Cyber ethics is the philosophic study of ethics pertaining to computers, encompassing user behavior and what computers are programmed to do, and how this affects individuals and society. For years, various governments have enacted regulations while organizations have defined policies about cyberethics.
In the late 19th century, the invention of cameras spurred similar ethical debates as the internet does today. During a seminar of Harvard Law Review in 1890, Warren and Brandeis defined privacy from an ethical and moral point of view to be:
- “central to dignity and individuality and boyhood. Privacy is also indispensable to a sense of autonomy — to ‘a feeling that there is an area of an individual’s life that is totally under his or her control, an area that is free from outside intrusion.’ The deprivation of privacy can even endanger a person’s health.”
Privacy can be decomposed to the limitation of others’ access to an individual with “three elements of secrecy, anonymity, and solitude.” Anonymity refers to the individual’s right to protection from undesired attention. Solitude refers to the lack of physical proximity of an individual to others. Secrecy refers to the protection of personalized information from being freely distributed.
Individuals surrender private information when conducting transactions and registering for services. Ethical business practice protects the privacy of their customers by securing information which may contribute to the loss of secrecy, anonymity, and solitude. Credit card information, social security numbers, phone numbers, mothers’ maiden names, addresses and phone numbers freely collected and shared over the internet may lead to a loss of Privacy.
Fraud and impersonation are some of the malicious activities that occur due to the direct or indirect abuse of private information. Identity theft is rising rapidly due to the availability of private information in the internet. For instance, seven million Americans fell victim to identity theft in 2002, and nearly 12 million Americans were victims of identity theft in 2011 making it the fastest growing crime in the United States. Public records search engines and databases are the main culprits contributing to the rise of cybercrime. Listed below are a few recommendations to restrict online databases from proliferating sensitive personnel information.
- Exclude sensitive unique identifiers from database records such as social security numbers, birth dates, hometown and mothers’ maiden names.
- Exclude phone numbers that are normally unlisted.
- Clear provision of a method which allows people to have their names removed from a database.
- Banning the reverse social security number lookup services.[page needed]
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