A New Technology New Ethical Dilemmas New computer technologies for gathering, storing manipulating and communicating data are revolutionize the use and spread of information. Along the way, they are also creating ethical dilemmas. The speed and efficiency of information systems, which include local and global networks, databases, and programs for processing information, force people to confront entirely new rights and responsibilities in their use of information and to reconsider standards of conduct shaped before the advent of computers.
Information is a source of power and, increasingly, the key to prosperity among those with access to it. Consequently, developments in information systems also involve social and political relationships– and so make ethical considerations in how information is used all the more important. Systems now reach into all levels of government, into the workplace, and into private lives to such an extent they affect that even people without access to these systems in significant ways.
New ethical and legal decisions are necessary to balance the needs and rights of everyone. Ethics Fill the Gap as Legal Decisions Lag Behind Technology As in other new technological arenas, legal decisions lag behind technical developments. Ethics fill the gap as people negotiate how use of information should proceed. The following notes define the broad ethical issues now being negotiated. Since laws deciding some aspects of these issues have been made, these notes should be read in conjunction with Legal Issues in Information Systems.
Ethical Issues Specific to Information Systems Ethics include moral choices made by individuals in relation to the rest of the community, standards of acceptable behavior, and rules governing members of a profession. The broad issues relating to information systems include control of and access to information, privacy and misuse of data, and international considerations. All of these extend to networks, databases, and, more specifically, to geographic information systems. Specific problems within each of the three areas, however, require slightly different kinds of ethical decisions.
Networks, information systems in general, and geographic information systems in particular are discussed separately below. 2. Networks Definition of Network Any set of computers able to communicate with one another constitutes a network. Some networks are contained within institutions or companies, enabling people within a single organization to annunciate ally. Many of these small systems are also hooked into other organizations’ computers. Thousands of such networks collectively form the Internet.
Much of the following discussion has been formed with the Internet in mind, but the issues raised may be applied to smaller networks as well. Networks were first established as a reliable means of communication and as a means for exchanging information efficiently, but they have become much more. Large networks represent new sources of power. In order to create reliability and efficiency in communication, networks were structured so that he movement of information would not depend on -and could not be controlled by–another person or computer. As a result, the larger networks have become anarchic.
Ordinary’ people with relatively few resources can communicate ideas and information, however uncommon, unpopular, or politically sensitive those ideas or information may be, to millions of other people around the world. No government, no hierarchical system exerting either repressive or benign influence, not even the simple constraints of time and money, will have quite the same control they once had over the flow of information as long as the networks operate as they now do. For some people, the networks therefore contain exciting possibilities; for others they have become a threatening, even subversive, new presence.
Networks have also become social places, where people discover friendships, discuss issues, and find others who share unusual interests, argue, form groups, commiserate, proselytize, play games, and fall in love. These activities have brought comparisons with more traditional communities, villages, or places. One essayist, Ray Oldenburg, has referred to the networks as a new sort of “Third Place,” where people gather for conviviality, apart from home ND work (First and Second Places). He theorizes that the networks may replace opportunities for social interaction lost in the modern world of suburbs, express highways, and shopping malls.
Other writers are more cautious and when talking about the sociability of the networks use qualified terms: virtual communities or virtual villages, for instance. Such terms acknowledge the differences inherent in the kinds of interactions that take place over computer networks. A lack Of face-to-face contact, for instance, has a leveling effect. Race, class, gender, and physical appearance are hidden, allowing interaction that is relatively free from all the subtle biases that usually accompany more direct human relations.
On the other hand, this virtual anonymity allows interaction without any sort of commitment; the sense of shared responsibility that people must have in a real community does not necessarily exist on the Internet. Nonetheless, the networks have attracted loyal participants who recognize the value of what has been created in this new form of human interaction and who put a great deal of thought into the future character and uses of the networks. Networks are becoming more common and their influence more repressive but they are also changing under the influence of people and institutions that are relatively new to the networks.
Funding, once almost exclusively public, now comes increasingly from private, or commercial, sources, and this change in funding will also mean changes in ideas about the proper uses of the networks and the nature of interaction on them. Recognition of the power and potential of networks has created some hotly contested issues. These range from relatively simple questions of proper behavior and use within them to more important questions Of political power, intro of communications, equality of access, and privacy.
