Code of Fair Information Practices

The Computer Age has not always resulted in positive effects. Many feared that computers will be used for criminal activities or other unsavory purposes. Indeed, many have used them for such purposes since the birth of computers and the rise of information technology. There are various social and ethical consequences of computer technology, such as system failure catastrophes, invasion of personal privacy and other much-discussed events.

Computer ethics addresses these and other questions. It is a new field of ethics, started in the 1970s. It is intended to deal with the number of ethical problems and moral quandaries that arise from the widespread adoption and usage of computer technology. For instance, a common fallacious belief that computer ethics deals with is that computer users can do minimal or even negligible harm to themselves, the computer or any other computer user.

Nothing could be further from the truth. You are personally just as liable for all the legal consequences of o­nline behavior as you are for offline behavior. This realization can be unpleasant, especially if individuals have already engaged in illegal behavior with the misperception that the Internet made it legal.

Privacy concerns are also a huge deal in the field of computer ethics. In 1973, the Advisory Committee to the Secretary of the Department of Health, Education and Welfare issued a Code of Fair Information Practices to protect the rights of American citizens. This code is as follows:

1. No personal data record-keeping systems that are designed to be kept secret from the public are allowed.
2. For personal data record-keeping systems, there must be a way for individuals to know what is in their file and how it is being kept.
3. Individuals must have a way to correct information in their files.
4. It is the responsibility of any organization using personal data record-keeping systems to ensure its reliability and prevent its misuse.
5. The purpose of obtaining personal information may not be changed without individuals' informed consent.