Ethical Issue on the Internet

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Ethical issues relating to the use of the Internet and
the implications for managers and business practice.

by Mihai C. Orzan

Abstract

When we address the topic of ethical issues on the Internet we are generally referring at two different matters: privacy and intellectual property. Each has been examined extensively in the last five years, since the Internet explosive intrusion in everyday life activities, each has an important number of sub fields that require special attention from managers and other business professionals. The purpose of this paper is to to make a short presentation of most relevant developments pertaining Internet ethical issues in direct connection with the business world.

The Privacy debate is centered on the arguments regarding citizens’ right to privacy granted or implied by laws on one hand and companies approach on “customer data, considered an asset to sell for profits” (Choi, 2000, p.317) on the other hand. Privacy on the Internet is exploding as a topic of public concern these days. A recent Internet survey showed that 4 out of 5 users have major concerns regarding various privacy threats when they’re online. Yet only 6% of them have actually experienced privacy abuses. Those who are not yet on the Net cite privacy as the main reason they have chosen not to become Internet users. If electronic commerce is going to thrive, this fear is going to have to be dealt with by laws and by industry practices and this paper attempts to give a thorough description of the major computer ethics trends of the moment.

The other major source of concern for business world as well as the majority of Internet users is copyright control. Serious question come from both approaches on this matter: what information available on the Internet can I freely use and how can one protect the hardly earned information that he posts on a website. In fact, “The Internet has been characterized as the largest threat to copyright since its inception. It is awash in information, much of it with varying degrees of copyright protection.” (O’Mahoney, 2001). Copyrighted issue constitutes an important part of this paper and it details most of the present concerns of intellectual property.

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Privacy
"Everyone has the right to know what information is collected and how it will be used and to accept or decline the collection or dissemination of this information– particularly financial and medical information."

President George W. Bush.

Privacy has become a major concern on the Internet. According to (Ferrell, Leclair & Fraedrich, 1997), “the extraordinary growth of the Internet has created a number of privacy issues that society has never encountered before and therefore has been slow to address.” Opinions have been expressed and actions were taken in order to resolve these matters in one way or another. In an interview earlier this year United States President George W. Bush (Miller, 2001) expressed numerous and informed concerns regarding privacy issues, including access, security, and use of personal information. He promised to ensure actions that will meet consumer demands for privacy protection and advocated "opt- in" policies for mailing lists. He concluded the interview by stating: "I share many people's concerns that, with the advent of the Internet, personal privacy is increasingly at risk, and I am committed to protecting personal privacy for everyone."

Privacy issues on the Internet relate to two major concerns. The first concern is users’ ability to control the rate, type, and sequence of the information they view. Spam, or unsolicited commercial e- mail, is a control concern because it violates privacy and steals resources. A second concern relates to the ability of users to address and understand how organizations collect and use personal information on the Internet. Many 2

Web sites require visitors to identify themselves and provide information about their wants and needs. Some Web sites...
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