Researchers at nine UK universities will work together over the next three years on a £23m ($33.5m) project to explore the privacy, ethics, and security of the Internet of Things.


The project is part of 'IoTUK', a three-year, £40m government programme to boost the adoption of IoT technologies and services by business and the public sector.The Petras group of universities is led by UCL with Imperial College London, University of Oxford, University of Warwick, Lancaster University, University of Southampton, University of Surrey, University of Edinburgh, and Cardiff University, plus 47 partners from industry and the public sector.


Professor Philip Nelson, chief executive of the UK's Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, said in the not-too-distant future almost all our daily lives will be connected to the digital world, while physical objects and devices will be able to interact with each other, ourselves, and the wider virtual world.


"But, before this can happen, there must be trust and confidence in how the Internet of Things works, its security, and its resilience," he said.

The research will focus on five themes: privacy and trust; safety and security; harnessing economic value; standards, governance, and policy; and adoption and acceptability. Each will be looked at from a technical point of view and the impact on society.


Initial projects include large-scale experiments at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park; the cybersecurity of low-power body sensors and implants; understanding how individuals and companies can increase IoT security through better day-to-day practices; and ensuring that connected smart meters are not a threat to home security.


It's still early days for the IoT but already concerns have surfaced about the security and privacy of the technology, and how the data generated by, for example, fitness monitors or other home systems can be used by the companies that collect it.


Source: http://www.zdnet.com/article/researchers-investigate-the-ethics-of-the-internet-of-things/

Categorized in Internet of Things

Internet Regulations refers to limiting user’s access to information on the internet. This control on internet information is a highly deliberated topic, and the possibility of internet regulations resulting in internet neutrality has been greatly debated around the world. Forms of Internet regulation include domain registration and IP address control that could lead to censorship of data or media. The purpose of such regulations is to restrict and control certain aspects of information and access to them.

Most of the Internet control is levied by a country’s government when they are concerned with issues relating to censorship, in their effort to protect the best interest of the general public. By imposing such regulations, a governmental agency can track anyone who puts up unacceptable information on the internet.

Advocates and critics of internet regulations present sound arguments for and against such regulations.

People supporting the introduction of internet regulations argue that the best way to continue with the investment and innovation in broadband service is to introduce regulations. President Obama, also a supporter, said that this was necessary to preserve the “free and open internet.” According to the proponents, regulation would discourage the service providers from limiting the speed and access to the customers who pay for their service. This would bring greater equality in the internet usage.

The internet as a community should mirror the society as a whole. While free speech is important, there are certain rules and liabilities applied in a society. These rules and liabilities allowed in society should be replicated in the online community,hence calling for internet regulations. Such parameters can significantly reduce the amount of spam, fake websites, cyber crimes and online theft.

However, historically previous regulations have resulted in slower service, imposed market entry barriers, and suppressed innovation. Such barriers have also introduced price discrimination within the market with the absence of a free market, causing more inequality in the internet usage instead of greater equality. There have even been breakthroughs in the internet without the supervision of the government, therefore it is safe to assume that the innovations will continue. 

Freedom advocates also heavily oppose internet regulations while some others say that it should be regulated in a similar manner to other media, such as TV. TV, for instance should be regulated for children and to protect individual rights. However, with this kind of censorship, an internet user might miss out on information that would be useful to him, and that he intends to use for a productive purpose. This could in turn lead people to resort to unlawful means, and look for loopholes to bypass the censorship.

There are also some users who are particularly concerned about taxes. They believe with a regulatory body, probably the government, watching over the internet, taxes will be introduced. Progressive Policy Institute economists Litan and Singer did a study, in which they concluded that regulation imposed on the internet would result in an average annual increase in taxes between $51 and $83 per household. Users are concerned about taxes especially on the major traffic generating sites such as Wikipedia, Youtube and Facebook. However despite concerns, Kim Hart from FCC has assured that such regulations will not increase any taxes, under the Internet Tax Freedom Act.

Many people are of the view that internet usage will be compromised as a result of controls and regulations. It will not only be more expensive, but also there is a strong possibility that it will be slower. Involvement of increased red tape rarely does any good, and hence in this case as well it might not be beneficial. However, the government has repeatedly assured that this won’t happen, and regulation is better for freer internet and continued innovation. 


Categorized in Internet Ethics

A billion dollars, 100 banks, 30 countries. This is what a multinational gang of cyber criminals managed to steal before they were discovered. This is an example of a successful bank heist conducted through computer networks, otherwise known as a cyber crime.

Any crime committed against an individual, corporation or government over internet or a computer network is termed cyber crime.  Cyber crime ranges over a broad spectrum of activities. It includes hacking, money laundering and forgery among others. This particular crime involved a sophisticated system of hacking malware, which took screenshots of the banks’ computer every 20 seconds. The Carbanak gang, named after the malware they use, gained familiarity with the banks’ system, and employed various ways to steal. In some cases, they transferred money to dummy accounts by gaining access to administrator’s computers, while in others they simply used a code to instruct the ATMs to dispense money. They monitored the workers and mimicked them to transfer the funds into dummy accounts. The hackers further limited the theft in a single bank to $10 million, to avoid raising alarm.

All this was discovered by Kaspersky, a Russian cyber security company. They were alerted by a targeted bank that discovered a piece of foreign code in their ATM. Kaspersky then helped the other victim banks to uncover the piece of malicious software in their system or ATM, which has resulted in the theft. “Losses per bank range from $2.5 million to approximately $10 million," Kaspersky said in a statement.

According to the Kaspersky Chief of Staff, this was “the most highly sophisticated criminal attack we have ever seen.” An estimated number of 10 hackers worked on one theft, over two months for a single attack. The complexity of the crimes and the remote controlling of ATMs was something new that Kaspersky and the banks had not witnessed before. Over a period of approximately two years, they managed to target banks in 30 countries, before raising alarm. Kaspersky has asked financial institutions to take a look at their networks for the presence of Carabank to avoid further losses. 


Categorized in Internet Ethics

Netiquette vs Internet Ethics

Every society has an etiquette code that governs acceptable behavior. The behavior that is considered courteous and polite in society is the cornerstone of etiquette. Though it is a new idea, ‘netiquette' is very similar to etiquettes. In the same way that ‘etiquette' addresses acceptable behavior in general, ‘netiquette' addresses acceptable behavior on digital media and the internet.

In today's world, the widespread and expanded usage of the internet has had both positive and harmful implications for individuals and societies. The easy availability of information, as well as the ease and speed with which it may be transmitted, has expanded the range of possibilities, necessitating the establishment of a set of norms for online behavior. This emphasizes the importance of having a regulatory body or set of norms in place to advise users and discipline them when necessary.

