The term 'ethics' refers to the set of standards and rules that one is expected to follow. They are designed to help us regulate our conduct in a group of individuals or a society. Respect for one another, refraining from violence, treating everyone with civility are a few of the common ethics that we all follow try to follow everyday.
In modern times, computers and Internet have become a common medium for interacting and socializing. They allow us to put forward our opinions and suggestions, communicate with other users, and even carry out a number of our entertainment and work-related activities. For smooth functioning and for avoiding conflicts, it is essential that the users perform all these activities in an ethical manner wherein, they communicate and interact within the boundaries of a given set of guidelines and rules.
However, since computers and the Internet are accessible to anyone these days there is no way to check what kind of people are actually using it. Also, many of the rules relating to computer and Internet usage, are not defined in the older systems of laws that many of us are familiar with. Though today there exits an organized structure of laws to govern the world of Internet known as 'cyber laws', few are familiar with it. Some of the common unethical practices which many people conduct knowingly or unknowingly include the following:
Sending unsolicited e-mails such as those for advertising, is known as spamming and falls under the category of unethical practices. Though most Internet browsers and email portals facilitate the user's account so that he/she receives a minimum amount of spam, this practice still continues.
Many of the times people tend to use the information available over the Internet without realizing that it might lead to a copyright violation.
There are many other practices that can fall under 'hacking', copyright issues, and privacy and censorship issues. Some of these can be very difficult to classify as there is only a slight demarcation between the ethical and the unethical.
Adhering to computer ethics can help us avoid unethical practices and prevent any legal issues such as privacy invasion, copyright infringement, etc. from cropping up. The following are a few important ethical codes that we must all try and follow, while using the computers and the Internet.
Code of Ethics
- Information stored on the computer should be treated seriously as written or spoken words.
- Privacy should not be violated. In case of academic use, it is known plagiarism, which must be avoided.
- Information for public viewing should not be modified or deleted or be made inaccessible, since these are considered as destructive acts.
- Creation and usage of intrusive software such as 'worms' and 'viruses' with malevolent intent is illegal and must not be practiced.
- Congesting somebody's system with a lot of unwanted information is unethical.
- Sending obscene and crude messages through mail or chat is forbidden.
- Sending sexually explicit content, messages, or pictures is forbidden.