890. They differentiated the right to privacy from other legal rights and defined it as the right to be left alone."

"Ruth Gavison defined it as the limitation of others' access to an individual with three key elements: secrecy, anonymity, and solitude. Anonymity refers to protection from undesired attention, solitude is the lack of physical proximity to others and secrecy (or confidentiality) involves limiting the dissemination of knowledge about oneself."


Personal Information on the Internet:

"A feasible alternative might be to work out a responsible middle ground between an outright ban (or detailed restrictions) and a completely laissez-faire approach. Certain data element should never be in public, on-line database, and this includes Social Security Numbers, which are link to wealth of other sensitive information. This database should also exclude mothers' maiden name information, which is used for identification verification at banks and other financial institutions."


Consumer privacy on the internet:

"From a moral perspective, the primary issue appears to be the consumer's loss of autonomy. Should any company be allowed to deposit a cookie file on a user's hard drive without the user's knowledge and consent? One could argue that this is presumptuous and disrespectful of a user's right to control his or her "private space," which should include the disk space of his or her personal computers."


Privacy Protection in Europe:

"In the fall of 1998, acting on behalf of all its member countries, the European Union executed a law prohibiting the buying and selling of personal data. It is known as the EU Directive on Data Protection. According to The New York Times, " The goal of European Law is to prohibit companies from using information about their customers in ways the customers never intended-for example, selling it to other companies for use as a marketing tools."

  1. Szuprowicz B.O., Search engine technologies for the World Wide Web and Intranets, South Carolina, USA, Computer Technology Research Corp., 1997.


User Monitoring:

"Individual users are identified by electronic tags store in cookies that maintain the user identification code, which can be used to access a behaviour profile from database. The search service then uses the information to offer specific advertising that matches the user's interests. Other search service approaches include user surveys."

" User monitoring is critical in selling web advertising; users of search service should be aware of this activity for their own protection."

  1. Baird R.M., Social and moral issues in the computer age, USA, Prometheus Books, 2000.
























A typical problem in computer Ethics arises because there is a policy vacuum about how computer technology should be used. Computer gives us more capabilities and more choice for actions.

The Invisibility Factors :

Important fact about computer that most of the time and under most conditions computer operation are invisible and this condition often generates policy vacuums about how to use computer technology.

At the moment computer sprawl driven by marketplace. Opportunities to make significant amount of many was opened, and everyone aware of these opportunities include two big players Microsoft and Netscape.

New Technology and New Ethics :

  • Adoption of new technology at the beginning will largely unpredictable. So ethical consideration was required after some trouble appears.
  • New technology is bound to have impact on morality. Thus, it is needed to revise accepted practice, rethink them, give them new articulation and functions or abolished them altogether.
  • Because It is a radically new technology, it makes certain moral practices out of date, inasmuch as traditional norms, principles, and institutions lose their force and become irrelevant and new norms, principles and institutions to meet new conditions, opportunities and powers have not yet been developed.
  • New technology will solve the world's recurrent problems such as poverty and violence.

Ethics derived from Greek word ethos which means habit. Aristotle points out those habits are the result of accumulated decisions.

  1. Johnson G.J., Computer Ethics 3rd Edition, New Jersey: USA, Prentice Hall,2000.




















Computer Uniqueness :

The computer technology is unique and has its own unique ethical issues. Firstly, Computer technology brought the creation of new entities – programs, software, microchips, and websites and so on. Secondly, it changed the scale of activities, arrangements and operations such as increasing scale of data collection, calculations and statistical analysis as well as the scale of communication. The increases scale of calculation has facilitated the creation of more sophisticated machines such as robots and spaceships. Finally, it is focused on the power and pervasiveness of the technology. It changes the character that we do.

The ACM code of Professional Conduct specified that an ACM member, whenever dealing with data concerning individuals, shall always consider the principle of the individuals privacy and seek the following :

  • To minimize the data collected
  • To limit authorized access to the data
  • To provide proper security of the data
  • To determine the required retention period of the data
  • To ensure proper disposal of the data

One of General Moral Imperatives of 1992 ACM Code of Ethics and professional conduct that an ACM member will Respect the privacy of others.

