Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Information Ethics

What is information ethics?  Basically, information ethics pertains to collection, distribution and use of information obtained by individuals, corporations, or governments. Information ethics is related to computer ethics and the philosophy of information.

It considers moral issues surrounding informational privacy, how agents should behave in the infosphere, problems arising from creation, collection, recording, distribution, and processing of information, intellectual property and copyright, digital divide, and digital rights.
Dilemmas regarding the life of information are becoming increasingly important in a society that is defined as "the information society". Information transmission and literacy are essential concerns in establishing an ethical foundation that promotes fair, equitable, and responsible practices. Information ethics broadly examines issues related to ownership, access, privacy, security, and community.

Many of these issues are difficult to resolve due to fundamental tensions between Western ideas of morality with emphasis on the individual and Eastern ideas of morality with greater emphasis on the community as a whole. The dispute between Google and the government of the People's Republic of China reflects such a cultural tension.

Ten Commandments of Computer Ethics

The ethical values as defined in 1992 by the Computer Ethics Institute; a nonprofit organization whose mission is to advance technology by ethical means, lists these rules as a guide to computer ethics:
  1. Thou shalt not use a computer to harm other people.
  2. Thou shalt not interfere with other people's computer work.
  3. Thou shalt not snoop around in other people's computer files.
  4. Thou shalt not use a computer to steal.
  5. Thou shalt not use a computer to bear false witness.
  6. Thou shalt not copy or use proprietary software for which you have not paid.
  7. Thou shalt not use other people's computer resources without authorization or proper compensation.
  8. Thou shalt not appropriate other people's intellectual output.
  9. Thou shalt think about the social consequences of the program you are writing or the system you are designing.
  10. Thou shalt always use a computer in ways that ensure consideration and respect for your fellow humans (Computer Ethics Institute, 1992).

Related reading: UNESCO Handbook of Information Ethics; Microsoft's Cyberspace 2025: Today's Decision, Tomorrow's Terrain

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