It is my belief that a crucial part of the ethics of business is computer ethics or information ethics. Most corporations today are teetering on whether computer improprieties are a violation of “professional ethic” rather than a legal ethics issue. The purpose of this paper will be to examine some of the ethical issues of the Internet as it relates to the theft of private or personal information from the material sent over the Internet.
Professional ethics can best be defined as learning what is right or wrong as it relates to the workplace and then doing the right thing. This Code of Professional Ethics lays down the standards of integrity, professionalism and confidentiality which all members of that particular profession shall be bound to respect in their work. Where as legal ethics is best defined as principles of conduct that members of the profession are expected to observe in the constraints of the governing laws. These ethics are usually the outgrowth or the development of both case or Tort court findings and verdicts.
To better explain this issue. The Internet is a global Web of linked networks and computers, whose nature is such that it is very difficult if not impossible, to determine its size at a given moment. It is indisputable, however, that the Internet recently has experienced a tremendous growth, with the ranks of new users swelling at ever-increasing rates. This expansion has catapulted it from the realm of academic research towards newfound mainstream acceptance and increased social relevance for the average individual.
This increased reliance on the Internet has the potential to erode the personal privacy that an individual once took for granted. New users of the Internet generally do not realize that every post they make to a newsgroup, every piece of email they send, every World Wide Web page they access, and every item they purchase online is monitored or logged by some unseen third party. The impact on personal privacy is enormous. Databases of many different kinds, selling or giving away collections of personal data, already exist, and this practice will only become more common as the demand for this information grows.
One of the most interesting examples is that of advertisers and marketers who, by using sophisticated new research, have begun to target the rapidly growing numbers of users online. World Wide Web sites and other interactive online services are being designed to capture the loyalty and spending power of “the lucrative cyber tot category.” A variety of new interactive advertising and marketing techniques have been developed specifically for this new medium.
The right to privacy in Internet activity, especially in creating databases out of personal information, is a serious issue facing society. As such it raises serious ethical issues. An additional example is of the people on the Internet who use anonymous servers as a way to avoid responsibility for controversial and inappropriate behavior. Cases of harassment and abuse have become increasingly frequent, aided by a cloak of anonymity. There are also problems with fraud and scam artists who elude law enforcement authorities through anonymous mailings and postings. These types of examples describe the ethical issues created by technology and the people or corporations that control them.
In conclusion I believe that the global nature of the Internet makes addressing the ethical issues associated with Internet or information privacy daunting and complex. It is an arena without walls or physical boundaries, where the ethical values vary from country to country. Even within the United States there is dissent and disagreement about the definitions of “Internet Privacy,” who owns that information, and what constitutes appropriate or inappropriate use of that information. Perhaps the issues that have been unsuccessfully resolved through the law (or because of a lack of relevant laws) can be resolved through the creation of moral and ethical guidelines that will frame the issues, at which point legal protections can be put in place.