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Chapter 4 Personal, Legal, Ethical, and Organizational Issues of Information Systems Learning Objectives Discuss information privacy and methods for improving the privacy of information. Explain the privacy of e-mail, data collection issues, and censorship. Discuss the ethical issues related to information technology. Discuss the principles of intellectual property and issues related to the infringement of intellectual property. Discuss information system issues that affect organizations, including the digital divide, electronic publishing, and the connection between the workplace and employees’ health. Describe green computing and the ways it can improve the quality of the environment. Detailed Chapter Outline I. Privacy Issues Information technologies have brought many benefits, but they have also created concerns about privacy in the workplace. For example, employers now search social networking sites, such as Facebook or MySpace, to find background information on applicants, and this information can influence their hiring decisions. With employee-monitoring systems, managers can also supervise employees’ performance—the number of errors they make, their work speeds, and their time away from the desk. Healthcare organizations, financial institutions, legal firms, and even online-ordering firms gather a great deal of personal data and enter it in databases. Misuse and abuse of this information can have serious consequences. For this reason, organizations should establish comprehensive security systems to protect their employees’ or clients’ privacy. Laws are in place to prevent these problems, but taking legal action is often costly, and by that point, the damage has often already been done. Defining privacy is difficult. In terms of electronic information, most people believe they should be able to keep their personal affairs to themselves and should be told how information about them is being used. Unfortunately, information technologies have increased the ease of access to information for hackers as well as for legitimate organizations. The number of databases is increasing rapidly. In the United States, for example, the top three credit-rating companies—Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion—have records on nearly every person in the United States. Although these organizations and agencies are reputable and supply information only to people using it for its intended purpose, many small companies buy information from credit-rating companies and use it in ways that were never intended. This action is clearly illegal, but enforcement of federal laws has been lax. Information in databases can now be cross-matched to create profiles of people and predict their behavior, based on their transactions with educational, financial, and government institutions. This information is often used for direct marketing and for credit checks on potential borrowers or renters. The most common way to index and link databases is by using Social Security numbers. In 1977, the U.S. government began linking large databases to find information. The Department of Health, Education, and Welfare decided to look for people collecting welfare who were also working for the government. By comparing records of welfare payments with the government payroll, the department was able to identify these workers. In this case, people abusing the system were discovered, so this use of databases was useful. The Department of Housing and Urban Development, which keeps records on whether mortgage borrowers are in default on federal loans, previously made this information available to large banking institutions, such as Citibank, which added it to their credit files. This action led Congress to pass the first of several laws intended to protect people’s rights of privacy with regard to their credit records. Several federal laws now regulate the collecting and using of information on people and corporations, but the laws are narrow in scope and contain loopholes. There are three important concepts regarding the Web and network privacy: Acceptable use policies—a set of rules specifying the legal and ethical use of a system and the consequences of noncompliance Accountability—issues involving both the user’s and the organization’s responsibilities and liabilities Nonrepudiation—a method for binding all the parties to a contract Because of concerns about privacy, hardware or software controls should be used to determine what personal information is provided on the Web. To minimize the invasion of privacy, users and organizations should adhere to guidelines. Some of the guidelines are as follows: Conduct business only with Web sites with privacy policies that are easy to find, read, and understand Limit access to one’s personal information to those who have authorization Any organization creating, maintaining, using, or disseminating records of personal data must ensure the data’s reliability and take precautions to prevent misuse of the data Any data collection must have a stated purpose, and organizations should keep collected information only as long as it is needed for the stated purpose There must be a way for people to prevent personal information that was gathered about them for one purpose from being used for other purposes or being disclosed to others without their consent Privacy-protection software can take many forms. For example, to guard against cookies, which record navigations around the Web, one can use the cookie control features contained in one’s browser. Using privacy-protection software has some drawbacks, however. For example, eBay often has to contend with sellers who, by using different user accounts, are able to bid on their own items, thereby inflating the prices. A. E-mail Although e-mail is widely used, it presents some serious privacy issues. One issue is junk e-mail, also known as spam—unsolicited e-mail sent for advertising purposes. Usually, spam is sent in bulk using automated mailing software, and many spammers sell their address lists. Another privacy concern is ease of access. Whether an e-mail is distributed through the Web or through a company network, people should assume that others have access to their messages. In addition, many organizations have policies stating that any e-mails sent on company-owned computers are the organization’s property and that the organization has the right to access them. Spamming has also created decency concerns, because these e-mails often contain explicit language or nudity and can be opened by children. B. Data Collection on the Web The number of people shopping online is increasing rapidly because of convenience, the array of choices, and lower prices. Many customers, however, are reluctant to make online purchases because of concerns about hackers getting access to their credit card numbers and charging merchandise to their accounts. To lessen consumers’ concerns, many credit card companies reimburse fraudulent charges. Also, some consumers are concerned