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What ethical, social, and political issues are raised by information systems?
Ethics refers to the principles of right and wrong that individuals, acting as free moral agents use to make choices to guide their behavior. Information technology and information systems raise new ethical questions for both individuals and societies because they create opportunities for intense social change.
Like other technologies, such as steam engines, electricity, telephone and radio, information technology can be used to achieve social progress, but it can also be used to commit crimes and threaten cherished social values. The development of information technology will produce benefits for many and costs for others.
Ethical, social and political issues are closely linked. The ethical dilemma you may face as a manager of an information system typically is reflected in social and political debate.
Privacy is the claim of individuals to be left alone, free from surveillance or interference from other individuals or organizations. Claims to privacy are also involved at the workplace; millions of employees are subject to electronic and other forms of high tech surveillance. Information technology and systems threaten individual claims to privacy by making the invasion of privacy cheap, profitable and effective.
In Europe, privacy protection is much more stringent than in the US. European countries do not allow businesses to use personally identifiable information without consumer’s prior consent.
The directive requires companies to inform people when they collect information about them and to disclose how it will be stored and used. Customers must provide their informed consent before any company can legally use data about them, and they have the right to access that information, correct it, and request that no further data be collected.
Informed consent can be defined as consent given with the knowledge of all the facts needed to make a rational decision. EU member nations must translate these principles into their own laws and cannot transfer personal data to countries such as the US that don’t have similar privacy protection regulations.
The Internet introduces technology that poses new challenges to the protection of individual privacy that the original FIP principles have been inadequate in addressing. Information sent over this vast network of networks may pass through many different computer systems before it reaches its final destination. Each of these systems is capable of monitoring, capturing and storing communications that pass through it.
Contemporary information systems have severely challenged existing law and social practices that protect private intellectual property. Intellectual property is considered to be intangible property created by individuals or corporations. Information technology has made it difficult to protect intellectual property because computerized information can be so easily copied or distributed on networks. Intellectual property is subject to a variety of protections under 3 different legal traditions: trade secrets, copyright and patent law.
Contemporary information technologies especially software, pose a sever challenge to existing intellectual property regimes and therefore, create significant ethical, social and political issues. Digital media differ from books, periodicals, and other media in terms of ease of replication, ease of transmission, ease of alteration, difficulty in classifying a software work as a program, book or even music, making theft easy, and difficulties in establishing uniqueness.
The proliferation of electronic networks, including the Internet, has made it even more difficult to protect intellectual property. Before widespread use of networks copies of software, books, magazine articles or films had to be stored on physical media such as paper, computer disks or videotapes creating some hurdles to distribution. Using networks, information can be more widely reproduced and distributed.
With the www in particular, one can easily copy and distribute virtually anything to thousands and even millions of people around the world, even if they are using different types of computer systems. Information can be illicitly copied from one place and distributed through other systems and networks even though these parties do not willingly participate in the infringement.
Mechanisms are being developed to sell and distribute books, articles and other intellectual property on the Internet, and some copyright protection is being provided by the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) of 1998. The DMCA implements a world intellectual property organization treaty that makes it illegal to circumvent technology-based protections of copyrighted materials. ISPs (Internet Service Providers) are required to “take down” sites of copyright infringers that they are hosting once they are notified of the problem.
Most experts agree that the current intellectual property laws are breaking down in the information age. The ease with which software and digital content can be copied contributes to making us a society of lawbreakers. These routine thefts threaten significantly to reduce the speed with which new information technologies can and will be introduced, therefore threatening further advances in productivity and social well-being.
The main property-related political issue concerns the creation of new property protection measures to protect investments made by creators of new software, digital books and digital information. SIIA (Software and Information Industry Association) lobbies for new laws and enforcement of existing laws to protect intellectual property around the world. It runs an antipiracy hotline for individuals to report piracy activities and educational programs to help organizations combat software piracy.
Many new technologies in the industrial era have created new opportunities for committing crime. Technologies, including computers, create new valuable items to steal, new ways to steal them and new ways to harm others. Computer crime is the commission of illegal acts through the use of a computer or against a computer system.
In general, it is employees who have inflicted the most injurious computer crimes because they have the knowledge, access, and frequently a job related motive to commit such crimes. All nations in Europe and the US have an act making it illegal to access a computer system without authorization. Other existing legislation covering wiretapping, fraud and conspiracy by any means, regardless of technology employed is adequate to cover computer crimes committed thus far.
The internet’s ease of use and accessibility has created new opportunities for computer crime and abuse. One widespread form of abuse is spamming in which organizations or individuals send out thousands and even hundreds of thousands of unsolicited email and electronic messages. This practice has been growing because it only costs a few cents to send thousands of messages advertising ones wares to Internet users.
Finally, I think that the new worldwide sites and software give you more freedom to access what you are looking for. It can be use in a proper way and also in a wrong way. For global business is necessary to be in touch with people from other countries and cultures, and the only way to protect your business or even your personal information is to restrict the access of this important information to only a few group of people, and to be sure that they are managing this with a lot of responsibility. That’s what most of the companies do in their organization.
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