The increasing dependences on computers for critical infrastructure essentials for the functioning of a society and its economy has given rise to host of ethical, social, and legal issues. As software engineers, it is a bounden duty to design and build software intended for use by a set of individuals for a specified set of purpose, which initiate many issues about consumer’s privacy. Following is the exploration from three constituents. First, websites collect consumer’s private information.
Social networks play a vital role in the life of Internet users, and more than a half billion people post vast amounts of information about themselves to share with online friends and colleagues. As more and more people join social networking sites, questions are beginning to surface about the safety of user’s information. A new study has found that the practices of many popular social networking sites typically make that personal information available to companies that track Web users’ browsing habits and allow them to link anonymous browsing habits to specific people.
Like most commercial websites, online social networks use third-party tracking sites to learn about the browsing habits of their visitors. Cookies are maintained by a Web browser and contain information that enable tracking sites to build profiles of the websites visited by a user. Each time the user visits a new website, the tracking site can review those cookies and serve up advertisements that might appeal to the user.
For example, if the user frequently visits food sites, user might see an advertisement for a new cookbook. With the leakage of this type personal information, there is a significant risk of having one’s identity linked to an inaccurate or misleading browsing profile. Browsing profiles record the websites has been accessed by a particular computer, neither who was using the computer at the time nor why particular sites were chosen. This will lead to a serious problem inaccurate profiling by tracking sites.
For example, a site about cancer was visited for curiosity rather than intent, inaccurate profiling would potentially lead to issues with health care coverage, or other areas of our personal lives. The second issue is when a consumer uses a product created by a computer professional. The main concept in engineering ethics is “professional responsibility”, such as political philosopher Langdon Winner, are critical of the traditional preoccupation of engineering ethics with specific moral dilemmas confronting individuals(Winner, 1990): “Ethical responsibility… nvolves more than leading a decent, honest, truthful life… And it involves something much more than making wise choice when such choices suddenly, unexpectedly present themselves. Our moral obligations must… include a willingness to engage others in the difficult work of defining the crucial choice that confront technological society… ” But unfortunately, with the development of technology and the awakening consciousness of human protection, user privacy is becoming a sensitive issue , after the two giants Google and Apple have stumbled in this regard.
Recently, the recognition of the recent HTC phones to collect the user’s data. A user in a system upgrade and found a new CIQ application, the application can access statistics, including the application frequency, GPS location, even after the use of information related to home video cameras, and back to the respective companies. HTC aspects of this incident came to light on the phone today to confirm pre-installed software to collect user information, but all processes are encrypted safe manner.
HTC also said in a statement, the company will protect user privacy, commitment to the future equipment and then collect information, the user will be prompted to make a clear choice. Although the company will give customers the utmost assurance of their privacy, why HTC phones collected the user’s data from the beginning? Finally, the employer or company who offers a services. With the rocketing development of Internet, most companies see web services as a platform to become a very profitable business in the near future.
In other words, thousands of customers’ private information will be stored in the Internet, which could have serious consequences if a firm lacks the security to protect sensitive information. For example, the most infamous Internet attack occurred this year was the one suffered by Sony. Everything started with the theft of data from PlayStation Network, affecting 77 million users worldwide. Not only was this the biggest data theft ever but the situation was poorly handled by Sony. To make things worse, the stolen data was specially sensitive, including user’s names, billing addresses, email addresses, PlayStation Network IDs, passwords, birthdates, purchase history, credit card numbers, etc. If this was not sufficient enough, Sony Online Entertainment was subject to another attack a few days later, a data theft that affected another 24 million users. In short, the chief man-made cause is deficiency in professional responsibility. If the company built information security system and strengthened individual information protection from the start, which would avert the tragedy from getting worse.
In conclusion, the actions involved in carrying out the right and ethical solution to any engineering problem may not be easy, especially in today’s world. But the path that must be taken should be obvious. This type of decision-making comes with experience, but the basic principles can be learned. The work that an engineer does often impacts the lives of countless people. With such a responsibility it is up to them to act in the most ethical, honest and trustworthy manner possible.
Courtney from Study Moose
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