On the Internet, several essays on the nature and possibilities of the networks have appeared. Here are just a few: Cyberspace Inn keeping: Building Online Community, by John Coat, gives a brief summary of Ray Oldenburg ideas about an on-line “Third Place. ” Coat also discusses the nature of interactions on a local network called the WELL, the concept of virtual villages, on-line free speech, and some of the social dynamics specific to the networks. Privacy, intellectual property rights, on-line censorship, and the future of the Internet are also covered.
Protection and the Internet, by Steve Icicles, addresses the growing need for protection on the Internet: protecting the network itself from people who would change its emphasis on free expression, protecting people from some forms of free expression, protecting other cultures that have different standards for what is acceptable communication. The WELL: Small Town on the Internet Highway System, by Cliff Focal, extols the virtues of on-line communities. Provides a history of The WELL, a local network, and discusses maintaining the feeling of community on a network. . Behavior on the Network New Standards of Conduct Cultural norms and aloes shape a society’s definition of acceptable behavior. On-line standards Of conduct are founded on the norms Of the society in which a network is set, but these broader norms and the character of human interaction in networks often challenges values. Networks stretch across societies that have different values and traditions. The computers that form them have capacities that allow people to do things they could not do before–and to do so with anonymity.
Finally, the networks, new as they are, have their own social history, in which somewhat different norms have been formed. The people ho have so far populated the virtual community have tended to value individuality, free expression, and free exchange of information, anarchy and nonconformity more than other groups. Acceptable behavior on the networks, therefore, has slightly different standards. These may change as many more people join the networks. But, so far, long-time network users have jealously guarded the less conventional on-line standards of conduct.
These users generally are people who have strong feelings about the shape of life on their various networks and about what shape it will take in the future. New users of the Internet and of various smaller networks should be aware that they are entering an unconventional social community. Issues of acceptable behavior in the networks include simple standards of civility to questions of rights and responsibilities in distributing information that have not yet been clarified in law. 3. Netiquette How to Behave on the Networks: Netiquette, or on-line civility, is a matter of common sense and of remembering the context of behavior. The Internet’s emphasis on free expression, for instance, has meant that what might be considered rude elsewhere will often be tolerated on various outworks in order to protect the principles of individual expression. Groups discuss every conceivable subject, obscenities flow on some parts of the Internet, and pornography flourishes. Some people make a game of verbally hassling one another.
Rather than squashing individuality with broad regulations, system administrators have so far tended to referee or negotiate specific situations in which conflicts occur. However, activities that would be questionable off the networks should be approached with some judgment and kept to the parts of the networks (in bulletin boards established for a pacific purpose, for instance) where those who would be offended can avoid them. Specific activities that do offend most network users usually occur when the capacities of computers for allowing rapid, efficient communication and for giving access to other people’s systems are misused.
So, for instance, sending a rambling message to everyone with an e-mail address at the local state university is not considered appropriate even though computers make sending such a message relatively effortless. Unsolicited advertising is especially resented and will get an equally unsolicited reaction. In one case, a law firm’s efforts to advertise over the Usenet prompted one young man in Norway to launch a cancelled, a message that automatically destroyed the firm’s transmissions every time it sent out an advertisement.
He was applauded by other Usenet participants, although his actions did raise concerns about wider use of arbitrary censorship. In general, do not waste other people’s time, be disruptive, or threaten. Do not take up network storage space with large, unnecessary files; these should be downloaded. Do not look at other people’s files or use other systems without permission. When joining a bulletin board or discussion group, check the FAQ (frequently asked questions) file before asking questions. Remember that on-line communications lack the nuances of tone, facial expression, and body language.
Write clearly. Try to spell correctly and to use good grammar. Add emotions, or Smiley -?expressive symbols-?to clarify meaning. Do not SHOUT needlessly. Capital letters are the on-line equivalent of shouting. Use asterisks to give emphasis, but do so *sparingly*. Sign messages, and include an e-mail address when writing to strangers, just in case a message’s header is lost. Personal attacks or complaints are called flaming. Be discriminate: flaming can turn into flame wars and disrupt discussion groups. People who become too obnoxious can be banned from a system or simply ignored.
