Cyber age is used to refer to “the high-tech era we are living in today” (Ford & Micah, 2005).It is the idea where the current age is characterized by easy transfer and access of information. It is an era characterized by instant access to information which would not otherwise be possible in previous years. It is a time when the world has taken a complete shift from the traditional industry to an age where economies and business are run and controlled by how easily information can be accessed or manipulated (Ford & Micah, 2005). It is also a period in which the world has taken a shift from the age of the personal computers in mid 70s to where the internet is reaching huge masses of people. Today, the society is shaped by global communications capabilities.
The world today has gone digital and undergone a revolution which makes information easily accessible. The world today is very electronic and the global networks are state-of-art. This era started back in 1969 when the internet was first established. Following its efficient applicability in US department of defense, its use has since then proliferated to every part of the world. The kind if connectivity brought about by the internet has however been a cause of worry and a source of conflict over issues concerning privacy.
“The distributed nature of the internet, and its basis on routing of packets along multitudinous networks, makes it impossible to have a central control” (Stair, 2010). This makes it hard to regulate or control the content. Cyber or internet content and regulation continue to spark very heated debates. The fact that use of internet has exponentially grown today means that it is no longer preserved for the intellectually able but for everyone who can access it. As it attracts more users in every part of the globe including Asia and Africa, the ethics debate are no longer an American and European affair but one which is now global.
The bigger challenge in addressing internet ethics is being able to accommodate diverse values and cultures as well as different global systems. Conflicts arising from the arguments are clear from incidents such as that of China being in disagreement over how much its citizens should access and how much access the government should have on people’s interaction with the internet.
In trying to understand whether there is a place for ethics on the internet, there is need for agreement over the fact that the internet, like every other medium of information transfer, the context, products and services should be shaped by ethics. For any practical problem relating to the internet, the law should be applied fully. Issues such as child pornography, copyright, libel, consumer protection and other concerns should be addressed by the law. Ethics in relation to the internet, should ensure that there is respect for different values and cultures of the users.
Legislation regarding internet privacy
Considering the number of transactions and transmission of information happening through the internet today, many people are susceptible to abuse. The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) was put in place to protect children from exploitation. The biggest concern is information children might give about themselves, about the parents and families on the internet. The law directs that all commercial online services and websites directed at children must obtain parental consent before collecting or disclosing any information about the children (Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section, 2010). The law also calls for the industry to put in place self regulatory measures which ensure that children only have access to information and sites suitable for their age.
The USA Patriot Act is one which has in the past and present continued to raise controversial discussions over how much privacy citizens should enjoy on the internet and how much access the government should have on personal information. The Act was passed following the terrorist attacks and increased terrorism threats. It increases the law enforcement’s access and ability to monitor internet activities including information transactions. The law enforcement has a right to record electronic communications and retrieve individual or organizations transactions on the internet (Etzioni, 2002).
In an event where any sort of activity on the net is perceived as a potential threat to national security, the law enforcement agencies have the right to divulge the context the transaction or communication to themselves (Doyle, 2009). The law however fails to explain what constitutes a potential threat, causing many concerns over how much access the government should be allowed to have over people’s personal transactions and information.
The Cyber Security Enhancement Act passed recently is aimed at promoting cyber security in the public sector and within the government. This is to be done by promoting research on how cyber security can be improved. It will also be made possible by providing scholarships to students pursuing cyber security studies. They will after that be required to commit to public initiatives seeking to make cyber security a worry of the past.
The bill seeks to coordinate any efforts made to protect internet users, promote awareness and educate people on their responsibilities towards cyber security. The house committee on science and technology is mandated by the bill to coordinate and encourage partnership with universities and other research bodies and provide the necessary funds towards research projects positively contributing to the subject.
Ethics as it applies to information assurance
Information assurance is based on availability, integrity and confidentiality (Dark, 2010). If all the three are put in place, the overall security of information is assured. Software complexity has however made this hard to achieve since many people are not well conversant with operating them. The results have been devastating effects where people have not been able to protect themselves. The purpose of ethics in any context is to differentiate between right and wrong and promote good habits while discouraging bad ones.
While information policies are supposed to ensure accessibility and speed in transfer of information, ethics must take into consideration its social nature. Ethics should also ensure consideration of everyone’s interests, those of the developers and those of the rest of the society. This is also out of consideration of the fact that the internet is a business which needs to be profitable by sometimes applying business models which may not be acceptable by everyone in society.
In order to find a place for ethics in the information world, there has to be acceptance that information assurance does not mean value-free practices (Solove & Marc, 2006). Values should shape the content of information being collected or distributed. Information assurance also calls for protection of both the person receiving or giving it. It should also be considerate of national and local cultures to ensure that it is not offensive to the giver or the receiver.
It is important to realize that ethics in information assurance do not call for information to be a subject of one set of cultures. A good example is the online newspapers whose content many times includes a multiplicity of cultures and values. Ethics therefore call for the users’ accommodation to different value systems. Finally, ethics in information assurance call for responsiveness to users’ opinions. This is by realizing that while the internet and the information concepts started in some regions, they now belong to the whole world. Different users’ opinions and concerns should therefore be considered when implementing information assurance. Users are completely entitled to having opinions and suggestions on how information should work for them.
Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section. (2010). Cyber Security Enhancement Act. Web.
Dark, M.J. (2010). Information assurance and security ethics in complex systems: Interdisciplinary perspectives. Hershey, PA: Information Science Reference.
Doyle, C. (2009). The USA Patriot Act: A legal analysis. Washington. D.C.: Congressional Research Services.
Etzioni, A. (2002). The limits of privacy. New York: Basic Books.
Ford, P., & Micah, H. (2005). Computers and ethics in the cyber age. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.
Solove, D.J., & Marc, R. (2006). Privacy, information and technology. New York: Aspen Publishers.
Stair, R.M. (2010). Fundamentals of information systems. Boston: Boston Course Technology.