Because there is no single authority that owns the internet, the question of who will define and enforce "netiquette" to regulate online behavior arises. Various organizations have issued standards regarding ethical internet behavior, particularly when undertaking research. The Computer Ethics Institute, for example, created the "Ten Commandmentsof ComputerEthics" in 1992. This is not, however, the only institution that has attempted to regulate internet activity. On the Internet, there is also a set of acceptable behavior, an informal code of conduct that most internet users follow. Those who do not adhere to these guidelines are rejected or chastised by other users.

Some of the most common violations of this informal code of conduct are practices such as spamming, flaming, pretending to be someone else, and often, using capitalization in mass emails with the purpose of harassing the recipient. Spamming is when a standardized commercial email is sent to hundreds of people at a time, often flooding their inboxes with emails they don’t want. Flaming is the unnecessary use of abusive or hostile language. It is often a personal attack in an aggressive tone. Pretending to be someone else behind the curtain of anonymity that internet offers is another such offense.

In addition to the foregoing, Internet research ethics governs online activities. When conducting research online, most internet researchers, both professionals and amateurs, are worried about internet research ethics. They deal with issues such as anonymity, erroneous information, data privacy, and informed consent, especially in relation to research participants, and they apply ethical methods for gathering research data with total transparency.

Spamming, flaming, pretending to be someone else, and, most commonly, employing capitalization in mass emails with the intent of tormenting the recipient are some of the most common infractions of this informal rule of conduct. Spamming occurs when a standardized commercial email is sent to hundreds of people at once, frequently overflowing their inboxes with unwanted messages. Flaming is the use of harsh or aggressive language without cause. It's usually a personal attack delivered in an angry tone. Another such violation is pretending to be someone else behind the veil of anonymity provided by the internet.

In the end, the internet was created to make life easier and to accelerate the movement of information and media. However, as the internet's use has grown, it has become vital for someone to monitor individual conduct online in order to maintain safe internet use. Whether it's for general use or study, the internet poses a number of risks to individuals who utilize it. As a result, it is these principles that assure online safety. In general, users do this on their own, but institutions may get involved if a potential treatment impacts a significant number of people or is a concern of national security.

10 Basic Rules of Netiquette or Internet Etiquette

Know Your Manners When Using Technology

The rules of etiquette are just as important in cyberspace as they are in the real world—and the evidence of poor netiquette can stick around to haunt you for much longer. Follow these basic rules of netiquette to avoid damaging your online and offline relationships.

Make Real People a Priority

Nothing is more irritating than trying to have a conversation with someone who is engrossed in their phone or computer. If someone is in the room with you, stop what you are doing and look at them. Don't answer your cell phone unless it is to tell the person on the other end that you will call them right back. 

If you are expecting an important call or email, let the person with you know upfront, and apologize for taking the call.

This is doubly true if the person you are with is your date, partner, or child. Constantly checking your email, voicemail, or Facebook while you are with them gives them the message that you don't care about them. And it is extremely annoying to be with someone who is having a conversation that you are not part of.

This is also true of public places, such as restaurants, public transit, stores, elevators, and libraries. Avoid taking phone calls and having conversations in these shared spaces.

Use Respectful Language

Name-calling, cursing, expressing deliberately offensive opinions—if you wouldn't do it to the face of anyone who might conceivably see what you write, don't write it. This goes for any social media site, forum, chat room, or email message, even if you think it can't be traced back to you. It can.

And it's not just what you say, but how you say it. Either take the trouble to use the shift key for capital letters, or write in all lower case, but don't use caps lock. Text in all caps is generally perceived as yelling. Please don't forget to say please and thank you as appropriate.

Share With Discretion

Avoid sending naked sext pictures, drunk pictures, drug use pictures or unedited home video. If you would have a problem with your boss, your parents, or your kids seeing it now, or at any point in the future, don't post it online.

The same goes for phone conversations in public places. Just because you can't see the person you are talking to doesn't mean everyone around you can't see and hear you.

Don't Exclude Others

If you have an in-joke to share with one other person, or a small number of people in a larger online group, send them a private message. Don't make everyone else feel left out by posting an obscure comment to your Facebook status, forum, or Instagram story. 

The same goes for laughing at texted or emailed jokes when you are in the presence of others. If you don't want to share the joke, save it for later.

Choose Friends Wisely

It is insulting to be dropped from someone's friend list on a social media site. So, think about it before sending a friend request or accepting an invitation. If you don't want to be in touch with someone, don't add them in the first place. 

If you want to stay in touch with a colleague for professional reasons, tell them you only use Facebook for close personal friendships. Then join LinkedIn or another professional networking site for more distant contacts.

The obvious exception to this is if you "friend" someone while you are getting along, and then you have a disagreement. Then, by all means, unfriend them if the relationship is beyond repair. But don't torture them with on-again-off-again friending. 

Don't Email Large Files

You might think that sequence of nature pictures with inspirational statements is wonderfully moving. It might even give you a sense of serenity. But that is the last thing it will give the person you email it to if it crashes their server, or depletes their inbox quota. Post large files to your own space and send people a link. Don't attach it to an email.

And if you reply to a message, delete all but the most recent correspondence from the sender, otherwise, the message gets really, really long. One of you will be upset if you have to print it out one day, and the whole conversation uses up 20 pages.

Respect People's Privacy

Don't forward information sent to you without checking with the original sender first. Use BCC (blind carbon copy) rather than CC (carbon copy) if you are sending something out to more than one person. You might think that we are all friends online, but your friends may not want their names and or email addresses publicized to people they do not even know.

The same goes for uploading photos or videos that include other people to public space or sending them out to your own contacts. And remember, if you tag people on Facebook, others can access pictures of those people, unless they have adjusted their privacy settings.

Finally, don't sign up for newsletters and other communications using someone else's email address. 

Fact Check Before Reposting

That cure for cancer might sound pretty impressive, but it will just cause upset if it is a hoax. And urban myths add to the noise of the internet and waste people's time. If you aren't sure of the facts, email it to someone who does know or can find out. Or do a search on Google or snopes.com.

Don't forget that many viruses are circulated via chain letters and invitations to send some seemingly pertinent piece of information to ten of your friends, or everyone in your address book. So don't be naive. Forwarding that message will not bring you good luck, just bad karma. 

Respond to Emails Promptly

By all means, ignore and delete spam, unsolicited messages, and crazy stuff. But if you have given someone your email address or if you are in a position where people could reasonably be expected to contact you by email and your email address is public, have the courtesy to reply to their message within a few days. If it is going to take longer to reply, email them and tell them that. 

