Ethics For The Information Age.pdf
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These values promote passionate and freely rhythmed work; the belief thatindividuals can create great things by joining forces in imaginative ways;and the need to maintain our existing ethical ideals, such as privacy andequality, in our new, increasingly technologized society. The Hacker Ethictakes us on a journey through fundamental questions about life in theinformation age-a trip of constant surprises, after which our time and ourlives can be seen from unexpected perspectives.
Ethics in the Information Age requires an awareness of abstracted reasoning just as information itself is the integration of abstracted data. Recent works by Gibson and Boisot are employed to introduce the rise of an information society and the abstraction of information upon which we base our knowledge. Several ethical problems of the Information Age are discussed, including personal privacy, the specter of alternate personae in the virtual world of computer networks, the quality of information, even disinformation, and codes of conduct. The ethical problems inherent in the notion of intellectual property reveal themselves through application of John Locke's natural law of property right juxtaposed against the dilemmas encountered by fictional characters (in William Gibson's Idoru) living in a virtual world set just a few years from now. An ethical analysis for the Age of Information applies philosophical tenets found in deep ecology, social ecology, communitarianism, and anarchy to the current problems of ethics. In conclusion, the greater degree of abstraction required by ethical behavior in the Information Age requires even greater attention to the philosophers of the past, as well as the philosophies of the presen
Today in western societies more people are employed collecting, handling and distributing information than in any other occupation. Millions of computers inhabit the earth and many millions of miles of optical fiber, wire and air waves link people, their computers and the vast array of information handling devices together. Our society is truly an information society, our time an information age. The question before us now is whether the kind of society being created is the one we want. It is a question that should especially concern those of us in the MIS community for we are in the forefront of creating this new society.
There are many unique challenges we face in this age of information. They stem from the nature of information itself. Information is the means through which the minds expands and increases its capacity to achieve its goals, often as the result of an input from another mind. Thus, information forms the intellectual capital from which human beings craft their lives and secure dignity.
However, the building of intellectual capital is vulnerable in many ways. For example, people's intellectual capital is impaired whenever they lose their personal information without being compensated for it, when they are precluded access to information which is of value to them, when they have revealed information they hold intimate, or when they find out that the information upon which their living depends is in error. The social contract among people in the information age must deal with these threats to human dignity. The ethical issues involved are many and varied, however, it is helpful to focus on just four. These may be summarized by means of an acronym -- PAPA.
Privacy: What information about one's self or one's associations must a person reveal to others, under what conditions and with what safeguards What things can people keep to themselves and not be forced to reveal to others
Accuracy: Who is responsible for the authenticity, fidelity and accuracy of information Similarly, who is to be held accountable for errors in information and how is the injured party to be made whole
Property: Who owns information What are the just and fair prices for its exchange Who owns the channels, especially the airways, through which information is transmitted How should access to this scarce resource be allocated
PrivacyWhat information should one be required to divulge about one's self to others Under what conditions What information should one be able to keep strictly to one's self These are among the questions that a concern for privacy raises. Today more than ever cautious citizens must be asking these questions.
Two forces threaten our privacy. One is the growth of information technology, with its enhanced capacity for surveillance, communication, computation, storage, and retrieval. A second, and more insidious threat, is the increased value of information in decision-making. Information is increasingly valuable to policy makers; they covet it even if acquiring it invades another's privacy.
Every 15 seconds, the monitor observed the usage of the toilets, mirrors, sinks and other facilities and recorded them on a form. This data was subsequently entered into a data base for further analyses. Of course the students, faculty and staff complained bitterly, feeling that this was an invasion of their privacy and a violation of their rights. State officials responded however, that the study would provide valuable information for policy making. In effect the State argues that the value of the information to the administrators was greater than any possible indignities suffered by the students and others. Soon the ACLU joined the fray. At their insistence the study was stopped, but only after the state got the information it wanted.
The threat to privacy here is one that many of us don't fully appreciate. I call it the threat of exposure by minute description. It stems from the collection of attributes about ourselves and use of the logical connector \"and\". For example, I may authorize one institution to collect information \"A\" about me, and another institution to collect information \"B\" about me; but I might not want anyone to possess \"A and B\" about me at the same time. When \"C\" is added to the list of conjunctions, the possessor of the new information will know even more about me. And then \"D\" is added and so forth. Each additional weaving together of my attributes reveals more and more about me. In the process, the fabric that is created poses a threat to my privacy.
Computer matching and the integration of data files into a central databank have enormous ethical implications. On the one hand, the new information can be used to uncover criminals and to identify service requirements for the needy. On the other hand, it provides powerful political knowledge for those few who have access to it and control over it. It is ripe for privacy invasion and other abuses. For this reason many politicians have spoken out against centralized governmental databanks. As early as 1966 Representative Frank Horton of New York described the threat as follows: \"The argument is made that a central data bank would use only the type of information that now exists and since no new principle is involved, existing types of safe-guards will be adequate. This is fallacious. Good computer men know that one of the most practical of our present safeguards of privacy is the fragmented nature of present information. It is scattered in little bits and pieces across the geography and years of our life. Retrieval is impractical and often impossible. A central data bank removes completely this safeguard. I have every confidence that ways will be found for all of us to benefit from the great advances of the computer men, but those benefits must never be purchases at the price of our freedom to live as individuals with private lives...\" [2, p.6].
There is another threat inherent in merging data files. Some of the data may be in error. More than 60,000 state and local agencies, for example provide information tot he National Crime Information Center and it is accessed by law officers nearly 400,000 times a day. Yet studies show that over 4% of the stolen vehicle entries, 6% of the warrant entries, and perhaps as much as one half of the local law enforcement criminal history records are in error. At risk is the safety of the law enforcement officers who access it, the effectiveness of the police in controlling crime, and the freedom of the citizens who names appear in the files. This leads to a concern for accuracy.
AccuracyMisinformation has a way of fouling up people's lives, especially when the party with the inaccurate information has an advantage in power and authority. Consider the plight of one Louis Marches. Marches, an immigrant, was a hard working man who, with his wife Eileen, finally saved enough money to purchase a home in Los Angeles during the 1950s. They took out a long term loan from Crocker National Bank. Every month Louis Marches would walk to his neighborhood bank, loan coupon book in hand, to make his payment of $196.53. He always checked with care to insured that the teller had stamped \"paid\" in his book on the proper line just opposite the month for which the payment was due. And he continued to do this long after the bank had converted to its automated loan processing system. 153554b96e