A “kill file” will automatically erase messages sent from a person who has become intolerable. Some sources on netiquette: The Ten Commandments provides a basic outline for acceptable behavior on-line. The Net User Guidelines and Netiquette provide basic guidelines in netiquette to users at Florida Atlantic University. It also includes a bibliography on proper conduct. Ethics and the Internet outlines the principles of responsible use put forth by the Internet Activities Board. Netiquette Guidelines by S. Hammering at Intel Corp.. 3. Acceptable Use Policies Different Networks Have Different Policies The networks that collectively form the Internet have different purposes, and they allow different kinds of traffic to pass through them. People who communicate across various networks must learn what they are allowed to do on each. Networks established for research and education, for instance, forbid most commercial activities. These restrictions now exist largely cause research and education networks are supported with public funds. In the future, however, more and more of the Internet will be supported by private money.
Commercial uses will become a more prominent feature of the Internet. Many researchers who now use the Internet worry about the change from public to private support. They see commercial activities, especially advertising, as intrusions on the time and attention Of people at work. The level of hostility toward such activities runs high, so how commercial and research or education uses will mix is not yet clear even as public funding becomes uncertain. Written Policies Outline Permissions and Restrictions Various networks have produced written statements outlining what sort of traffic they permit.
Many simply state the purpose of the network in question and restrict users to that purpose. Most explicitly forbid disruptive, frivolous, illegal, and obscene communications, along with any form of harassment. Others simply try to balance free exchange of information, in the spirit of the Internet, with concern about unfair uses Of what they have so freely provided. Policies from ONSET and Others The National Science Foundation Network ONSET), which supports research and education in LIST institutions and which is funded through the federal government, currently has one of the strictest acceptable use policies on the Internet.
In general, the ONSET policy limits use to activities in “support of research and education. ” It specifically forbids for-profit use and personal or private business. ONSET Acceptable use policy CREE Net use Earner Acceptable use policy Machine Acceptable Use Policy Pearl City Complex Internet Acceptable Use Policy State of Hawaii, Department of Education, School Internet Acceptable Use Policy 3.
Exporting Through the Networks Export Restrictions Apply But Clear Guidelines Are Lacking Files can be sent around the world in seconds and without physical restriction, which might lead people to think that other restrictions on them do not exist. Yet export regulations from the US. Department of Commerce do apply in networks. To make matters more complex, export restrictions vary for different destination countries. As a rule, the people transferring files over networks are responsible for knowing and applying legal restrictions. Unfortunately, people sending files across national orders often are left without clear legal guidelines for specific situations because export law has not kept pace with the movement of information across networks.. Networks, which allow people from remote locations to log-in and use information or computer systems stored on computers within the U. S. Have created even more complex problems, and have left network operators with little clear guidance. There are, however, some general principles to follow.
For the most part, information commonly and freely available from U. S. Periodicals, books, conferences, libraries, or university courses falls under mineral license, which means it may be transferred to other countries without further permission. What is restricted in information, which may include data, software, machine readable code, encryption code, and so on, is more difficult to define. The following examples, though hardly comprehensive, illustrate some of the difficulties encountered when export laws are applied to networks.
Example: Encryption codes, which are used to translate data into code that cannot be read without a key, are restricted. The U. S. Government claims that such codes must be controlled for reasons of national security. Encryption codes are treated as munitions under export law and therefore require special export permission from the Department of State. This policy draws vociferous criticism from people who claim that the government is unfairly attempting to control access to and privacy Of communications.
In one case, the government ruled that a source code for an encryption device already published in a book–a book not restricted from export–could not be distributed across national borders through a computer network because the code in digital format represented a different form of information. The source code in the new format was partitioned into files that, the government stated, could be “compiled into an executable subroutine. ” For more detailed information on the export of encryption codes, and on the example summarized above, see the Cryptography Export Control Archives.
Example: Access to hardware through a network may be restricted. If certain computer hardware may not be exported physically from the LLC. S. , then access to that hardware may not be given to people working from countries to which export is forbidden. When BITTEN in 1 990 decided to link into the Soviet Union, a letter from the U. S. Office of Technology and Policy Analysis reminded Bidet’s operators that they could not allow open, international access to certain types of systems. The same letter pointed out that exporting certain kinds of software by file transfer over the network would require special licenses.