Don't simply ignore a question because you don't want to give the answer. Write back saying that it is a difficult question and they might be better off seeking the information elsewhere.

Update Online Information

Don't leave inaccurate information online just because you can't be bothered to update your website. If you are going to be unavailable, for example, don't leave your hours of operation online indicating you will be available. If you can't keep your website up to date, take it down. 

A Word From Verywell

It is easy to lose your sense of what is going on around you when you are using technology, but engaging directly with others is more important than ever. Don't forget the positive impact you can make by putting down your phone and having a real, face-to-face conversation.

Souce: https://www.verywellmind.com/ten-rules-of-netiquette-22285

Categorized in Internet Ethics

The pedagogical contribution of such sources can be more than aesthetic. In some cases, the medium is where the message lies: Art history, music, and film courses all rely on “owned” or copyrighted works. Unfortunately, even in small and private class settings, securing permissions for those materials (or using them appropriately in the grab-and-go Internet age) can prove difficult.

College students are all too familiar with expensive, awkwardly copied course packs or books that cost them hundreds of dollars because of licensing issues. Open-access materials, in contrast, provide faculty and students with relatively hassle-free sources, but are in painfully short supply. More often than not, universities are in the unenviable position of negotiating the use of jealously guarded intellectual property.

Imagine, however, what happens when a “classroom” has thousands or tens of thousands of students rather than 30. Some MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) may enroll as many as 200,000 students, as in the case of theHarvardX course CS50x, “Introduction to Computer Science,” available on theedX learning platform.

As a result, copyright has become a central consideration in the HarvardX course-development process, a necessary consideration for any institution engaged in new forms of online pedagogy. Not only does the availability of critical source materials shape what and how subjects can be taught, but the potential licensing and sale of courses, parts of courses, or modules poses further challenges.

Peter Suber, an authority on open-access issues and director of the Harvard Open Access Project, notes that this is not a new problem.

“It was a big issue in the pre-digital world, and it’s big now,” he said. “Copyright law limits the freedom of teachers to use the works of their choice in their courses. Sometimes they can’t afford the fees. Sometimes they only decide to use a work in mid-semester, in response to class discussions, and they don’t have time to secure permission.”

When the world is your classroom, the law gets even murkier. And, as has been seen with YouTube (students have been sued for sharing music, videos have been forcibly taken down), rights owners are on the lookout.

With the creation of HarvardX, the University-wide effort to improve teaching and learning on campus and online that launched in tandem with edX, faculty from all Schools have begun learning lessons more familiar to their colleagues in law and business.

Those lessons are ones that Kyle Courtney, the newly minted copyright adviser at Harvard, finds familiar. Operating out of the Harvard Library Office for Scholarly Communication, an endeavor promoting open access of faculty research, he is among a set of new experts, drawn from libraries, information technology units, and offices of general counsel, wrestling with how to best support faculty in the digital age.

For example, the Copyright Act and its accompanying legal guidelines has long provided those in higher education with a right of exception, letting educators reproduce copyrighted works as long as the material does not exceed fair use and is, in recent decisions, “transformative to the educational experience.”

“The concept of ‘transformative fair use’ allows the use of copyrighted material in a manner, or for a purpose, that differs from the original use in such a way that the expression, meaning, or message is essentially new,” Courtney said.

Yet with drag-and-drop technologies and the ability to cut and paste entire books or images, there are an increasing number of caveats. Faculty members are not just grappling with the fair-use question by reinterpreting “transformative use” in their lectures, they are also pioneering new kinds of collaborations with publishers for their traditional syllabus materials. Moreover, the explosion of online learning, experimental by nature, has proven a natural breeding ground for such test cases.

Take Gregory Nagy, Francis Jones Professor of Classical Greek Literature at Harvard and instructor of the HarvardX course “The Ancient Greek Hero.” Nagy collaborated with Harvard University Press (HUP) to provide a free, reduced-function version of course’s text, “The Ancient Greek Hero in 24 Hours,” for online learners.

In a first for both Nagy and HUP, a contract was created that allowed Nagy to forgo all his revenue from the sale of the print version of the book to gain an open and free copy of the textbook. The contract gave him the right to make an open-access copy, in addition to an HTML version for use with his open-online course.

The HTML copy was then enhanced with multimedia to enrich the experience for online students, while the open-access version was posted to the website of Harvard’s Center for Hellenic Studies, where Nagy serves as director.

“Such collaborations may be the future,” said Courtney. “They provide unique monetization strategies for publishers by giving them access to larger audiences than they have previously enjoyed.”

Despite the content being offered for free, HUP still benefited, gaining exposure in the form of nearly 30,000 registered enrollees, for the traditional print and formatted e-copy of the book. Many students, after all, still prefer ink and paper and are willing to pay for high-quality publications.

Not surprisingly, online leaning platforms such as edX and Coursera are developing novel partnerships with rights holders that respect copyright and preserve publisher profitability, while still fulfilling their mandate to transmit knowledge broadly to global students.

“A publisher today can, of course, still sell a work to the bookstores of, maybe, the top 10 major universities in the United States,” explained Courtney. “Or it can say, ‘We own this textbook. It’s open access and available for you in this course. Once the course is complete, you may wish to purchase it; here’s a discount code and some sales.’ All of a sudden, the publisher is reaching 50,000 or 80,000 people, depending on the class.”

As educational offerings get more enmeshed with new delivery models for both on-campus and online use, copyright is expected to become even more complicated for universities. Faculty at Harvard and elsewhere are often the individuals who own or control the desired materials. Both to preserve academic integrity as well as to benefit from their work, academics are not merely sitting on the sidelines.

“The new complexities will come from faculty demanding rights to their coursework and to the revenues it generates,” explained Suber.

Some open-access advocates hope for a still more radical possibility: the complete de-commodification of intellectual property. Suber believes it is highly unlikely, however, that the mega-audiences of online education and a newly broadened interpretation of fair use will combine to create such an outcome.

“The boundary between what fair use permits and what it doesn’t will remain fuzzy and contestable, and fair use itself will continue to evolve. But these facts do not suggest the ‘de-commodification of intellectual property entirely,’ even when we add in the fact that some people are calling for that de-commodification.”

Although scholars are increasingly pursuing clauses in publishing contracts that allow them to include their work in online repositories and open-source education platforms, the profitability of mass culture products such as movies appears to be more rigidly tied to current distribution models.

Suber added, “Careful observers may be reluctant to predict the future of fair use. But I think they’re safe to predict the continuing existence of copyright and patent law.”

