As of September 2003, there were approximately 70 million Americans or about 62 percent of the American population had at least one home computer. Another statistic is that about 55% of people also have internet on there home computers. In everyday life it is important for a person to have good ethics; this is also true about computer usage. Due to the fact that more then half of the American population owns computers, computer ethics are a growing concern in a rapidly changing society. Computer ethics can be broken down in to many topics including piracy, hacking, viruses, spam, phishing, and responsibility of use of software, cyber porn, and invasion of privacy and the use of the computer in the work place. Also there are many issues both moral and professional that a person who uses a computer might face.
Piracy which by definition is reproduction, distribution and use of software without permission of the owner of copyright, poses some serious ethical problems. The free exchange of copyrighted materials is piracy as it undermines the ability of copyright holders (and their representatives) to control the sale and distribution of goods to which theyand only theyown the rights. Probably the best known and most widely practiced form of piracy is the distribution of copyright protected music files via popular file sharing programs such as Kazaa and Limewire. As bandwidth increases, the “sharing” of movies and television shows on the Internet is likely to increase as well. Although file sharing is quite common, that does not mean it is okay.
Another ethical problem with computers is hacking. Hacking is the computer equivalent of breaking and entering. A computer hacker uses his or her skills to gain unauthorized access to another computer or computer network and, once inside, can wreak havoc by altering important information, deleting essential files, or just crashing the whole system. Many hackers who break into commercial Web sites are looking for customers’ private financial data including bank account and credit card numbers. A hacker who causes a network to crash can cost a company hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost productivity. Also because we are a society that relies on computers so heavily there is also the potential for loss of life is say the police or air traffic control computers were to get hacked. A topic that goes hand in hand with hacking is viruses. A computer virus is a small program that impairs-or simply destroys-a computer’s ability to function properly. Most viruses are designed to spread themselves over the Internet often via email programs before they inflict harm on their host computers. Frequently, hackers use viruses to create problems with in a person’s computer to get in deeper and cause more problems.
Two more computer ethic topics that go hand in hand are spam and phishing. Spam which is an inappropriate attempt to use email, or another networked communications facility by sending the same message to numerous people who didn’t ask for it, can lead to many problems in both a work and non-work environment. Another consequence of spam is phishing which is the act of tricking someone into giving them confidential information or tricking them into doing something that they normally wouldn’t do or shouldn’t do. An example of this is sending an e-mail to a user falsely claiming to be an established legitimate enterprise in an attempt to scam the user into surrendering private information that will be used for identity theft.
Being responsible and being held liable for your actions also are major ethical concerns in the computer world. One area were this is especially true is with the use of software. Software ethics is the science of morals in computer and software usage. Unauthorized, copying of software is illegal and a violation of software ethics. The copyright law protects software authors and publishers, just as investors are protected by the patent law. Another thing about making unethical software decisions is it could affect an entire academic community. For example if it happened on campus the school might have to assume legal liability and provide the software for cheaper prices.
A person also must be ethical in other things such as cyber porn and invasion of privacy. If a person is a work and doing things they should not be doing like looking at adult websites or snooping through other peoples computers, serious consequences could surface which could ultimately lead to a loss of ones job. There are certain times and places were looking at different websites is ok and other times were it is just not acceptable.
As previously mentioned, computer ethics in some peoples eyes greatly changed based on were the computer you are on is located. There is a completely different set of ethics for work computers. Not only do ethics come into play in workplace with computer use but so do morals. It is very important for a person to be able to know the fine line between what is ok for work and what is not acceptable. This can vary from harassment through things like email to just visiting the wrong kinds of site. In my research I have found that many companies are actually coming up with ethical commandments for the work place to further define the line between right and wrong.