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Ethics

What ethical issues will be most critical?

Tomorrow's information professionals who administer our National Network will have to be aware of ``...political as well as legal issues about the ease with which voice, data, and images can be downloaded and manipulated ...''(Branscomb, 1991 p.115) Even after a National Information Policy is established, and after laws concerning electronic ethics are clarified--a delicate balance must be maintained between providing security for network users while allowing hackers to explore the system and possibly discover new uses for it. Issues such as privacy, censorship, and security will be of critical import to the network based cyberarian of the next decade.

The qualities that make the ideal network valuable--its popularity, its uniform commands, its ability to handle financial transactions and its international access--also make it vulnerable to a variety of abuses and accidents. It is certainly proper to hold hackers accountable for their offenses, but that accountability should never entail denying defendants the safeguards of the bill of rights, including the rights to free expression and association and to freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures. (Kapor, 1991 p118)

Commenting on the privacy issue, Peter Lyman told our lecture that over 7.5 million people who work on computer terminals have their performance or behavior monitored electronically, without their knowledge. This situation conflicts with the Electronic Bill of Rights. Information professionals will have to support this Bill if their users are to feel comfortable using a National Network. This might mean saying `NO.' to the FBI, as Lyman recently did when they requested certain user information from his library at USC.

A final ethical issue of critical importance is that of intellectual property. While existing networks of academic researchers operate on a `gift' basis (sharing their work, writings, and data free of charge), tomorrow's National Network will seek participation of commercial publishers, who have traditionally profited from a `property' based system of exchange: charging money. The information professional of the 00's will have to help arrange a compromise between these conflicting means of sharing information (Lyman, 1992).


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sean dreilinger

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