about their computers’ contents being searched while they are connected to the Web, and personal information could be used without their consent for solicitation and other purposes. Two commonly used technologies for data collection are cookies and log files. Cookies are small text files with unique ID tags that are embedded in a Web browser and saved on the user’s hard drive. Whenever a user accesses the same domain, the browser sends the saved information to the Web server. Cookies make it possible for Web sites to customize pages for users, such as Amazon recommending books based on one’s past purchases. Other times, cookies can be considered an invasion of privacy, and some people believe their information should be collected only with their consent. Many users disable cookies by installing a cookie manager, which can eliminate existing cookies and prevent additional cookies from being saved to a user’s hard drive. Log files, which are generated by Web server software, record a user’s actions on a Web site. Sometimes, users give incorrect information on purpose. If the information collected is not accurate, the result could be identity misrepresentation. II. Ethical Issues of Information Technologies In essence, ethics means doing the right thing, but what is “right” can vary from one culture to another and even from one person to another. Some information systems professionals believe that information technology offers many opportunities for unethical behavior, particularly because of the ease of collecting and disseminating information. Cybercrime, cyberfraud, identity theft, and intellectual property theft are on the rise. Many experts believe management can reduce employees’ unethical behavior by developing and enforcing codes of ethics. Many associations promote the ethically responsible use of information systems and technologies and have developed codes of ethics for their members. As a knowledge worker, some of the questions and statements one should consider before making a work-related decision include the following: Does this decision comply with one’s organization’s values? How will one feel about oneself after making this decision? If one knows this decision is wrong, one must not make it. A. Censorship Two types of information are available on the Web: public and private. Public information, posted by an organization or public agency, can be censored for public policy reasons. Public information can also be censored if the content is deemed offensive to a political, religious, or cultural group. However, private information—what is posted by a person—is not subject to censorship because of the constitutional freedom of expression. Of course, whether or not something can be censored depends in part on who is doing the censoring. Another type of censorship is restricting access to the Web. Some countries, such as Burma, China, and Singapore, restrict or forbid their citizens’ access to the Web, or try to censor the information posted on the Web. These governments believe that the racist, pornographic, and politically extreme content of some Web sites could affect national security. Most experts believe that Internet neutrality (also known as “net neutrality”) must be practiced in all cases. According to this principle, Internet service providers (ISPs) and government agencies should treat all data on the Internet equally—that is, they should not block traffic, charge different rates, or discriminate in any way based on user, content, Web site, types of equipment in use, telecommunication provider, platform, or application. A non-neutral network will have impact on nearly all individuals and businesses regardless of the type of business that they are engaged in. A non-neutral network will increase the cost of Internet connection for nearly all of us. Although U.S. citizens do not want the government controlling Web access, many parents are concerned about what their children are exposed to while using the Web, such as pornography, violence, and adult language. Another concern is children searching for information on the Web. Guidelines for Web use have been published to inform parents of the benefits and hazards of the Web, and parents can use these to teach their children to use good judgment while on the Web. Many parents use programs such as CyberPatrol, CyberSitter, Net Nanny, and SafeSurf to prevent their children’s access to certain Web sites. Web browser software has also been developed to improve children’s security. B. Intellectual Property Intellectual property is a legal umbrella covering protections that involve copyrights, trademarks, trade secrets, and patents for “creations of the mind” developed by people or businesses. Intellectual property can be divided into two categories: industrial property (inventions, trademarks, logos, industrial designs, and so on) and copyrighted material, which covers literary and artistic works. Generally, copyright laws protect tangible material. However, they also cover online materials, including Web pages, HTML code, and computer graphics, as long as the content can be printed or saved on a storage device. Copyright laws give only the creator exclusive rights, meaning no one else can reproduce, distribute, or perform the work without permission. Copyright laws do have some exceptions, however, usually under the Fair Use Doctrine. This exception means one can use copyrighted material for certain purposes, such as quoting passages of a book in literary reviews. There are limits on the length of material one can use. Other intellectual property protections include trademarks and patents. A trademark protects product names and identifying marks (logos, for example). A patent protects new processes. The length of a copyright varies based on the type of work. In general, copyrights last the author’s lifetime plus 70 years and do not need to be renewed; patents last 20 years (14 years for design patents). An organization can benefit from a patent in at least three ways: It can generate revenue by licensing its patent to others. It can use the patent to attract funding for further research and development. It can use the patent to keep competitors from entering certain market segments. Another copyright concern is software piracy, but the laws covering it are very straightforward. The 1980 revisions to the Copyright Act of 1976 include computer programs, so both people and organizations can be held liable for unauthorized duplication and use of copyrighted programs. Most legal issues related to information technologies in the United States are covered by the Telecommunications Act of 1996, the Communications Decency Act (CDA), and laws against spamming. One aspect of intellectual property that has attracted attention recently is cybersquatting, which is registering, selling, or using a domain name to profit from someone else’s trademark. A variation of cybersquatting is typosquatting, also called URL hijacking. This technique relies on typographical errors made by Web users when typing a Web site