Topics in Computer Ethics - Clarkson University
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What Do Students Think About Computer Ethics?
Another major risk to computer security is the hacker who breaks intosomeone's computer system without permission. Some hackers intentionally stealdata or commit vandalism, while others merely "explore" the system tosee how it works and what files it contains. These "explorers" oftenclaim to be benevolent defenders of freedom and fighters against rip-offs bymajor corporations or spying by government agents. These self-appointedvigilantes of cyberspace say they do no harm, and claim to be helpful tosociety by exposing security risks. However every act of hacking is harmful,because any known successful penetration of a computer system requires theowner to thoroughly check for damaged or lost data and programs. Even if thehacker did indeed make no changes, the computer's owner must run through acostly and time-consuming investigation of the compromised system [, 1992].
What Do Students Think About Computer Ethics
One of the earliest computer ethics topics to arouse public interest wasprivacy. For example, in the mid-1960s the American government already hadcreated large databases of information about private citizens (census data, taxrecords, military service records, welfare records, and so on). In the USCongress, bills were introduced to assign a personal identification number toevery citizen and then gather all the government's data about each citizenunder the corresponding ID number. A public outcry about "big-brothergovernment" caused Congress to scrap this plan and led the President toappoint committees to recommend privacy legislation. In the early 1970s, majorcomputer privacy laws were passed in the . Ever since then,computer-threatened privacy has remained as a topic of public concern. The easeand efficiency with which computers and computer networks can be used togather, store, search, compare, retrieve and share personal information makecomputer technology especially threatening to anyone who wishes to keep variouskinds of "sensitive" information (e.g., medical records) out of thepublic domain or out of the hands of those who are perceived as potentialthreats. During the past decade, commercialization and rapid growth of theinternet; the rise of the world-wide-web; increasing "user-friendliness"and processing power of computers; and decreasing costs of computer technologyhave led to new privacy issues, such as data-mining, data matching, recordingof "click trails" on the web, and so on [see ,1999].
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