For now, the fair-use doctrine continues to protect the ability of faculty to enrich learning with copyrighted material through a variety of current and emerging digital platforms, as well as to allow for continued innovations from ed-tech start-ups such as edX, Coursera, and Udacity.

“The rights holders that have been shopping lawsuits around the country the last 10 years or so are defending their very way of business, their very way of life,” said Courtney. “That’s why I think collaboration is a much better way of doing it.

For faculty and students who wish to delve into the particulars of copyright law, well, there’s a HarvardX course for that. William Fisher, WilmerHale Professor of Intellectual Property Law and Faculty Director of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society, is offering the second version of his copyright course, available here.

In addition, the Office for Scholarly Communications notes that this is Fair-Use Week. The original guidelines for fair use, codified in 1841, came thanks to another Harvard professor, Joseph Story. 



Categorized in Internet Privacy

Nowadays the Internet is a wide-open source for information, entertainment, and communication. Many people believe that anything and everything go in cyberspace. I believed that myself, until becoming more informed. Sometimes, in a quest for knowledge and entertainment Internet users cross over a hidden line. Without proper knowledge, users unintentionally break the copyright laws that govern the Internet. Many myths have caused people to believe copyright laws do not apply to the Internet. However, copyright laws are in effect in today's cyberspace.

One of the biggest mistakes that people believe is that if a work has no copyright notice, it is not copyrighted. The correct form of a copyright notice is "Copyright or (date) by (author/owner)" (Templeton 1). Many people believe that if this notice is absent, they can post, use, or take any work on the Internet. Although no name can be copyrighted, the owner's work is (Templeton 2). In fact, everything from April 1, 1989 is copyrighted by the owner or author whether is has a notice or not. Most nations follow the same rules set up by the Berne copyright convention (Templeton 1). The Berne convention created uniform laws for worldwide works (Lussier 1). One of these laws was everything created privately and originally after April 1, 1989 is copyrighted. All Internet users must assume that the work is copyrighted, unless otherwise specified by the author.
Many works on the Internet are available for public use. However, the author of the work must have explicitly granted it to public domain. If a work is in public domain, granted by saying "I grant this to the public domain," anybody who stumbles upon it can use, take, or copy without giving credit to the owner (Templeton 1). Although, frequently a user can contact the author of the work and be granted permission to use it (Templeton 4). I did that through electronic-mail and received positive results. Requesting permission is not hard. Most times the owner quickly grants a user access and respects him or her more for asking. The author granted me a background graphic that I have since put into a page I have created (http://www.pitt.edu/~skvarka/active/ski/). Often, access to works on the Internet is granted easily and can avoid costly legal matters.
So how does that apply to Internet users? Internet users cannot scan material from periodicals and post them on the Internet. Users cannot transfer graphics or works, without the knowledge of the owner, and post them somewhere else on the Internet (Templeton 1). Technically, no one can post electronic-mail, wholly. A user can refer to a statement in an electronic-mail just as in any research paper. These acts can be prosecuted in a civil court, because "copyright law is civil law" (Templeton 3). The owner can sue for damages to his or her works, if major enough. These laws can be frightening, but often, nothing can be done about violations, because they happen every day. Copyright law on the Internet is a new region for the court system, though ten copies with a value of $2,500 were made a felony in the United States. To be safe, Internet users should just ask first to insure everyone's safety. 


Categorized in Internet Privacy

With blogging comes great responsibilty. You define the content of your weblog and you carry the full responsibility for every word you’ve published online. More than that, you are responsible for comments in your posts. To make sure you fulfill your legal obligations, it’s important to know, what you, as blogger, may or should do; and you have to know, how to achieve this. After all, the ignorance of the law does not make one exempt from compliance thereof.

From the legal point of view, Copyright in Web is often considered as the grey area; as such it’s often misunderstood and violated – mostly simply because bloggers don’t know, what laws they have to abide and what issues they have to consider. In fact, copyright myths are common, as well as numerous copyright debates in the Web.

That’s time to put facts straight. In this post we’ve collected the most important facts, articles and resources related to copyright issues, law and blogging. We’ve also put together most useful tools and references you can use dealing with plagiarism.

You don’t have to read the whole article, you can read a brief overview of the key-points in the beginning of the post. Let’s take a look.

Copyright in the Web: An Overview

  1. Copyright applies to the Web.
  2. Your work is protected under copyright as soon as it’s created and protected for your lifetime, plus 70 years.
  3. Copyright expires. When copyright expires, the work becomes public domain.
  4. Ideas can’t be copyrighted, only the result tangible expression of the idea can. (updated)
  5. You may use logos and trademarks in your works.
  6. You may use copyrighted material under the “fair use” doctrine.
  7. You may quote only limited portions of work. You may publish excerpts, not whole articles.
  8. You have to ask author’s permission to translate his/her article.
  9. The removal of the copyrighted material doesn’t remove the copyright infringement.
  10. If something looks copyrighted, you should assume it is. (updated)
  11. Advertising protected material without an agreement is illegal.
  12. You may not always delete or modify your visitors’ comments.
  13. User generated content is the property of the users.
  14. Copyright is violated by using information, not by charging for it.
  15. Getting explicit permission can save you a lot of trouble.

What is Copyright?

  • Copyright is a set of exclusive rights regulating the use of a particular expression of an idea or information. At its most general, it is literally “the right to copy” an original creation. In most cases, these rights are of limited duration. The symbol for copyright is ©, and in some jurisdictions may alternatively be written as either (c) or (C).” [Wikipedia: Copyright]
  • Copyrightable works include literary works such as articles, stories, journals, or computer programs, pictures and graphics as well as recordings.
  • “Copyright has two main purposes, namely the protection of the author’s right to obtain commercial benefit from valuable work, and more recently the protection of the author’s general right to control how a work is used.” [10 Big Myths about copyright explained]
  • “Copyright may subsist in creative and artistic works (e.g. books, movies, music, paintings, photographs, and software) and give a copyright holder the exclusive right to control reproduction or adaptation of such works for a certain period of time (historically a period of between 10 and 30 years depending on jurisdiction, more recently the life of the author plus several decades).” [Wikipedia: Intellectual Property]

