There are many different sides to the discussion on moral and ethical uses ofcomputers. In many situations, the morality of a particular use of a computer is up to theindividual to decide. For this reason, absolute laws about ethical computer usage isalmost, but not entirely, impossible to define.
The introduction of computers into the workplace has introduced many questionsas well: Should employers make sure the workplace is designed to minimize health riskssuch as back strain and carpal tunnel syndrome for people who work with computers? Can employers prohibit employees from sending personal memos by electronic mail to afriend at the other side of the office? Should employers monitor employees’ work oncomputers? If so, should employees be warned beforehand? If warned, does that makethe practice okay? According to Kenneth Goodman, director of the Forum for Bioethicsand Philosophy at the University of Miami, who teaches courses in computer ethics,”There’s hardly a business that’s not using computers.”1This makes these questions allthe more important for today’s society to answer. There are also many moral and ethical problems dealing with the use of computersin the medical field. In one particular case, a technician trusted what he thought acomputer was telling him, and administered a deadly dose of radiation to a hospitalpatient.2 In cases like these, it is difficult to decide who’s fault it is. It could have been thecomputer programmer’s fault, but Goodman asks, “How much responsibility can you placeon a machine?”3Many problems also occur when computers are used in education. Shouldcomputers replace actual teachers in the classroom? In some schools, computers andcomputer manuals have already started to replace teachers. I would consider this anunethical use of computers because computers do not have the ability to think and interacton an interpersonal basis. Computers “dehumanize human activity”4 by taking away many jobs and makingmany others “boring exercises in pushing the buttons that make the technology work.” 5 Complete privacy is almost impossible in this computer age. By using a credit cardor check cashing card, entering a raffle, or subscribing to a magazine, people provideinformation about themselves that can be sold to marketers and distributed to data basesthroughout the world. When people use the world-wide web, the sites they visit anddownload things from, make a record that can be traced back to the person.6This is notprotected, as it is when books are checked out of a library. Therefore, information aboutsomeone’s personal preferences and interests can be sold to anyone. A health insurancecompany could find out if a particular person had bought alcohol or cigarettes and chargethat person a higher rate because he or she is a greater health risk. Although somethinglike this has not been reported yet, there are no laws against it, at this point.
More and more data base companies are monitoring individuals with littleregulation. “Other forms of monitoring-such as genetic screening-could eventually beused to discriminate against individuals not because of their past but because of statisticalexpectations about their future.”7 For instance, people who do not have AIDS but carrythe antibodies are being discharged from the U.S. military and also fired from some jobs. Who knows if this kind of medical information could lead employers to make decisions ofemployment based on possible future illnesses rather than on job qualifications. Is this anethical use of computers? One aspect of computers that is surely immoral and unethical is computer crime,which has been on the rise lately. There are many different types of computer crime. Three main types of crimes are making computer viruses, making illegal copies ofsoftware, and actually stealing computers. Computer viruses have been around for a decade but they became infamous whenthe Michelangelo virus caused a scare on March 6, 1992. According to the NationalComputer Security Association in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, there are 6000 known virusesworldwide and about 200 new ones show up every month.8These viruses are spreadquickly and easily and can destroy all information on a computer’s hard drive. Now,people must buy additional software just to detect viruses and possibly repair infectedfiles.
Making illegal copies of software is also a growing problem in the computerworld. Most people find no problem in buying a computer program and giving a copy totheir friend or co-worker. Some people even make copies and sell them