address into a Web browser. C. Social Divisions and the Digital Divide Some believe that information technology and the Internet have created a digital divide between the information rich and the information poor. Children, in particular, are often victims of the digital divide. Those without computers or Web access at home, as well as students who cannot afford computer equipment, are at a disadvantage and can often fall behind in their education. The speed of the Internet connection also plays a role in the digital divide discussion. Because of the availability of multimedia information on the Web, those who have faster connections may benefit more than those with slower connections. Increasing funding for computer equipment at schools and adding more computers in public places, such as libraries, can help offset this divide. III. The Impact of Information Technology in the Workplace Although information technology has eliminated some clerical jobs, it has created many new jobs for programmers, systems analysts, database and network administrators, network engineers, Webmasters, Web page developers, e-commerce specialists, chief information officers (CIOs), and technicians. Information technologies have a direct effect on the nature of jobs. Telecommuting, also known as virtual work, has enabled some people to perform their jobs from home. By handling repetitive and boring tasks, information technologies have made many jobs more interesting, resulting in more worker satisfaction. Information technologies have also led to “job deskilling.” This occurs when skilled labor is eliminated by high technology or when a job is downgraded from a skilled to a semiskilled or unskilled position. On the other hand, information technologies have created “job upgrading,” as when clerical workers use computers for word-processing tasks. With information technologies, one skilled worker might be capable of doing the job of several workers. Another impact of information technology is the creation of virtual organizations, which are networks of independent companies, suppliers, customers, and manufacturers connected via information technologies so they can share skills and costs and have access to each other’s markets. Advantages of virtual organizations include the following: Each participating company can focus on what it does best, thus improving the ability to meet customers’ needs. Because skills are shared among participating companies, the cost of hiring additional employees is reduced. Companies can respond to customers faster and more efficiently. The time needed to develop new products is reduced. Products can be customized more to respond to customers’ needs. A. Information Technology and Health Issues Although there have been reports of health problems caused by video display terminals (VDTs), no conclusive study indicates that VDTs are the cause, despite all the complaints. Work habits can cause some physical problems, however, and so can the work environment in which computers are used—static electricity, inadequate ventilation, poor lighting, dry air, unsuitable furniture, and too few rest breaks. The increasing popularity of touchscreens on smartphones, tablets, and some PCs may result in more stress-related injuries of the users’ hands, arms, back, and eyes. Other reports of health problems related to computer equipment include vision problems, such as fatigue, itching, and blurriness; musculoskeletal problems (back strain and wrist pain); skin problems, such as rashes; reproductive problems, such as miscarriages; and stress-related problems (headaches and depression). Ergonomics experts believe that using better-designed furniture as well as flexible or wireless keyboards, correct lighting, special monitors for workers with vision problems, and so forth can solve many of these problems. Although the Internet can provide valuable educational resources, too much time on the Web can create psychological, social, and health problems, especially for young people. IV. Green Computing Green computing is computing that promotes a sustainable environment and consumes the least amount of energy. Information and communications technology (ICT) generates approximately 2 percent of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions, roughly the same amount as the aviation industry. Many IT applications and tools can help reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Green computing involves the design, manufacture, use, and disposal of computers, servers, and computing devices (such as monitors, printers, storage devices, and networking and communications equipment) in such a way that there is minimal impact on the environment. A successful green computing strategy cannot be fully implemented without the cooperation of both the private and the public sector. Some of the ways by which green computing can be achieved are as follows: Design products that last longer and are modular in design so certain parts can be upgraded without replacing the entire system. Design search engines and other computing routines that are faster and consume less energy. Use computing devices that consume less energy and are biodegradable. Allow certain employees to work from their homes, resulting in fewer cars on the roads. Key Terms An acceptable use policy is a set of rules specifying the legal and ethical use of a system and the consequences of noncompliance. (P.73) Accountability refers to issues involving both the user’s and the organization’s responsibilities and liabilities. (P.73) Nonrepudiation is a method for binding all the parties to a contract. (P.73) Spam is an unsolicited e-mail sent for advertising purposes. (P.74) Cookies are small text files with unique ID tags that are embedded in a Web browser and saved on the user’s hard drive. (P.75) Log files, which are generated by Web server software, record a user’s actions on a Web site. (P.75) Intellectual property is a legal umbrella covering protections that involve copyrights, trademarks, trade secrets, and patents for “creations of the mind” developed by people or businesses. (P.79) Cybersquatting is registering, selling, or using a domain name to profit from someone else’s trademark. (P.80) Information technology and the Internet have created a digital divide. Computers are still not affordable for many people. The digital divide has implications for education. (P.80) Virtual organizations are networks of independent companies, suppliers, customers, and manufacturers connected via information technologies so they can share skills and costs and have access to each other’s markets. (P.82) Green computing involves the design, manufacture, use, and disposal of computers, servers, and computing devices (such as monitors, printers, storage devices, and networking and communications equipment) in such a way that there is minimal impact on the environment. (P.84) Instructor Manual for MIS Hossein Bidgoli 9781305632004, 9781337625999, 9781337625982, 9781337406925

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