Copyright in the Web

  • Copyright applies to the Web. Copyright laws apply to all materials in the Web. All web documents, images, source code etc. are copyrighted.
  • Copyright protects the rights of owners. “Owners have exclusive rights to make copies, create derivative works, distribute, display and perform works publicly. Certain artists have rights of integrity and attribution (moral rights) in original works of art or limited edition prints (200 or fewer).” [Copyright in Cyberspace]
  • Everything created privately after April 1, 1989 is copyrighted “automatically”and protected for your lifetime, plus 70 years. “In U.S. almost everything created privately and originally after April 1, 1989 is copyrighted and protected “automatically”. Explicit copyright is not necessary. The default you should assume for other people’s works is that they are copyrighted and may not be copied unless you know otherwise. There are some old works that lost protection without notice, but frankly you should not risk it unless you know for sure.” [10 Big Myths about copyright explainedCopyright Office Basics]
  • Your work is protected under copyright as soon as it’s created. No record or registration with the U.S. Copyright office is required for this protection. [12 Important U.S. Laws]
  • You don’t have to register the copyright, but you probably should. “The reason for this, under the US Copyright Act, is that registration of the copyright within ninety (90) days of publication (or before infringement takes place) is necessary to enable the copyright owner to receive what are referred to as “statutory damages.” [Copyright: Know The Facts]
  • Copyright expires. According to the Berne Convention, the copyright perod lasts at least the life of the author plus 50 years after his/her death. For photography, the Berne Convention sets a minimum term of 25 years from the year the photograph was created, and for cinematography the minimum is 50 years after first showing, or 50 years after creation if it hasn’t been shown within 50 years after the creation. This applies to any country that has signed the Berne Convention, and these are just the minimum periods of protection. [What is Copyright?Wikipedia]
  • When copyright expires, the work becomes public domain. “Basically, any writing that is no longer protected by copyright is in the public domain.” [Copyright Essentials]
  • Copyright hasn’t expired if the copyright date isn’t correct. “If a copyright statement reads, “© Copyright 1998, 1999 John Smith.”, it does not mean that John Smith’s copyright expired in 2000. The dates in the copyright statement refer to the dates the material was created and/or modified, but not to the dates the owner’s material will expire and become public domain.” [What is Copyright?]
  • Ideas can’t be copyrighted. “You must first write the story, because it is your own, original expression of that idea that is protected under law. If you have a brilliant idea for a story, you’d best keep it to yourself until you do.” [Copyright Essentials For Writers]
  • “The correct form for a notice is
    “Copyright [dates] by [author/owner]”. You can use C in a circle © instead of “Copyright” but “(C)” has never been given legal force. The phrase “All Rights Reserved” is not required. [10 Big Myths about copyright explained]

You May…

  • You may use copyrighted material. “Fair use is a doctrine in United States copyright law that allows limited use of copyrighted material without requiring permission from the rights holders, such as use for scholarship or review. It provides for the legal, non-licensed citation or incorporation of copyrighted material in another author’s work under a four-factor balancing test. It is based on free speech rights provided by the First Amendment to the US Constitution. [Wikipedia: Fair Use]
  • You may use materials that are not subject to copyright. “Apart from facts and ideas there are many other classes of materials that can not be protected under the Copyright Law. Those materials include names, familiar symbols, listings of ingredients or contents, short phrases, titles, slogans and procedures (notice that some of those materials might be protected by trademark, though).” [Copyright Law: 10 Do’s and Don’ts]
  • You may use logos and trademarks in your works. Commenting on some facts or reporting about a company, you can use its logo under a “nominative fair use”. [Copyright Law: 12 Do’s and Don’ts]
  • You may publish excerpts, not whole articles. “If you want to share someone else’s content with your own audience, just quote a brief excerpt, and provide proper attribution with a link to the source, but don’t republish the entire article without permission. It will save you a lot of trouble down the road. This is a fairly standard practice on popular blogs.” [Copyright and Intellectual Property]
  • You may comment upon and report about copyrighted material. “The “fair use” exemption to (U.S.) copyright law allows commentary, parody, news reporting, research and education about copyrighted works without the permission of the author.” [10 Big Myths about copyright explained]
  • You may not always quote copyrighted content. Depending on the copyrighted statement, the owners of the material may forbid the copying and distribution of articles or its parts. [What is Copyright?]
  • You may quote only limited portions of work. “Under the fair use doctrine of the U.S. copyright statute, it is permissible to use limited portions of a work including quotes, for purposes such as commentary, criticism, news reporting, and scholarly reports.” [Copyright Explained]
  • You may use the de minimis principle. “Copyright isn’t concerned with very little things. It does not protect so-called de minimis works, the classic examples of which are titles (such as The Da Vinci Code) and newspaper headlines (such as Small earthquake in Chile, not many killed); nor does copyright prevent “insubstantial copying” from a work which is protected by copyright. Unfortunately it is often difficult to decide whether a work is really de minimis, or an example of copying insubstantial.” [10 Things About Copyright]

You Should…
Bloggers’ Rights and Duties

  • Ignorance of the Law does not make one exempt from compliance thereof.You carry the full responsibility for everything you publish in you weblog. Using protected work, make sure you fulfill your legal obligations.
  • Be aware of your responsibility. Check your facts, consider the implications, control the comments, give credit where credit is due, disclose professional relationships, disclose sponsored posts, avoid “blackhat” methods. [10 Rules for Responsible Blogging]
  • Make it easy to distinguish paid and editorial content. “Never claim that you are an objective, unbiased source if you are being paid to provide information. Always make it easy for your readers to distinguish between advertising and editorial content.” [12 Important U.S. Laws Every Blogger Needs To Know]
  • You should ask author’s permission to translate his/her article. According to the Berne Convention, “Authors of literary and artistic works protected by this Convention shall enjoy the exclusive right of making and of authorizing the translation of their works throughout the term of protection of their rights in the original works.” Therefore you need a permission to translate an article into another language. [What is Copyright?]
  • You should not present stolen content. “The law does not provide protection for federal crimes or intellectual property violations, meaning that you can potentially be found contributorily liable if this type of behavior takes place on your site.” [12 Important U.S. Laws]
  • You should use copyrighted material only if you have explicit permission from the author to do so (or if you make fair use of it). Copyright infrigement is possible even if the credit to the author is given. [Copyright Law: 12 Do’s and Dont’s]

