Ethics in the Age of Information

The information age is the age we live in today, and with the
information age comes an age of ethics. When we deal with the new
technologies introduced every day, we need to decide what we must
consider ethical and unethical. We must consider all factors so that
the use of the information readily available to many persons is not
abused. "Information technology will be the most fundamental area of
ethical concern for business in the next decade" (Houston 2). The most
widely used tool of the information age is the computer, whether it be
a PC or a network of computer systems. As we enter the information age
the newness and power of information technologies tests the ethics of
the average person, not just the criminal and causes thousands of
computer crimes to be committed daily. The most common computer crime
committed daily, some aware and many not, is the illegal sharing of
computer software. Software is any of the programs used in operating a
digital computer, as input and output programs, as defined by Funk and
Wagnalls Standard Desk Dictionary. When you purchase computer
software, you purchase it with the underezding that it will be for
use on a single computer, once installed on that system, it is not to
be loaded on any other computer. However many people are not aware of
this underezding, and many load a program on a couple of computers
or on a whole network of computer systems not aware that they are
committing a crime. Even though you probably will not be prosecuted
for loading a program on a friends computer, this is where your ethics
come in. Do you consider anything when you share a program with
others? If not then consider the programmers of the software who are
denied compensation for their developments every time you distribute a
piece of software. "Why is it that people who wouldn\'t think of
stealing pack of gum will copy a $500 piece of software" (Houston 3)?
A popular form off illegal software distribution is throughout the
online world. Whether it be the Internet, America Online, CompuServe,
Prodigy, or a BBS (Bulletin Board System), software "pirates" thrive
freely online. These so called "pirates" operate by uploading pieces
of software, commonly referred to as "warez", into an online service\'s
database then sending through e-mail the rights to download them. "The
Information Superhighway has opened the door to a new kind of highway
robbery - the home shoplifting network" (Mattia 43). When you access a
online service, you are identified through an account which most
commonly consists of a user ID and password. The password is so you
only can access the online service with your user ID. Many people
online use their own accounts to access their service, but many steal
and use the accounts of others or make fake accounts. When online,
these account "pirates" many times trick other users into giving their
passwords to them by impersonating an employee of the online service.
Others can hack into the online services mainframe computer and steal
thousands of accounts. Probably the most common method of getting
online without paying is the use of fake or fraudulent accounts. These
are made by giving false information when attempting to gain access to
an online service. Name, address, phone number, and billing
information, such as checking account or credit card number, are all
falsified in obtaining an online account. With these stolen and fake
accounts, software "pirates" have virtually unlimited time to download
their "warez" without any charge to them. Many people don\'t consider
the people behind the creation of software when they illegally
distribute it. The developers of software are not properly compensated
for their work because of the extent of software piracy. No one can
argue with a software company\'s desire, and right, to make sure
everyone using their products has paid for it (Furger 73). The numbers
add up, it is estimated that in 1994 alone that software companies
lost $15 billion from illegal software copying (Maremont 65). It is
not only illegal, but clearly unethical to distribute software knowing
that the people behind the software are experiencing the downfalls of
it.