Privacy, security and Information Sharing

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Values are the determinants of what is right and what is wrong; ethics is the practice of values. Ethical behavior is a manner which is in line with what is right or moral. Values and ethics are vital to any organization and the information and technology sector is not an exception. Values provide the foundation for decisions which are crucial for the organization to succeed in its core business.

The advent of electronic files, email, face book, twitter and other social sites has necessitated the need for legislation to protect the privacy of individuals, businesses, and government from infringement. The government, in its pursuit of law enforcement should also restrict itself to the laid down frameworks and avoid excesses that can limit the rights and privacy of persons.

Since information technology is field which is a few decades old, most governments are yet to come up with legislation governing the use of the internet and its associated resources. Those countries already with legislation, lack the mechanisms of implementation considering the nature of the internet hence there are still many loopholes to be sealed to ensure that the internet and its resources are safe for all users. This essay will discuss the privacy concerns, security practices and criminal liability in information sharing on the internet. It will also touch on the impacts of computer legislation and case law in the above mentioned area

Privacy is the respect of ones property, information and thoughts and ensuring that there is no external infringement. For many individuals it is a right that cannot be separated from self reliance and sovereignty. In the digital age, this is quite a challenge because information in the web is readily available even to unauthorized parties. Advances in technology have ensured that information can be accessed readily, processed and analyzed more easily than before.

Privacy as a whole cannot be said to mean that information cannot be made available to other parties, but that there should be a balance between what can be accessed and what cannot and the parties that can have access to such information. An example at hand is the events of September 11 2001. The government of the United States of America sought to have access to certain information from suspects in order to pursue terrorism. Such an act, though it affects privacy, is crucial in matters of national security. Therefore privacy should be looked at from a circumstantial point of view (Chen, 2006).

Emails have almost replaced hand written letters and have been used to communicate useful and at times dangerous information. To access the dangerous information governments have been forced to hack the email accounts of suspects. Social site such as face book, have also been used to spread malicious propaganda and lies. To curb such abuses, restrictions have been imposed which border on infringement of privacy. One group that has consistently capitalized on the above is the Al Qaeda.

Privacy being a paramount right has safeguarded at all times. Solutions must be put in place to achieve this. Access to data can be limited. By allowing access to insufficient information, one is able reduce the availability of the whole data. This strategy has been successfully utilized by Database Management Systems (DBMS).Another measure is by changing the data slightly, a term referred to as ‘fuzzing’.It serves two functions, preventing unnecessary access while retaining the intended purpose of the data. The US Bureau of Statistics has applied this design.

Another method is by adding to the important data misleading data that can be retrieved by the wrong questions. But this requires mixing the data in a complex manner to harden the reconstruction of the original information. The above solutions are designed to prevent access by unwanted intruders but the threat may also lie in the people licensed to handle such data. Inventory of the data identifies misuse by such groups and the appropriate action can be taken (Lawrence, 2011).

Computers have become useful in the day to day running of private and public affairs but they can also be misused. Several laws have been enacted to prevent the misuse of computers. An example is the computer misuse act of the United Kingdom. The need to pass legislation governing the use of computers was made possible in the United Kingdom when two computer enthusiasts, Robert Schifreen and Stephen Gold used their personal computers to access without permit British Telecom’s (BT) Prestel system .While on a tour of a trade fair they were able to gain access into Prince Philip’s personal massage inbox. They achieved the feat by watching a BT engineer enter a user name of 1234 and a password of 22222222. Shoulder surfing is the name of the technique they used to access classified information.

 The act is aimed at safeguarding computer users against intentional attacks and stealing of information. This act makes illegal hacking, illegal access to computer systems and the intentional spreading of dangerous software. Offenders of this act are fined or imprisoned.

The Consumer Misuse act of 1987 is designed at protecting the rights of consumers. Manufacturers are required to place information on their products regarding safety and health. The Freedom of Information act 2002 defines ways in which government information can be accessed by the public except in issues such as national security. The Copyrights, Designs and Patents act of 1988 protects the copyrights of groups and individuals. It guards the rights of the creator of the software. The Telecoms Regulation Act of 2000 created by the Secretary of Defense grants the lawful interception of information (Jajodia and Wijesekera, 2005).

Considering the pivotal role that computers and information technology plays in our lives, it is of significance to put in place legislation that governs the sharing of information, protection of privacy and security. Governments must ensure that cyber crime is mitigated at the same time paying attention to the potential threats of cyber war.

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