What special responsibilities do computer professionals have with respect to under-standing and protecting the privacy rights of their fellow citizens?

Privacy ranks as among the very important factors that many computer users consider when making the decisions about how to approach the concept of information technology.

In the present day, there are many who have built lucrative businesses out of collecting data about computer users and some organizations even finance their activities mainly through selling marketing data or even selling lists with the names and details of potential customers. From an interpersonal perspective, some individuals even utilize internet-based services to spy on personal backgrounds of other individuals.

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A common example of this is the use of search engines by employers to look into information about employees and potential employees over the internet. Criminals also use the internet to search for personal details which they then use for identity theft. It is because of such security concerns that computer professionals have special responsibilities in relation to understanding, respecting and protecting the privacy rights of other computer users and this essay shall explore these.

Given that internet use is an international phenomenon, it is impossible for computer professionals and policy makers to control all the content of the data that is transferred online.

Be that as it may, computer professionals still have some responsibility of protecting the rights of fellow citizens one of which is to come up with mechanisms to protect copyright and intellectual property rights. The main aim of copyright is not only to prevent illegal copying of information, including the information stored in digital format which can be copied, altered and transmitted through electronic networks with relative ease (Lopez, 1998).

The practical challenges that owners of digital data face are very important for governments trying to apply or extend existing copyright laws to digital means. It is the responsibility of computer professionals to push the authorities to enforce laws that protect intellectual properties. At an international level, it is the responsibility of computer professionals to contribute to the efforts of bodies such as the World intellectual property organization (WIPO) towards the facilitation of the protection of property rights.

As noted by Welfens (2002), the internet has greatly contributed to expanding individuals’ learning horizons but the ease with which information has become accessible is raising concerns among citizens in relation to the exposure to offensive material. Parents and educators have also raised concerns about the negative influence that the internet is having on young minds.

As a way of addressing these concerns, computer professionals have contributed to the formation of civil liberty organizations such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and the Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility (CPSR) which supports legal and legislative towards the protection of user’s civil liberties and protects the privacy and civil liberties of online users, respectively (Dhillon, 2003).

Computer professionals can also help computer users protect their privacy while using the internet by recommending a few measures that they (users) could apply while using their computers. One such measure would be to disable cache and history functions in individual computers whenever the can. This will prevent a malicious individual from using this information track the sites that the user have visited.

The computer professionals could also advise users not to release their personal identification information to anyone else as this information could be used against them. The number of computer users is increasing by the day but not all users have the knowledge of how to protect their privacy while using the internet. It is therefore the responsibility of computer professionals to take all the necessary steps that would help preserve the privacy of computer users, some of which have been mentioned in this essay.

References

Dhillon, G. (2003). Social Responsibility in the Information Age: Issues and Controversies. Hershey, PA: Idea Group Inc.

Lopez, X.R. (1998). The dissemination of spatial data: a North American-European comparative study on the impact of government information policy. Greenwich, CT: Ablex Publishing Corporation.

Welfens, P.J.J. (2002). Internet economics dot net. New York, NY: Springer.

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