ICT student textbook/What students need to know about ethics of technology

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ICT student textbook
Science Technology and Society What students need to know about ethics of technology

You will be learning to use ICT for many purposes. However, you should know that ICT use can be beneficial or harmful, and you need to use your judgement in the use of ICTs. Ethical challenges in the use of ICTs can arise in the following situations:

  1. Plagiarism - showing resources created by others as created by oneself
  2. Using others resources without their permission, or as per the 'license' associated with the resource.
  3. Participating in a virtual forum in an offensive manner, violating the etiquette of virtual forum behaviours

You need to be aware of these dangers and learn to avoid these, and help your classmates also avoid these.

Plagiarising - passing off resources created by others as created by oneself

It is easy to copy a resource from the internet and include in your own work without giving credit to the creator. This is called 'plagiarism', the more familiar word is 'copying'. This is an unethical practice. Nowadays, there are software applications which can check a digital submission to check if it includes (plagiarises) other resources in an unethical manner. Referring to other resources, 'citing' them in your work, or adapting them to meet the needs of your work are ethical activities. This is called 'fair use' of materials created by another person. However, if you copy large parts of another resource not created by you, in your own work, with or without acknowledgement, it may be seen as plagiarism. What is 'minor' copying or 'large' depends on the situation, and you need to use your judgement. In case of doubt, always discuss with your teachers, classmates and friends. One simple rule - use materials from existing OER sources, and give credit to the source, in your own document.

Using others resources violating the 'license' associated with the resource

Digital resources, including software and content always have an associated 'license' of use. In case the software or content is licensed as 'proprietary', where the creator has all the rights, and has not given any rights to others, then using the digital resource is illegal, without paying the required license fee, as well as unethical. Such use is called 'piracy'. You may find it technically very easy to just 'copy-paste' an article from the Internet or copy a proprietary software program from another computer, or download a movie from the internet which is not licensed to be copied. All these would be unethical practices and must be avoided. For the same reason, your school computer lab must not have any pirated software. If you find any pirated software or content in the school computers, please do bring it to the notice of your teacher.

Free and Open Source Software and Open Educational Resources

One way of avoiding this unethical practice, is to use and promote Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) and Open Educational Resources (OER). FOSS and OER movements aim at providing digital resources that are licensed to allow you to make copies. In addition, you can modify the software / content resource and share again. It is ethical to use FOSS and OER. It is unethical to pirate proprietary software or content.

Remember that if a digital resource has no explicit copyright clause mentioned, it means it is owned by the creator with no rights for others. Hence when you create a digital resource, please take care to explicitly mention that it is an OER. You can do this by providing the copyright clause such as - "Copyright - Creative Commons CC BY SA 4.0", you can mention this in the first page itself, below the title of the article.

Ethical use of internet

The Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility has prepared the 'ten commandments' or ten rules for use of computers, some of which are listed below:

  1. You should not use a computer to harm other people.
  2. You should not interfere with other people's computer work.
  3. You should not snoop around in other people's computer files.
  4. You should not use a computer to steal.
  5. You should not copy or use proprietary software for which you have not paid
  6. You should not use other people's computer resources without authorization
  7. You should always use a computer in ways that ensure consideration and respect for others

This can be pasted on your computer lab as 'Do's and Dont's of using the lab.

Internet Safety

The virtual world also can be as or more dangerous than the real world. Cyber bullying (including by students of other students), abusive communication, on-line fraud including transfer of funds from your bank accounts etc are common.

Read these news articles and discuss among your friends. Think of the steps you should take to avoid getting into trouble.

  1. 'Ditched' by Facebook lover, 14-year-old girl hangs self, news article shows that the use of Facebook by children which is not supervised by parents/teachers can be quite dangerous.
  2. A 20-year-old girl student was arrested by the Cyber Crime Police on Thursday on the charge of creating a fake Facebook id in the name of another girl and posting her photographs, phone numbers and some abusive messages and causing mental agony to her, from The Hindu
  3. Hyderabad student stalked girls through Facebook. This article shows how dangerous it can be to befriend strangers. As a simple but necessary rule, never make any friend on-line, unless you already are their friend off-line
  4. Using social networking sites presents children and their friends and families with safety, security, and privacy risks. read the article from Truthout
  5. Mobile Internet abetting cyber crimes, say police, Hindu September 2014
  6. Phishing: 3 victims lose Rs. 20 lakh, Hindu September 2014. (Banking fraud)
  7. Internet - a double-edged sword. Hindu April 4, 2015
  8. A June 2011 Consumer Reports "State of the Net" survey "unearthed several disturbing findings about children and Facebook": One million children were harassed, threatened, or subjected to other forms of cyber bullying during 2010.
    1. Of the 20 million minors who actively used Facebook in the past year, 7.5 million - or more than one-third - were younger than 13 and not supposed to be able to use the site.
    2. Among young users, more than 5 million were 10 and under, and their accounts were largely unsupervised by their parents.

Apart from harm that may be inflicted by others through the internet, there is harm from excessive use of the internet. See Man treated for Internet addiction. South Korea, the country which has the highest density of internet use has internet deaddiction centres in more than 100 hospitals.

Like any other resource, the internet needs to be used wisely, there is a danger of misuse, abuse and over-use. Please visit the following sites to learn about safe internet use

  1. https://www.getsafeonline.org/protecting-your-computer/safe-internet-use/
  2. http://blog.searchlock.com/internet-safety-tips-kids-teens/

Apart from harm to yourself, the use of the internet can cause problems for your computer, through malware (software viruses), or spam (unwanted mails). Do not download any software or content to your computer from the internet, unless you have clear instruction from your teacher.