Things To Be Aware Of

  • Freeware doesn’t belong to you. “Graphic images and fonts provided for “free” are not public domain. The ownership of this material remains within the creator of the material. You may use them if you comply with the owner’s terms and conditions.” [What is Copyright?]
  • Getting explicit permission can save you a lot of trouble. If you are sued for copyright violation, you must admit to the infringement, and then hope that the judge or jury agrees with your arguments. It’s faster and safer to just ask permission. [Copyright on the Web]
  • Copyright is violated by using information, not by charging for it. “Whether you charge can affect the damages awarded in court, but that’s main difference under the law. It’s still a violation if you give it away — and there can still be serious damages if you hurt the commercial value of the property.” [10 Big Myths about copyright explained]
  • User generated content is the property of the users. “The fact that you do not own the user-driven content on your site can create a number of headaches for bloggers, such as an obligation to remove a comment whenever the author requests.” [12 Important U.S. Laws]
  • If you use protected material, the new work doesn’t belong to you. “Work derived from copyrighted works is a copyright violation. Making of what are called “derivative works” — works based or derived from another copyrighted work — is the exclusive province of the owner of the original work.” [10 Big Myths about copyright explained]
  • The removal of the copyrighted material doesn’t remove the copyright infringement. Once the copyright is violated, the case is created – it doesn’t matter, whether the protected material is currently on the Web or not.” [Copyright Law: 12 Do’s and Dont’s]
  • If something looks copyrighted, you should assume it is. “It is true that a notice strengthens the protection, by warning people, and by allowing one to get more and different damages, but it is not necessary. ” [10 Big Myths about copyright explained]
  • Advertising protected material without an agreement is illegal. “It’s up to the owner to decide if they want the free ads or not. If they want them, they will be sure to contact you. Don’t rationalize whether it hurts the owner or not, ask them.” [10 Big Myths about copyright explained]

Grey Area

  • Nobody really knows if linking is always allowed. “When linking to illegal or infringing copyrighted content the law of linking liability is currently considered a grey area. But if you have an ordinary web site, and linking is not going to bypass some security, or payment system such as advertising, and there’s no information anywhere about the site not wanting you to link in and no reason to believe they don’t want it, linking should be very safe.” [Links And LawLinking RightsWiki: Link]
  • It is reasonable to provide terms of service for comments. “Posters should be informed that they are responsible for their own postings. The newsroom should consider advising readers that the newsroom does not control or monitor what third parties post, and that readers occasionally may find comments on the site to be offensive or possibly inaccurate. Readers should be informed that responsibility for the posting lies with the poster himself/herself and not with the newsroom or its affiliated sites.” [Dialogue or Diatribe?]
  • You may not always delete or modify your visitors’ comments. “You should never treat comments as though you own them by manipulating them or deleting them without having included a terms of service which gives you permission to do so. Consider that if you are allowing anonymous posts you will have no way of verifying the true owner of a comment when someone emails you asking for you to take a comment down. Consequently, you should make sure to at least collect basic identifying information before allowing someone to comment or post on your site.” [12 Important U.S. Laws]

How to React to Plagiarism?

Tools and Services

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    Flowchart for determining when U.S. Copyrights in fixed works expire.

Open Content Licenses

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Categorized in Internet Privacy

Should Internet companies be ruled by law or ethics?

“The law sets the floor,” Brad Smith, the CEO of Intuit (INTU, -1.35%), said during a panel on the Ethics of the Internet Society at Fortune’s Brainstorm Tech conference. “But you still have to have judgment.” Smith said that leading ethically is essential, but also especially challenging in technology where judgment calls a CEO faces often are far ahead of societal norms. “You have to be able to clear about what you are going to stand for,” he said. But a good leader must also be willing to evolve as social norms change.

Fellow panelist Vijaya Gadde, Twitter’s (TWTR, +2.86%) general counsel, largely agreed, saying that, for example, the social network bans certain forms of bullying and abuse, even though they are legally permissible. “We do not allow abuse and harassment on the platform,” she said. “We have a dedicated team of people reviewing all those complaints.” The guidelines for what is and isn’t allowed on Twitter are publicly available, she added.

For his part, the third panelist, Gen. (Ret) Stanley McChrystal, was emphatic: “You don’t want to do everything you can do legally.” The interesting conversations, he said, begin when decisions involve things that are legal but not necessarily ethical.

The wide-ranging discussion on ethics touched on a variety of issues. Each panelist was asked about the most important ethical discussion they face in their professional lives.

Gadde said it was the constant push and pull between the company’s free speech principles – it’s belief that it most defend and protect user’s voice – and the demands from repressive governments for censorship. She noted a well-known incident when Twitter refused to take down content it believed to be legal in Turkey, despite demands from the government that it did so. The result was that the government shut down access to Twitter in the country. “We as a company decided (rejecting the takedown order) was a part of or values,” she said.

At Intuit, the most fraught decisions revolve around the use of customer data, Smith said. The company has vowed, in its user agreements, not to use data in ways that are not for the benefit of consumers, he added.

McChrystal, who now runs a consulting firm that advises business leaders, said one of his ethical guideposts is candor. He then added: “It’s a fine line between brutally candid and honest and try to be a leader that can motivate.”

Categorized in Internet Ethics

Note: After reading this editorial, please visit the transcript of the discussion forum to view readers' comments.

Mrs. Wohfiehl was the type of teacher other teachers sought to emulate. She was intelligent, hardworking, and innovative, and she loved to teach. She frequently used Internet search engines and directories to locate materials and lessons related to her fourth grade students' needs, and she identified resources on the World Wide Web that fit with the learning objectives in her classroom. She used e-mail frequently, and she belonged to several listservs, many of which put her in touch with a wide variety of educators -- from inservice and preservice classroom teachers to college professors. Her favorite listserv encouraged friendly, helpful interaction among professionals and discouraged flaming and spamming.

She was shocked one day when she discovered that someone had posted a message to this listserv that contained pornographic images and abusive language. The list manager immediately removed the message from the list archives and took steps to prevent its author from posting to the list in future; she also kept others on the list apprised of the situation and what was being done to resolve it. After some investigation it was determined that the child of one list member had sent the message. No one who knew the child could believe that this honor student had done such a thing.

Mrs. Wohfiehl felt that it was important for her students to have access to the vast resources available on the World Wide Web and to make the most of e-mail. However, receiving the disturbing message on the listserv made her think about the guidance she needed to give her students as they learned to use the Internet. The Internet provided her students with ready access to all sorts of people, and not all of them would model appropriate and ethical Internet behavior.

The next weekend, Mrs. Wohfiehl spent some time searching the Internet for ways in which schools, agencies, and parents had dealt with unethical behavior on the Internet. She soon found herself researching not only how to deal with inappropriate messages on listservs but also issues related to dissemination of misinformation, flaming, defamation, harassment, obscenity, incitement, impersonation, plagiarism, privacy, viruses and worms, security breaches, abusing the property rights of others, spamming, fraud, and exploitation. Though all these things concerned her, she determined that her most immediate need for her students was helping them understand and respond to plagiarism, invasion of privacy, and exploitation with relation to the Internet.

