Cyber Ethics


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Question #1
Assignment Instructions
1. You have been working for the XYZ Computer Corporation as an entry-level software engineer since you graduated from college last May. You have done very well so far; you are respected by management, are well liked by your fellow employees, and have been assigned to a team of engineers that has consistently worked on the most critical and valued projects and contracts that XYZ Corp. has secured. Their most recent contract is for a United States defense project involving the missile defense system, and again you have been assigned to the team that will develop software for this project. However, you are staunchly opposed to the project’s objectives, so you ask to be reassigned. Your superisor and coworkers, as well as upper management, are disappointed to learn of your strong feelings about this project. You are asked to reconsider your views, and you are promised a bonus and a substantial pay increase if you agree to work on this project during the next year. You also discover from a colleague that refusing to work on this project would greatly diminish your career advancement at XYZ and may even make you vulnerable to future layoffs. To compound matters, you and your spouse are expecting your first child in about three months and you recently purchased a home. What would you do? Describe the process of ethical deliberation that you would undertake in trying to resolve this dilemma.
2. In the days and weeks immediately following the tragic events of September 22, 2001, some political leaders claimed that extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures; in times of war, basic civil liberties and freedoms, such as privacy, need to be severely restricted for the sake of national security and safety. Perhaps as a nation, the value that we have traditionally attached to privacy has diminished significantly since then. Initially, the majority of American citizens strongly supported the Patriot Act, which passed by an overwhelming margin in both houses of Congress and was enacted into law on October 21, 2001. However, between 2001 and 205 support for this act diminished considerably. Many privacy advocates believe that it goes too far and thus erodes basic civil liberties. Some critics also fear that certain provisions included in the act could easily be abused. Examine some of the details of the Patriot Act and determine whether its measures are as extreme as its critics suggest. Are those measures consistent with the value of privacy, which Americans claim to embrace? Do privacy interests need to be reassessed, and possibly recalibrated, in light of ongoing threats from terrorists?
Question #2
Assignment Instructions
1. In examining some issues surrounding a hacker code of ethics. We also saw why this code, containing the six principles described by Steven Levy, has been controversial. Is it possible to establish an appropriate set of guidelines for a hacker code of ethics, i.e. for nonmalicious hackers, without becoming a moral relativist? You may want to revisit a discussion on moral relativism in deciding your answer to this question.
2. Recall Eugene Spafford’s argument as to why computer break-ins can be justified under extraordinary circumstances. Apply Spafford’s rationale to the following case. Imagine that you will have to break into a neighbor’s car in order to drive a friend, who will otherwise die, to the hospital. You are morally obligated to save a person’s life when it is in your power to do so. You are also obligated to obey the law, which forbids breaking into someone’s motor vehicle. How would your decision in this case be similar to or different from the one Spafford uses when determining whether to break into the computer database containing the medical information needed to save someone’s life?
Question #3
Assignment Instructions
1. Assess arguments for and against the use of biometric technologies for security, especially in airports and large stadiums. Should biometric technologies such as face-recognition programs and iris scanners be used in public places to catch criminals? In the post-September 11 world, there is much more support for these technologies than there was when biometrics were used at the Super Bowl XXXV in January 2001. Granted that such technologies can help the government to catch criminals and suspected terrorists, what kinds of issues do they raise from a civil liberties perspective? Compare the arguments for and against the use of biometric technologies in tracking down criminals to arguments for and against computerized record matching. Do you support the use of biometrics in large, public gathering places? Defend your answer.
2. How has the software industry has tried to make its case for strong legal protection for software. Has protection for proprietary software gone too far, as some critics suggest? If so, what are the implications for innovation and competition in the computer industry?
Question #4
Assignment Instructions
1. Review Julie Hilden’s arguments for why some expectations should be made in cases of prosecuting sexting crimes under current child pornography laws. What does she mean by the Romeo and Juliet exception and by the age-specific exception? Are these exceptions plausible in the kinds of sexting cases that we examined? Describe some of the challenges posed by the age-specific exception. For example, what would happen if a middle-aged man received an unsolicited nude photo from a teenage girl on his cell phone? Should he be prosecuted for possessing a pornographic imagte of a minor? Should the teenage girl who sent this photo to him be prosecuted for transmitting the image? Defend your answer.
2. We briefly noted that some controversies associated with workplace monitoring now have global and international implications. For example, Stephen Coleman points out that in the global workforce, an employee’s privacy could be violated by software monitoring programs that reside on a computer located in a country different from where that employee works. Do we need new kinds of international agreements and policies for employee monitoring, as Coleman suggests? And do we need to adopt an International Bill of Human Rights, as Coleman also suggests, in response to global challenges posed by workplace monitoring? If not, what kinds of alternative proposals might be suitable.
Question #5
Assignment Instructions
1. Consider the incident of cyber-bullying on MySpace which resulted in Megan Meier’s suicide in 2006. To what extent can social networking sites control cyber bulllying and other forms of harassment that occur in their forums? In the case of MySpace, would a more explicit policy about the rules required to get a legitimate account on that SNS have prevented Lori Drew, the woman who harassed Meier under the alias Josh Evans, from succeeding in bullying Meier online? What implications does the Meier incident have for trust in cyberspace, especially for young teenagers who participate in social networking services?

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