Ethical Challenges Of Information Technology Today
Information technology most times is shortened as IT – It is basically the application of computers to store, recover, study, transmit and finally manipulate data or even information most times in the context of a business or any other enterprise. This Information Technology is a smaller set of a bigger picture which is the information and communication technology (ICT). As much as this information technology is of great importance in our everyday lives, we should realize that it’s facing a lot of serious ethical challenges and it is up to the experts and the users in this field to be ready to face these challenges. This is because there are often many emerging technologies related to IT that keep coming up on the market and most times the users and experts don’t know how to go about it. Some of these common changes faced by information technology include things like lack of privacy, security, increased computer crimes and copyright infringement. There are criminals out there who just can’t wait to utilize some of these loopholes that technology has to offer and this way making very many businesses and organizations at a great risk of becoming a victim to cyber crime. With that brief introduction, let’s now look at some of the ethical challenges of information technology below:
- Security: this is one of the first and most important ethical challenges of information technology that should always be placed as a top priority. This IT security is basically a process of implementing the systems and measures that have been designed to assist securely protect and safeguard the information through making use of the different forms of technology developed to create, store, use and exchange that kind of information against any unauthorized access, malfunction, misuse, anticipated use, availability and finally its ability to perform their acceptable critical functions. Now with the tools like the internet, the hackers have now found it very simple for them to easily hack into any computer or even system provided it is has internet connection. This way the hackers make use of the Internet Protocol or IP address to assist them access a user’s computer and then obtain data for his or her selfish reasons.
Another form is through the internet cookies that are wide spread and is able to collect information whenever the computer is used and this way it has exposed the users of information technology to very high risks of fraud and other conflicting benefits. These cookies are also utilized by majority of the big companies to help them establish which products or services they can promote to the users. In cases like online banking, what the hacker will do is make sure that the transfer of money is interrupted and all the money is transferred to their desired accounts and this greatly affects both the client and the bank placing them at a great loss.
A popular example of an internet hacker is Kevin Mitnick who was once called by the U.S Department of Justice as the ‘most wanted computer criminal in US history’ because he hacked into the Digital Equipment Corporation network; he also breached the National Defense Warning System and stole corporate secrets.
- Copyright infringement: another ethical challenge of information technology is through this copyright infringement which is essentially the use of works that is protected through the copyright law without permission, infringing a certain exclusive right that is granted to the holder of the copyright like the right to reproduce, display, distribute and perform the protected work or even make derivative works. The person with the copyright is the one that creates or publishes the work or even other business to which the copyright has been allocated. This way, the copyright holder will be able to regularly invoke legal and technological measures so as to put off and punish copyright infringement.
There is an increased development of sharing things on the internet like music, photo bookmarking sites and so on and this way the original creators of these works are losing out on the credibility of their own works because of the IT users that have the ability to easily gain access to their works and then share it without permission to friends. There are also other sites like the free music and file downloads that are coming up daily on the internet and therefore a lot of original work is being obtained for free like books, music albums and so much more. Whereas this will benefit the users, it won’t do the same for the original owner because it means that a person usually the owner of the downloading site will be the only one who buys it from the original owner and then freely permits other users to download it from them. It is for that reason why the government has closed some of these sites but nevertheless a lot others continue coming up making it hard to control as they use funny URLs.
A popular example of copyright infringement is between 2 tech giants which is Apple versus Microsoft which began with a simple question of who had invented the Graphical User Interface (GUI). This is because the organization that controlled the interface of the next major operating system would have the ability to set standards for the application software and so Apple tried to stop Windows from becoming the main operating system. Even though Microsoft had assisted to create Macintosh, Jean-Louis Gassee who took over from Steve Jobs declined to let Microsoft use their software but Bill Gates continued pressing on and choosing to add features of its own to early prototypes of Macintosh. This angered Gassee and when Windows 2.0 turned out almost identical he believed it to be a breach of contract since he had only permitted their software to be used for 1.0 and not any other upcoming versions.