Of course, we are all familiar with the terrifying cases of sexual exploitation of children facilitated by the Internet. The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation website describes cases of e-mail transmission of pornographic images of children and of pedophiles who prey on children they meet in chat rooms. And we have all had the experience of conducting an Internet search, only to have our seemingly innocent keywords yield links to explicit websites.

But another, subtler form of exploitation of children involves invasion of privacy. For example, at some websites where contests are sponsored, children are asked to provide a considerable amount of personal information as a prerequisite to winning prizes. Many innocently respond, unaware that their personal data will be used for marketing purposes. In 1998, David E. DeSantis (online document) reported that of the 69 million children in the United States, almost 10 million (14%) had Internet access either from school or home. Children clearly represent a large and rapidly growing segment of online consumers, and companies that produce and market products for children are well aware of this fact.

Besides wanting to protect her students from all forms of exploitation, Mrs. Wohfiehl was concerned about the way they used Internet resources in their classroom research. She wanted to ensure that the students were aware that material on the Internet belonged to the people who developed it. She believed that though children should be encouraged to search for new information and ways of presenting it, they should have a basic understanding of copyright and know how to cite Internet sources in order to give appropriate credit for information they might use.

Guidelines for Classroom Use of the Internet

While searching the Internet, Mrs. Wohfiehl found a wealth of material that gave her ideas for addressing inappropriate and unethical behavior on the web. The next week, she discussed plagiarism, privacy, and exploitation with her fourth graders, and she and the children generated the following list of rules for use of the Internet in their classroom.

Copyright laws and fair use guidelines must be followed when using anyone else's material in research and writing. Sources must be properly cited. Visit any of these pages for help in how to give proper credit for Internet resources:

Electronic Reference Formats Recommended by the American Psychological Association
“Documenting Sources from the World Wide Web” from the MLA Style section of the Modern Language Association website
The International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions' Library & Information Science: Citation Guides for Electronic Documents

Material created by others has to be respected. No one should delete or change anyone else's material without permission.

Students should not share passwords or try to break into anyone else's password-protected material.

Software, including freeware and shareware, must be given to the teacher so she and the school's media specialist can review it before it is installed on any school computer.

The Internet may only be used for tasks related to classroom assignments.

Students should not download files from the Internet (including documents, browser plug-ins, or freeware) without checking with the teacher first.

Students should not complete any fill-in forms or provide any information about themselves online without first checking with the teacher.

The Internet must not be used for sending or receiving copyrighted material without permission; for viewing or distributing pornographic material; or for sending messages that use obscene, abusive, or threatening language or that violate another person's right to privacy.

Guidelines for Parents

Mrs. Wohfiehl knew that many of her students had Internet access at home, so she sent a note to each child's parents, offering the following guidelines.

Children should be counseled to tell a parent or trusted adult immediately if they come across any Internet content that makes them feel uncomfortable.

Children should not give out any personal information without the permission of a parent or other responsible adult.

Children should never agree to meet face to face with someone they met online without first getting permission from a parent or responsible adult.

The child should not download any software from any source without first checking with a parent or trusted adult.

Children and parents need to work together to establish the ground rules for going online. These rules should include time of day, length of time, and permitted activities or websites.

Filtering the Internet

Despite guidelines such as these, it is all too easy for children to stumble on highly disturbing material on the Internet. There are, however, many software packages that can help teachers and parents prevent children from accessing pornographic, violent, or otherwise offensive material. These packages usually work by searching for certain phrases and words in a data stream coming from a website. If these words are detected, the software prevents the material from being transmitted by shutting down the computer or hanging up the modem, or it blocks display of content from the site. Though there are many such software packages, some of the more commonly known are CYBERsitter, SurfWatch, Cyber Patrol, The Internet Filter, and Net Nanny.

In addition, some Internet search engines and directories now offer special “safe sites” designed for children. Two of these are Yahoo's popular Yahooligans and Lycos Zone.

Making the Net Safer for Students

Mrs. Wohfiehl's research convinced her that there were two ways to make certain the children in her class were safe on the Internet: by limiting the ways in which they could encounter material that did not contribute to their education, and -- perhaps most importantly -- by teaching them how to deal with such material if they did encounter it. She knew that as they got older they would often be put in situations where they would have to decide between right and wrong. Besides relying on the Internet as a classroom information resource, she intended to use it as a stepping stone to teaching her students about safety, responsibility, appropriate behavior, and ethics.

Some Additional Online Resources

Guidelines for Using the Internet

  • Netscape's “Children and the Internet”
  • Children and the Internet, an annotated list of links from the Three Rivers Free-Net
  • A Perfect Match: Children and the Internet, at the site of the American Library Association (be sure to click on the Resource list link)
  • Guiding Children Through Cyberspace -- URLs, an extensive list of links prepared by a Virginia (USA) librarian
  • Children and the Internet, a brief list of resources from the Wisconsin Intellectual Freedom Round Table
  • Internet Safety for Kids from the Harlingen (Texas) Consolidated Independent School District
  • Use of Computing and Networked Information Resources, a policy statement from the West Shore (Pennsylvania) School District
  • Student Network Responsibility Contract from the Chico (California) Unified School District
  • Student Internet Use Agreement from North High School in the Eau Claire (Wisconsin) Area School District
  • Filtering the Internet

Netscape NetWatch

Children and the Internet?, a page from the Babies-Online.com site
Policing Cyberspace, an article from Canada's Maclean's magazine

Chat room: A chat room is a location on the Internet where communication can take place in “real time.” When you've logged on to a chat room, everything you type appears on the screens of everyone else who is at that Internet location to participate in that particular chat. Each participant's statements are labeled with a nickname to identify who is talking. Participants choose their own nicknames and often decide against sharing their real names, either to preserve anonymity or to take on a new persona. Chat rooms are usually organized around a particular topic (for example, ROL has conducted chats about several of its postings) and provide a place to “meet” people who share similar interests.

Flaming: Originally, “flaming” meant to express oneself in an e-mail or post to an online discussion in a passionate manner in the spirit of honorable debate. Flaming well was an art form. More recently, flame has come to refer to any kind of derogatory or mean-spirited comment. A “flame war” occurs when an online discussion degenerates into a series of personal attacks against the debators, rather than discussion of their positions.

Internet: The vast collection of interconnected networks that all use the TCP/IP protocols and that evolved from the Arpanet of the late 1960s and early '70s. Together, the Internet gives access to websites on the World Wide Web, e-mail, listservs, and other forms of electronic communication and transmittal of data.

Listserv: The most common kind of e-mailing list, “Listserv” is actually a registered trademark of L-Soft International, a software firm that developed one of the most popular mailing list packages. The word, usually with a lowercase l, has now come to refer to any group mailing list which a user can join to receive or post messages to other members of the group. Examples include ROL's own mailing list (a list that provides subscribers with “e-mail alerts” of new content at the site) and RTEACHER, a list connected with the International Reading Association's print journal The Reading Teacher.

