TECHNOLOGY IN THE DOCKS

Posted on 15 September, 2018 by Administrator

TECHNOLOGY IN THE DOCKS

New technology almost always improves lives. But new technology almost has undesirable effects. This was true of the labor-saving machines that prompted the industrial revolution. (introducing 16-hour workdays and child labor under harsh conditions) and it’s also true about information technology. Think of the bliss of IT: it makes our work more productive because a few keystrokes on a computer keyboard prompt the computer to calculate or print what would otherwise take many human hours. It educates us via technologies such multimedia classes delivered online. It opens new economic opportunities such as trading with overseas consumers via the internet. It makes the world smaller by letting people work and socialize together over great distances via networks such as the web. It democratizes the business business community by making important business tools affordable to both rich and start-up companies. And it puts at our fingertips information on practically every imaginable subject. So, what’s the dark the dark side? Here is a sample of the main issues and the questions they raise.

Consumer privacy - The ability to inexpensively and quickly collect, maintain, manipulate and transfer data enables every individual and organization to collect millions of personal records. When visiting a commercial site, chances are the site installs a little file, a ‘cookie’, on your computer’s hard disk. This file helps track every click you make on that site, so companies specializing in consumer profiling can learn your shopping and buying habits. When you you collect a prescription, the chemist collects details about you. Before you send a warranty card for a newly purchased product, you are asked to answer some few questions that have nothing to do with the warranty but much to do with your lifestyle. All these data are channeled into a large database for commercial exploitation. Your control for such data is minimal. While consumers, patients and employees might consent to the collection of information on on aspect of their lives by one party and on another aspect by another party, the combination of such information might reveal more than they would like. For a firm can easily and inexpensively purchase your data from a chemist and several consumer goods companies, combine the data into larger records and practically prepare a dossier about you: the medicines you take (and through this information, the diseases you might have); the political party to which you contributed; and so on.

Civil rights advocates argue that IT has created a Big Brother society where anyone can be observed. US business leaders oppose European-style legislation to curb collection and dissemination of private data because this limits target marketing and other economic activities. Business leaders ask ‘How can we target our products to consumers who are most likely to want them if we have no information about those consumers?’ Are you willing to give up some of your privacy to help companies better market to you products and services you might be interested in? Do you accept the manipulation and selling of your personal data?

Employee privacy - IT helps employers monitor their employees, not only via the ubiquitous video camera, but also through the personal computer they use. Employers feel it is their right to monitor keystrokes, email traffic, the websites employees visit and the whereabouts of people whose wages they while on the job. So, while IT increases productivity, it might violate privacy and create stress. Which is more important: your employer’s right to electronically monitor you, or your privacy and mental well-being?

Freedom of speech - The Web opens opportunities for many activities that people consider undesirable, such as the broadcast of violent and pornographic images and the dissemination of illegally copied digitized work. Almost anyone can become a publisher. If someone posts slurs about your ethnic group on a website, do you want the government to step in and ban such postings? And if one government legislates, can it impose its law on a network that crosses many national borders? The problem is not only at international level. Playground bullying has now gone hi-tech. ‘Bullies are increasingly using the internet to terrorise teenagers outside of school, a survey suggests. More than 10 per cent of UK teenagers said they had been bullied online, while 24 per cent knew a victim, the MSN/YouGov survey found.’

Online annoyances - Email is so popular because it allows easy and inexpensive transfer of ideas and creative work within seconds. However, more and more of us find our email boxes clogged with unsolicited messages, popularly called spam. Spam now makes up about 80 per cent of all email. Do you accept this? And if you own a new small business and you want to advertise via email (because it’s the least expensive advertising methods), wouldn’t you want the freedom to do so​? While surfing the web you encounter pop-up windows and pop-under windows. Your computer contracts spy ware. Sometimes special software hijacks your browser and takes you to a commercial site that you do not care for. Are these annoyances legitimate, or should they be stopped by legislation?

IT professionalism - IT specialists play an increasing role in lives of individuals and the operations of organizations. The information system they develop and maintain affect our physical and financial well-being tremendously. Are IT specialists professionals? If they are why don’t they comply with a mandatory code of ethics as other professionals (such as doctors and lawyers) do ? There are professional bodies such as British Computer Society, The Council of European Professional Informatics Societies and the Computer Society South Africa, with their clearly defined codes of conduct and good practice but membership, but membership is not mandatory for anyone undertaking, for example, the development of accounting system.

As you see the issues are not easy to solve.


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