Digital Ethics

Digital Ethics

Copyright: © 2022 |Pages: 26
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-8036-3.ch021
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The purpose of this chapter is to discuss strategies that can be applied in the domain of cyberlaw. The chapter begins by distinguishing between ethics, morality, and law. It then focuses on the relation between ethics and digital technologies. The chapter then examines proposals for what should be included in codes of ethics as well as examples of codes of ethics for IT companies. The examples include the British Computer Society, the Association for Computer Machinery, and the Data Processing Management Association. Next, ethical codes for regulating automation, computerization, and artificial intelligence are summarized. The chapter then discusses ethical issues surrounding privacy, anonymity, and personal data, including the EU's right of access by data subjects as well as issues connected with big data. The chapter then focuses on crimes caused by digitization and the protection of intellectual property. The chapter concludes by considering recent laws of ecommerce as well as social and international legal challenges of regulating cyberspace.
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Ethics is the study of proper professional action based on morals and applicable laws. In the field of information technology, some of the major ethical concerns include automation, ICT, robotization, and the Internet. The specialization that studies ICT and law—also known “cyberlaw” or “IT law”—aims to regulate the digital dissemination of information on a variety of media, such as video/film, software, e-commerce, and other forms. This field also considers issues relating to intellectual property, contract law, privacy, freedom of expression, and jurisdiction.

One of the predominant issues in IT law is net neutrality, which is the principle that Internet service providers (ISPs) must treat all Internet communications equally and not discriminate or charge different rates depending on the user, content, website, platform, application, type of hardware, source address, destination address, or method of communication (Easley et al., 2018).

Another major concern has been freedom of expression on the Internet (e.g., see Figure 1). Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights calls for the protection of freedom of expression in all media. This includes the right to have an opinion without interference and to seek, receive, and communicate information and ideas through any media, regardless of borders. Compared to traditional print media, the availability and relative anonymity of cyberspace have lifted the conventional barriers between a person and their ability to publish. Anyone with an Internet connection can potentially reach millions of people (Zittrain, 2013).

Figure 1.

Freedom of expression on the Internet in Asia (Funk, 2019)


One of the more well-known laws of information technology is the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, which was a response to financial scandals in the early 2000s involving companies such as Enron, Tyco International, and WorldCom. Such high-profile frauds shook investor confidence in the credibility of company financial statements and prompted many to demand a review of multi-annual regulatory standards. The law introduced strict new rules for accountants, auditors, and corporate officials and imposed more stringent record-keeping requirements. The law also added new criminal penalties for securities violations. For example, the head of a company cannot offer as a defense the argument that he has not read a digital report on the state of the company if he has signed it.

Crime in cyberspace develops very quickly and can multiply its range at the speed of light. Hence, cyberlaw often lags behind these kinds of crime. To be successful, it requires effective international cooperation. These issues will be briefly discussed in this chapter, but in strategic terms, for the full characterization of these rights would require a book of its own.


Access To Digital Ethics

The world was once ruled through empires based on strong central powers and strong militaries. Since the Industrial Revolution, however, the world has been led by capital and its subordinate politicians. In the 21st century, money and sympathetic politicians continue to rule. Nonetheless, they are supported by computerization, which in practice controls the world through ultra-fast transcontinental communication of business and political decisions. Societies have defended themselves against this form of “nuclear capitalism” or authoritarianism by promoting the cultivation of behaviors characterized by the following three virtues of conduct (Figure 2):

  • Morality: Morality is the foundation of behavior in matters related to life, sex, money, and power. It consists of right and proper conduct, for example, “don’t kill,” “don’t molest,” “don’t cheat,” and “don’t persecute.” Usually, moral norms define religions.

  • Ethics: Ethics are based on historically justified codes of conduct in families or other group affiliations. It aims at the harmonious coexistence of people by establishing predictable behaviors.

  • Law: Law perpetuates ethical codes and prevents them from being violated by legislation approved by legislative bodies.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Intellectual Property Rights: Legal rights granted to creators to protect original works, inventions, products, etc.

Patents: A form of intellectual property that gives an owner the legal right to bar others from producing, using, or selling an invention for a limited period in exchange for publicly disclosing details of the invention to the public.

Internet Service Provider: An organization that provides services in connection with accessing and using the internet.

Cyberlaws: Laws that regulate behavior with respect to the use of computer technologies.

Copyrights: A form of intellectual property that grants an owner exclusive rights to make copies of the work for set period of time.

Anonymity: A situation in which an acting person’s identity remains unknown to others.

Personal Data: Information that is related to an identifiable person, such as an IP address, location data, an email address, etc.

Cybercrime: Crime that either (1) is carried out through the use of computers and networks or (2) targets computers and networks.

Net Neutrality: The principle that internet service providers must treat all internet communications equally and that they must not charge different rates based on factors such as the user, content, website, etc.

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