Spamming: An inappropriate use of a mailing list, listserv, or other networked communications facility to send the same message to a large number of people who didn't ask for it. The term may come from some Internet users' low opinion of the food product with the same name or from a Monty Python skit that features the word spam used repeatedly.

Definitions in this glossary are based on those found in Enzer, M. (1994-99). Glossary of Internet Terms. Available:http://www.matisse.net/files/glossary.html. 

Categorized in Internet Ethics

Our Ethics Code distinguishes between our professional and our private lives. The code's second paragraph in the "Introduction and Applicability" section states, "This Ethics Code applies only to psychologists' activities that are part of their scientific, educational, or professional roles as psychologists .... These activities shall be distinguished from the purely private conduct of psychologists, which is not within the purview of the Ethics Code."

The Internet is providing ample opportunity to reflect on the relationship between the private and the professional by making available in the public domain what has customarily been considered private conduct. When information moves from the private to the public domain, there is an increased likelihood of its having an effect on our professional lives.

Psychology, of course, is not the only profession confronting this issue. An April 28 article in The Washington Post, "When Young Teachers Go Wild on the Web," discussed how school districts are assessing the propriety of their 20-something teachers' Web site profiles. Changes in how we experience the private/public distinction brought about by technology carry with them profound ethical implications for the profession and raise vexing questions for both psychology and society. For example:

  • How do we define "private" in the age of the Internet?

  • How do we assess the impact of events in one's personal life on one's work-related activities?

  • Does the availability of so much information place us at greater risk for confusing personal value judgments with assessments of professional competence?

I shall not attempt to answer any of these questions.

Language quoted above from the Ethics Code suggests there is a clear demarcation between private and professional behavior. We live in an age, however, when within the span of seconds a point and a click with a cell-phone camera can render public what would almost certainly have remained private just a short time ago. In the space of a few years, the realm of what is private has receded significantly with a corresponding expansion in the domain of what is public. Moreover, what becomes public on the Internet may remain available for a very long time.

Such a profound shift can be examined on multiple levels and it would not be surprising if evidence even on the neuronal level reflected a shift in the balance between the public and the private spheres. The shift challenges us to reflect on the implications for our professional lives: So much that had been confined to our private lives is now potentially disclosed and available to colleagues and others with whom we work. Another challenge is to explore how well we--at all stages of professional development--truly appreciate the extent to which the Internet makes our personal lives publicly available. It will be interesting and informative to see data regarding what percentage of our patients and clients seek personal, nonwork-related information about us on the Internet.

The concept of distinguishing between two separate aspects of a psychologist's life is found in other parts of the Ethics Code. For example, as the "Introduction and Applicability" section of the Ethics Code contrasts "private" with "professional," so Ethical Standard 2.06 contrasts "personal" with "work-related":

2.06 Personal Problems and Conflicts

(a) Psychologists refrain from initiating an activity when they know or should know that there is a substantial likelihood that their personal problems will prevent them from performing their work-related activities in a competent manner.

(b) When psychologists become aware of personal problems that may interfere with their performing work-related duties adequately, they take appropriate measures, such as obtaining professional consultation or assistance, and determine whether they should limit, suspend, or terminate their work-related duties.

Defining "personal" in the age of the Internet, like defining "private," is a significant challenge. One possible definition of "personal" for the purposes of the Ethics Code would be "taking place outside of a context or relationship related to work." Ethical Standard 2.06 focuses us on how challenges in our personal lives, for example substance abuse or a depression, can impair our abilities to function competently. Read more broadly, Standard 2.06 also highlights how our personal lives inevitably intersect our work lives.

A divorce and ensuing custody dispute, the death of a loved one, one's own or an adult child's wedding or commitment ceremony are all events that are deeply felt and that may intersect with similar events in the lives of our patients or clients. That intersection can become more complex, not always in a detrimental manner, as the information becomes available to our patients and clients. Again, research on how the Internet is narrowing the gap--or perhaps blurring the distinction--between our personal and our work-related lives will be interesting and instructive and will certainly have clinical implications.

Information about us is increasingly available by virtue of the Internet. The availability of more information to us likewise raises complex ethical questions. An earlier "Ethics Rounds" column (www.apa.org/monitor/jan07/ethics.html) offered a discussion vignette in which the director of a clinical training program, Dr. Net, struggles with whether and how to talk with his trainees about personal information they are posting on the Internet regarding their dating lives, as well as about their involvement in online chat rooms. Dr. Net wants to make the interns aware of how these activities may affect their work, but is also concerned about being unduly intrusive into their private lives. While most training faculty would agree that it would be highly appropriate for Dr. Net to have this conversation with the trainees on a theoretical level, there is likely far less agreement about how actively faculty should search for information about trainees and training applicants on the Internet or how information that comes to a faculty's attention by way of third parties should be handled. Many private sector companies conduct Internet searches before making job offers. There does not appear to be a similar consensus in psychology.

Arguments on each side of this discussion are compelling. On one hand, more rather than less data is generally better; psychologists are trained to assess the usefulness of data for a given purpose; information on the Internet is publicly available information, no less so than what is posted on the bulletin board of a local coffee shop or supermarket; and Internet searches may be developing into the standard of practice in the private sector. On the other hand, acting upon information that a trainee or applicant has not provided to a program may be inconsistent with a respect for that individual's privacy and autonomy; information on the Internet is notoriously unreliable; and there is a "slippery slope" to seeking and relying on such information that risks turning psychologists into private investigators.

Our values and our view of the relationship between the personal and the professional will be central to these discussions. Over the past several years, APA's Ethics Office has been asked about applicants or trainees who have engaged in activities such as exotic dancing or a naturist lifestyle, which have come to a faculty's attention through the Internet. We are at a moment in our history when technology is highlighting issues that have been present in a much less dramatic form, much like a wave raises the height and energy level of the water's surface and thereby calls part of the sea to our attention.

The lens of culture may prove helpful in our thinking about this issue, in terms of how different generations view their relationship to the Internet and what information they choose to make available as a consequence. Culture is also important in terms of how our values play a role in reacting to and assessing information about our present and future colleagues that is now in a public forum and, even 10 years ago, would almost certainly have remained purely private. Ethics, values, culture and competence will therefore be central to our ongoing discussions about psychology and the Internet. 

Source: http://www.apa.org/monitor/2008/07-08/ethics.aspx 

Categorized in Internet Ethics
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