In present society, almost every aspect of an individual’s life is tied to or dependent on computer information systems. Day-to-day activities for individuals are contracted with some level of interaction on cyberspace. Such interactions consist and revolve around extracting information and sending information. These activities are sensitive and call for elaborate, efficient, and secure “internet practices”, which can guarantee privacy of an individual, and the whole society while on cyberspace. For this to happen, ethical practices have to be developed and embraced towards constraining unethical e- practices, which are on the increase.
Cyber Age and Internet Ethics
Cyber age is defined as, the present period in which technology has, largely, influenced our way of communication and interaction. According to Siegel (2009), cyber age has contributed to the growth of the world economy in a great way. A large number of people use internet services such as email, twitter, Facebook among other internet services. This number is always on the rise and surges each day. Presently, many transactions are done online thus, encouraging more users to access the internet. Online traffic provides a good breeding ground for many companies to collect huge amounts of money in terms of revenue. It is in this age whereby e-transactions have been simplified, and are executed within a short time. These services help organizations to cut down on costs such as transport. Although, this age has brought with it some kind of convenience in terms of speed and time, it has also elicited e-crime such as hacking, and information system vandalism.
Ethics is defined as morals or standards that are set with an aim of doing well or benefiting either an individual or the society. These morals have to be part of cyber policy, in order to protect an individual’s personal information as well as that of the society. Cyber ethics covers several areas. These include; encompassing security ethics of personal information, ascertaining accuracy of individual information, which evaluates aspects like the correctness of the information, put on the web. In most cases, incorrect information, more so on serious matters, can be put on the internet with malicious intentions. In other cases, reliable sources are not always embraced, and as such, information posted is based on speculation and rumors. Such scenarios raise alarm with regard to the type of information displayed for public consumption (Siegel, 2009).
Additionally, property rights are important and matters concerning intellectual property should be put into consideration. Piracy is a crime, and is punishable. For this reason, authors should be acknowledged whenever some part or their whole work is used. Moreover, information access is also an important component due to the widespread use of the web site by all kind of people ranging from the children to grownups. Currently, crimes such as visiting pornographic sites and gambling are on the rise, and formulating measures that can restrict access can be of great help (Paterson &Wilkins, 1998).
Legislations Governing Internet Privacy
Internet privacy is a subsection of computer privacy. Internet privacy refers to all control measures implemented to provide security on the information transmitted via the internet. It also encompasses matters like who get access to the transmitted information, amount of information transmitted and what personal information is made available to the public. Although absolute internet security is almost impossible, due to the rate and extend of e-crime that is executed in the cyberspace, measures have to be put in place to mitigate the risks.
Privacy of personal information such as health, financial and other form of information that is vital in the identification of an individual is of great value. Many malicious individuals seek such personal information. Therefore, at all levels of information processing i.e. at the onset of information collection, transmission, storage and disclosure, security measures are necessary (Clark et al, 2011).
Several legislations relating to internet privacy have been implemented by several countries. Smith (2004) points out that Children’s online privacy protection Act (COPPA) is a legislation, which intends to protect information for children of ages thirteen and below. It gives parents or guardians power to verify the source information that these children access or divulge to other people while on the cyberspace. Under this legislation, any one collecting such information on children should explain the intended use of such information. If it is solely for genuine use, parents’ have to consent. It is also under the same legislation that the industry groups are allowed to come up with some guidelines that can help in the protection of their personal information. This means that collection, storage and disclosure of such information is controlled to ensure security (Smith, 2006).
The Privacy Act of 1974 was put in place due to security issues pertaining the development and use of computerized information. To offer e-security, four practical and substantive privileges were created. First, it is a right of an individual to be shown information stored about him/her. Second, it requires that the agencies be fair in their dealings by following given laws (Clark et al, 2011). Third, it stipulates how the agencies can share an individual’s information with others. Lastly, under this act, an individual is granteda right, if his/her information is compromised, to sue a state for violation of their privacy. However, the act outlines instances, where individual information can be disclosed. These circumstances include; when enforcing the law, in situations when the information needs to be stored in archives for historical purposes by the government, when carrying out statistical analysis by the census bureau and for daily use by the government agency for administration and investigation purposes.
The Computer Security Act of 1987 aims at offering security and privacy of personal information for the federal computer systems, and giving acceptable measures to effect security. The act regards sensitive information as “that which when lost, altered or destroyed with no permission, can lead to adverse effects on the reputation of the centralized system thus leading to loss of interest by the public” (Willemssen, 2000).
Cyberspace has elicited various and complicated forms of risks and crimes. The accessibility to cyberspace has generated several ethical challenges for the human society. Some of the key security risks that companies and individuals have to deal with are theft of information, information systems vandalism and hacking. Cyber crimes have greatly decreased utilization of the technology. Despite many challenges in handling cyber security, it is anticipated that with stronger legislation in place, an individual’s privacy, safety and use of cyberspace will be guaranteed.
Clark, E. Cho, G. Hoyle,A. Hyness,P. (2011). Cyber Law in Australia. Leiden: Kluwer Law International.
Paterson, P. and Wilkins, L. (1998).Media Ethics: Issues and Cases. Boston: McGraw.
Siegel, L. (2009). Introduction to Criminal Justice. Connecticut: Cengage Learning.
Smith, M. (2004).Internet Privacy: Overview. Web.
Smith, M.(2006)..Internet Privacy; Overview and Pending Legislation. Web.
Willemssen, J. (2000). Computer Security. Web.