Data Protection Act 1998

It covers how personal data can be used by companies. The companies need to register with the Information Commissioner. 8 key principles:

  • Used fairly and lawfully

  • Used for purposes specified

  • Used adequately

  • Accurate

  • Kept for no longer than necessary

  • Handled according to data protection rights

  • Kept safe and secure

  • Not transferred outside the EU without adequate protection

There is stronger legal protection for more sensitive information, such as ethnic background, political views, religious beliefs, health, and criminal records.

Computer Misuse Act 1990

This act covers the misuse of computers. It makes it illegal to use computers to access systems without proper authorisation, access systems with intend to commit a criminal offence or to alter data without permission.

This act protects people’s written, dramatic, musical, film and broadcasts property. It is an offence to copy or distribute other people’s intellectual property without permission. There are websites available that allow copyrighted material to be downloaded for free, along with "peer to peer" sites like torrents to obtain the material.

Creative Commons Licensing

Creative Commons Licensing is a license that one can publish their works under. This allows protected works to instead be freely distributed, as per the license terms. This can allow remixing of a song, for instance. It may also be used by an author who wants others to edit and improve their book.

The following are elements of the Creative Commons License:

  • Attribution

  • No derivative works

  • Share-alike license

  • Non-commercial

Public domain

Creators can choose to publish their work within the public domain; this means the work is not protected by intellectual property laws (including copyright as above, but also patent or trademark laws). This means anyone can take these works, without obtaining permission, and reuse these works however they would like.

Creators can either choose to publish their works under this license, or the work is 70 years since the death of the latest living author.

Freedom of Information Act 2000

This allows members of the public to access information that is held by public services. This may include fire, police, telecommunications, secondary schools, town planning, health care and more. Public services are required to publish information under this act. Members of the public are able to request this information.

The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) 2000

This demands that an ISP provide access to the customer’s communications in secret to the police. Allow mass surveillance of communications in transit, and effectively allows the public bodies to access information being accessed by the users of an ISP.

This act also makes it illegal for those not under the act, to surveillance others without express permission from the government. There is a concern as to the range of public bodies who are allowed to access such information.

This act has come under scrutiny for being a breach of privacy. It has been claimed that local councils are conducting over a thousand RIPA-based covert surveillance operations every month for petty offences. April 2008; a council officials in Dorset put a family under surveillance to simply check whether they lived in a particular school catchment area. Another example would include the same council putting fishermen under covert surveillance to check for illegal harvesting of clams.

Impact of computers in society

Key points
  • Stakeholders are impacted by technology

  • A stakeholder is a person who may be involved either directly or indirectly with an issue/problem

  • Some stakeholders for an issue may be obvious, some not so much

  • Some stakeholders can be affected either positively or negatively

  • Ethics or morality maybe something that is wrong or unacceptable, but doesn’t break any laws.

  • Morals - society as a whole

  • Ethics - standards within an organisation/profession

Ethics and morals

Ethics and morals relate to right and wrong conduct. Ethics refers to rules provided by an external source, whilst morals refer to an individual’s own principles.

How to answer ethics questions

A question based upon concerns of computer science technologies, can be broken down into 5 main components.

  • Ethical issues

  • Cultural issues

  • Legal issues

  • Privacy issues

  • Environmental concerns

In terms of ethical and moral issues, this can be discussed within the question. For instance, an ethical issue might be about whether video games are bad for children, and the arguments for and against. Another example might be whether social media should be regulated.

A cultural issue might be based around a social issue, such as racism or sexism online. This could discuss cyber-bullying and harassment.

Legal issues cover the laws above. This could be a legal issue of data protection, and a company not looking after personal information they collect.

A privacy issue could relate to the data that companies are collecting on its users, such as a social network using posts to show targetted advertising to its users. It could, however, also be an issue of hacking, and not allowing personal information to be leaked.

Finally, environmental concerns such as how computers are made from non-recyclable parts, or how some computer systems end up in the landfill, might be part of the question. Considering how manufactuers use materials, and where the components end up, is important to sustainability.

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2.3 Systems Security

3.1 Programming Techniques