  1. Baase S., A Gift of fire, Social, legal and ethical issues in computing, New Jersey, USA, Prentice Hall,1997.










In the USA, The Privacy Act 1974 regulates the Federal Government's use of personal data, and it has summarized as followed:

  • Restricts the data the federal government may collect.
  • Requires federal agencies to publish a notice of their record system in the Federal Register so that the public may be informed about what database exists.
  • Allow people to access their records and correct inaccurate information.
  • Requires procedures to protect the security of the information in databases.
  • Prohibits disclosure of information about a person without his or her consent.

The online companies and many other online businesses are building consumer profiles based on particular services used. A company is selling lists of e-mail addresses of people who post to newsgroups on the internet; the lists are organized by interest areas, including general interests, hobbies, religion and adult.

Consumer Data At Risk :

Some government agencies are increasing their access to consumer databases. Conversely, marketers make extensive use of the many government databases that are open to the public.

Consumer data can leak in ways that maybe threaten people's safety, someone filled a form about his/her details and then other people send him/her something that he/she does not wanted to. These examples illustrate the importance of thinking about possible dangerous use of personal information and the consequences of making it available to the wrong people.

Key Issues:

  • Consumers are not aware that information is being collected which is called invisible information gathering, because consumers is not informed that the information is being collected.
  • Secondary use of consumers data, it will be serious problem when information collected by one business or organization is shared or sold to another, without the knowledge or consent of the person who provided the information.
  • A dilemma of balancing risk and benefit. Computer databases with detailed information on purchases can help both businesses and consumers. But distribution leakage and various specific uses of the information by businesses or government agencies can have detrimental effects.
  1. Erman M.D., Shauf M.S., Computers, Ethics and Society, New York, Oxford University Press, 2003.


ACM Executive council voted to revise code ethics. The code is supplemented Guidelines, which provide explanation to assist members in dealing with various issues contained in the code. It is expected that the guidelines will be changed more frequently than the code. Some of the conduct s are :

  1. Contribute to society and human well being. This main aim is to minimize negative consequences of computing systems, professional must attempt to ensure that product will be used in socially responsible ways.
  2. Avoid harms to others. Professionals must minimize malfunction by following generally accepted standards for system design and testing.
  3. Be honest and trustworthy. A computer professional has a duty to be honest about his or her own qualifications, and about any circumstances that might lead to conflicts of interest.
  4. Be fair and take action not to discriminate. Discrimination on the basis of race, religion, age, disability, national origin or other such factors will not be tolerated.
  5. Honour property rights including copyrights and patents.
  6. Give proper credit for intellectual property.
  7. Respect the privacy of others.
  8. Honour confidentiality.
  1. Reynolds G. W., Ethics In Information Technology, USA, Thomson Course Technology, 2007.





Marketing firms want to know as much as they can about consumers, then they offer the data to the company so they can tailor their products and services to individual consumer preferences.

Treating Consumer data responsibly :

When dealing with consumer data, strong measure are re required to avoid consumer relationship problems. The most widely accepted approach to treating consumer data responsibly is for company to adopt the Code of Fair Information Practices and the 1980 OECD privacy guidelines. Under these guidelines, an organization collects only personal information that is necessary to deliver its product or service. The company ensures that the information is carefully protected and accessible only by those with a need to know, and that consumers can review their own data and make corrections. The company informs customers if it intends to use customer information for research or marketing, and it provides a mean for them to opt out. Some company are appointing a chief privacy officer ( CPO) who can avoid violating government regulations and reassure customers that their privacy will be protected.

  1. Bynum W. B., Rogerson S., Computer Ethics and Professional Responsibility, India, Blackwell Publishing, 2004.






EU Data Protection Directives 1998. It states data must be fairly and lawfully processed for limited purposes, adequate, relevant and not excessive, accurate, not longer than necessary, processed in accordance with the data subject's rights, secure and not transferred to countries without adequate protection.

Actions in cyberspace will not be local. Therefore, the ethical rules of such actions cannot be rooted in a particular local culture.

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