A second letter informed the BITTEN operators of their responsibility to maintain a vaguely defined “level of care” in making sure that the network’s members were not exporting materials illegally while using BITTEN. To see a copy of the letter received by BITTEN, see Legal Aspects of International Network Communication. Also see Legal Aspects of Linking BITTEN to Foreign Countries. To see what falls under the general license for export, read the guidelines to General Technical Data Available for All. Destinations (GTAG). Network users with questions about exporting specific information or systems not covered under Commerce.
Department regulations may make a Commodity Jurisdiction Request to the State Department. 3. 4 Copyrights Existing Law is challenged by Information Systems The fluidity of information on the networks has caused some confusion about how copyrights and intellectual property rights apply to files. In the relatively small world of the original network users, an emphasis on free exchange of information and a common understanding of intellectual property allayed most potential conflicts over use of information. Now, as the networks grow larger and attract a broader range of people, some clarification of how files may be used is becoming necessary.
The ease with which files can be distributed and the nature of some information create problems within existing copyright law: either the law does not address the peculiarities of information or the law is too easily subverted by the ease with which files can e copied and transferred. Similar problems have arisen with photocopy machines, Vicars, and tape recorders. To make matters more complex, other countries may have different copyright laws, so information made available globally through a network may not have the same protections in other places.
While the law does not always provide clear guidelines to rights and responsibilities even within the U. S. , a familiarity with basic existing copyright principles should keep most network users on ethical grounds. Copyrights protect original works of authorship, including literary, musical, aromatic, graphic, audiovisual, and architectural works, and sound recordings. The law forbids unauthorized reproduction, distribution, performance, or display of works with copyrights. The general intent of the law is to protect the commercial value of a work.
Having a copy of a work with a copyright does not mean that the holder also has the right to distribute, reproduce, perform, or display it. Copyrights apply to both published and unpublished work. Under the international Berne Convention on copyrights, which the U. S. Signed in 1989, a copyright comes into effect from the moment a work is created and is fixed n some form of tangible expression. A copyright notice is not required for copyright protection. The only way a copyright can be invalidated is by explicit announcement by the author that copyright protections are waived.
Copyrights do not apply to titles, short phrases, nannies, slogans, mere listing of ingredients, or works consisting entirely of unoriginal information (such as standard calendars). Copyrights do not extend to ideas, procedures, methods, systems, concepts, principles, discoveries, or devices; these must be patented for protection. Works in the public domain (those not extended copyright protections) include those created by an author who has been dead for at least 50 years, works created by the federal government, and works explicitly granted to the public domain. Complete international copyright protection does not exist.
Works are subject to the laws of individual nations, although most nations have signed international agreements on copyrights. Any work with a copyright, therefore, should not be distributed or reproduced on networks without permission Of the author. This application of copyright law is fairly straightforward, but the question now becomes, who is responsible for enforcing copyright protection on the outworks? The federal High Performance Computing Act of 1 991 holds the National Research and Education Network (NOREEN) responsible for protecting the copyrights of materials distributed on that network.
But NOREEN administrators point out that the requirement is unenforceable. The network does not provide information; rather it provides links between networks and routes or relays information packets. The people at NOREEN propose instead that their role as carrier and the role of information services should be separated in the law, with responsibility for copyright protections going to the information services. They suggest that technical means, such as digital markers identifying the holder of a file copy and subscription fees to information services, be used to regulate the distribution and use of materials with copyrights.
The principles of copyright laws apply easily to work not created in a file. But what about “original work” that is created within a network? The law applies in sometimes surprising Ways, and users should think about copyrights before distributing or reproducing work created by another person. For instance: E-mail is protected by copyright. Information received in e-mail may e discussed, but the specific contents of e-mail have copyright protection. Usenet postings may also be protected.
These may be read and discussed by however many people have access to the Usenet, but they cannot be reproduced and distributed in any way that may diminish the author’s ability to profit from the original work-?however farfetched such profit may seem. One author has brought up an interesting question concerning network postings. John Coat asks, “does the fact that anything you say in an on-line system can be downloaded and printed out by anyone who happens to read t create a different class of reproduction than quoting without permission from a commercial publication?