- Privacy problems: privacy is one of the most important things that need to be highly observed and yet it has highly been abused in the information technology making it a very big ethical challenge. Information technology has made us be able to share and even search and find relevant information on the internet but at the same time it has also greatly taken advantage of our freedom of privacy. Some of the ways in which our privacy has been exploited includes;
- Utilization of internet webcams: first of all, a webcam refers to a video camera that streams or feeds its image in the real time through or to a computer to a computer network. Once the image is captured by the computer then the video stream will be saved, viewed or sent to another network through a system like the internet and email as an attachment. These webcams are connected using a USB cable or any other similar cable or even just built into the hardware of a computer like the laptop. Now if a person is experienced then they can turn on your webcam on your personal computer that is online and then they are able to have access to their personal and private life and that is why majority of the world’s popular people have fallen victim especially to online stalkers.
An example here is in the case of a Swedish hacked named Alex Yucel the co-creator of Blackshades Remote Access Tool (RAT) that was able to provide a simple formula for perverts to remotely commandeer the webcams to unknowing victims and then snoop upon their activities. He used to sell these software’s to assist the perverts hack into webcams and gain access to their computers files and this caused great damages to the victims before he was arrested.
- Utilization of social networks: now social networks are something that almost everyone uses because of their importance like connecting both new and old friends allowing them communicate easily and even share their lives even if they are not able to meet in person. But now the problem is that if an unauthorized person gains access to your personal information like shared pictures, then they can gain interest in it and send it to their other friends who of course are not your friends and this way you can easily get exposed to other users with ill intensions. In the same way there are other companies that have the habit of spying on their employees through these same social networks and this is a very big challenge of information technology.
An example here was in October 2010, when Facebook acknowledged that its top 10 applications like Texas Hold’em and FarmVille shared data of the users like names and names of their friends with advertisers. That isn’t all because even a Wall Street Journal Investigation also discovered that Facebook privacy breach and this affected a lot of users.
- Digital divide: foremost let’s first understand what a digital divide is before we can explain its ethical challenges of information technology. So this digital divide is an economic and a social inequality that is with relation to access to, use of or impact of ICT. Now the kind of divide that is within countries like the one in the United States refers to the disparities among individuals, businesses, households or even geographic areas, most times in dissimilar socioeconomic levels and so on. While the ones that are among different countries or just regions are called the Global Digital Divide that will examine this technological gap that is between the developed and the developing countries on an international scale. This way you will find that IT has lots of opportunities and it has greatly shaped the many industries that are found in the developed countries but the developing ones have a lot of difficulty in enjoying similar benefits of IT. So in order for the developing countries to enjoy the same benefits, it means that they have to incur other costs of having to provide training to their labor and users so that they can adapt to the modern culture.
Another great challenge is that you will find that some of the remote areas don’t even have power which makes Information Technology equipments like computers quiet really hard to operate. Then again even the education systems of most of these developing countries are still the traditional systems which make it hard for a student to be aware of the information technologies that are coming up.
This digital divide needs to be closed because of many reasons like for example economic equality because access to internet is definitely a basic part of civic life and that is why developed countries are ensuring that their citizens are guaranteed, then also the social mobility as it contributes a lot to a person like especially in relation to education, career development and professional work.
- Increased demand on IT experts: these IT experts have the major tasks of being able to apply technical know-how to the implementation, maintenance or monitoring of the information technology systems. They will majorly focus on a particular computer network, system administration functions or database. Since information technology is a very wide topic, most of them specialize in areas like system administration, database administration, network analysis, web administration, IT audit, security and information assurance and so much more. But now these IT experts have an increased demand making it a very big ethical challenge of Information Technology today. This is because these information systems have to run nonstop as in all the time both day and night and therefore a lot of demand is weighed on these experts to make sure that there is a high level of accuracy as well as availability of these systems. You will find that the larger companies like banks that operate 24 hours will need a standby IT team to assist them cater for any rising issues that are caused during operation. This therefore will lead to stress and work overload which in some cases might lead to imperfection of the results obtained or in the system as a whole.