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Ethical Issues in the Online World

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Protecting Privacy and Society

Monday, Apr. 15, 2013

Consumer and business data is increasingly moving to the "cloud," and people are clamoring for protection of that data.  However, as Symantec's President, CEO, and Chairman of the Board Steve Bennett points out in this clip, "maximum privacy" is really anonymity, and some people use anonymity as a shield for illegal and unethical behavior.  How should cloud service providers deal with this dilemma?  What is their responsibility to their customers, and to society at large?  How should good corporate citizens respond when they are asked to cooperate with law enforcement? 

Providers of cloud services are all faced with this dilemma; as Ars Technica recently reported, for example, Verizon took action when it discovered child pornography in one of its users' accounts.

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Robert Henry, Chief Information Security Officer, Santa Clara University said on Apr 15, 2013
Steve Bennett presents a conundrum. The flip side of this conundrum is, what happens to the reputation of an innocent person whose private information was exposed to law enforcement? A similar mistaken identity issue happened to me shortly after 9/11. At the Miami airport, I went to the self-check-in kiosk and entered my confirmation. The kiosk told me I had to go to the counter. After waiting in line, I finally spoke with a ticketing agent, who was baffled. He called his supervisor who poked around in the system and said, "Oh, you're on the no-fly list! Only it can't be you because the person on the list is only 26." I was sent on my way--no damage to my reputation. I was inconvenienced, but for the safety of all the flyers it was probably a worthwhile delay. I didn't really think much of it. Yet, as I went through security I noticed a wheelchair bound elderly woman getting a full pat- down. That made me wonder about balancing public safety and privacy. For me, public safety was a minor delay. I bet the woman getting the full treatment in the name of public safety found the experience traumatic. I imagine she was embarrassed and felt she was suspected of being a criminal. I got "special treatment" due to an easily resolved case of mistaken identity. But what cause was there to disturb someone who, I'm guessing, wasn't even very comfortable traveling? Does that really make us safer? - Like - 2 people like this.
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Tags: anonymity, cloud computing, ethics, internet, privacy