The Internet and Ethical Problems to Communication Regarding Privacy

Topics: Ethics, Morality, Privacy Pages: 6 (1874 words) Published: July 24, 2012
Pasquali (cited in Jordin and Beaken 2010) claims that “we live in an age of communication without a morality of communicating.” Indeed, the Internet radically transformed communication standards as we knew it, shifted the rules and accelerated the processes. Therefore, it altered our moral behaviour. With the spectacular takeoff of the World Wide Web, a debate emerged among scholars. They seek to determine whether Information and Computing Ethics (ICE) represent a continuation of traditional ethics, or if they radically shift our ethical thinking (Ess 2009). Some authors claim that online ethics only raise already well-known problems, whilst others as Johnson (2001) see them as “new species,” which bring up unprecedented ethical problems to communication. O’Neil (2001) specifies that “one of the more prevalent topics concerning the Internet is consumer privacy” and defines privacy concern as a “desire to keep personal information out of the hands of others”. I will demonstrate that the Internet is an ideal ground to privacy violation as it is a fast and easy way to gather information in a worldwide dimension and that its nature puts the individual at a distance from ethical concerns. I will then confront the Internet and its moral issues to the two salient and universalist ethical theories; the Kantian and the Utilitarianism frameworks.

The Internet: a fast and easy way to violate privacy
The Internet is an extraordinarily fast and easy means to copy data, transgress property and gather illegally or not information from users about their characteristics. O’Neil (2001) writes that “there is a growing concern that easily accessible information and databases available on the Internet are giving rise to serious privacy violations”. Internet advertising companies have realized the power of the web and the significance of the data they could collect through this virtual network. Users provide information without knowing by two ways. First, when they visit websites, people run the risk to get cookies (1), which will provide clues to these corporations about their prospects’ identities, interests and expectations. Another inexhaustible resource of information resides in social networks. In this context, people share expressly personal details with their friends, relatives and colleagues, but they do not necessarily know how to protect their privacy on social networks as Facebook, and thus publish their lives on the public domain. Specialized companies use techniques as user-tracking or cross-site scripting to get information without any consent and set up tailored advertising. They merely tie in some data from different websites to set up a furnished file on the individual. These processes of profiling are undeniably unethical, because they act without the information’s owner consent, but the Internet allows more important offences than advertising, as stealing bank and identities information’s to get money or access to private services. Moreover, Haupman specifies that “privacy incursions can cause harm many years after their perpetration.” On the web, data are never deleted, but stored in a server, which can yield them anytime to anyone that requests. In Spite of this insecure context, people keep surfing the Internet without protecting themselves because they do not know how to do or think naively that they are not at risk. Albeit they may expose themselves to intrusive advertisements in most cases, they could occasionally be confronted with fraud. According to Wafa (2009), this phenomenon is due to “a lack of consumer education and a campaign of disinformation by Internet companies that give end-users a false sense of security about their online privacy”. Furthermore, Digital media allow more and more people around the globe to communicate and interact with one another (Ess, 2009). Hence, this worldwide communication tool benefits to unethical actors. They can withdraw significant profits because of a lack...
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