Ethical impacts of digital technology on wider society

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Issues of privacy



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Explain the current ethical, legal and environmental impacts and risks of digital technology on society. Where data privacy issues arise these should be considered.



Exam questions will be taken from the following areas:

  • cyber security
  • mobile technologies
  • wireless networking
  • cloud storage
  • theft of computer code
  • issues around copyright of algorithms
  • cracking
  • hacking
  • wearable technologies
  • computer based implants.

Students will be expected to understand and explain the general principles behind the issues rather than have detailed knowledge on specific issues.

Students should be aware that ordinary citizens normally value their privacy and may not like it when governments or security services have too much access.

Students should be aware that governments and security services often argue that they cannot keep their citizens safe from terrorism and other attacks unless they have access to private data.

Introduction to ethical, legal and environmental impacts of digital technology on wider society, including issues of privacy

Ethical Issues on Computer Technology
With the changing social landscape that naturally follows changes in technology comes a new wave of ethical issues. These issues must be addressed and resolved for computers, technology and the Internet to have a positive influence in society. Internet privacy, electronic communication and computer crimes add a new layer of ethical issues that plague those who use computers and technology on a daily basis. By identifying the main societal issues in computer usage, you can take a stand for electronic ethics.

Privacy issues can perpetuate waves of online crime.

Information and Privacy

The Internet is a veritable smorgasbord of personal information. If you need someone's phone number, you look it up. If you need to learn more about a company, you visit the website. If you want to find an old friend, you use social networking. The sheer amount of personal information make it easy to breach the boundary between using the Internet for learning and information and using the Internet to invade another's privacy. You can protect yourself by being vague about yourself online and ensuring your identity is ambiguous and nonspecific.

Copyright and Privacy

Certain items of media, such as public domain books, movies and music, are available for all to enjoy and even download. Items of media which are copyrighted are not in the public domain and downloading and distributing them is illegal. Unfortunately, online piracy is widespread and notoriously difficult to prosecute, so it often goes without consequence. The same could be said for plagiarism, which is made easier to do and harder to track with the number of resources online.

Computer Crime

The availability of information that can be accessed with a computer paired with a lax attitude toward security means credit card numbers and identities are constantly at risk. Entering your credit card on a seemingly innocuous website may seem like an everyday activity, but that site could be a clever scam designed to fraud you out of your hard-earned money. While the amount and extent of computer crime is frightening, it's a reality and therefore it's necessary for consumers to protect themselves by purchasing from trusted retailers or using third-party payment services to protect their money.

Communication Issues

Computers have completely altered the way humans interact with each other. With the invention of electronic mail, online messaging and social networking sites, face-to-face conversation seems to be a dying art. Because the communication landscape has changed over time, so have the challenges and ethics that accompany proper communication, such as discussing certain issues via email, exchanging personal information without the proper security and forming relationships online.

Legal and Ethical Issues Related to the Use of Computers

Despite the few SPAG errors there is some useful information here.



Legal and Ethical Issues Related to the Use of Computers

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Legal and Ethical Issues Related to the Use of Computers

The Legal and Ethical Issues Related to the Use of Computers

By: Alyssa Joynt

Technology is something that society is privileged to have. With technology, people can share and spread knowledge, keep in touch, and see things from all around the world. It is a wonderful tool-when used properly. Unfortunately, there are both legal and ethical issues related to computer use. File sharing and piracy is a huge issue. The developing robotics industry is creating questions about legislation. Cyber bullying is also a big problem. These issues are very important for users to understand so that technology can be as safe and morale as possible.

File Sharing

Many people download music off of file sharing websites. This may seem harmless, but file sharing is actually a criminal offence and is having an effect on the entertainment industry. In a BBC article, it was stated that "The growth of illegal file-sharing could cost European countries 1.2m jobs and 240bn euros (£215bn) by 2015, an industry report claims" ( 6 ). Those numbers are staggering. In the United States, music sales have dropped by 47 percent since Napster, a file-sharing site, arrived in 1999 ( 5 ). Furthermore, "NPD reports that only 37 percent of music acquired by U.S. consumers in 2009 was paid for" ( 5 ). Actions are being taken against file sharing, however. One popular pirating website, The Pirate Bay was shut down after a raid on December 9, 2014. It was shut down "on grounds of copyright infringement, on a complaint by Swedish anti-piracy group, Rights Alliance" ( 3 ). However, the website has a countdown, hoping to re-launch on February 1, 2015. As long as there is a demand for these file sharing websites, it is hard to protect the work of musicians and actors. Websites similar to The Pirate Bay will keep bouncing back. This is both a legal and ethical issue. People need to decide what is more important to them- free music, or supporting the economy.


Today, there is an interest in robotic devices that are autonomous. However, these devices pose major problems. How do you legislate products that think independently? An article by The Guardian phrased the issue well. "While driverless cars could offer many benefits, from bringing independence to the elderly to reducing the number of road accidents, disasters could still happen. Who then pays the damages - the owner, or the car producer?" ( 2 ). It is a hard situation to legislate, because the owner of the product has no control over the system, but neither does the producer. A similar situation is arising in the medical field. Robots are beginning to enter the medical field to assist doctors in diagnosing diseases. These robots can store all sorts of information, but "With intelligent systems accessing medical records comes the fear of compromised privacy and security, as many will be connected via the internet" ( 2 ). These systems can aid doctors, but how will people react to having their medical records online? Will people be able to choose between a doctor or a robot? Implants are also creating ethical issues. While they can be helpful to people with diseases, they can be problematic. Should people be able to connect to the Internet through their brain ( 2 )? These issues are quite challenging to solve. Driverless cars can provide freedom and independence to the elderly, but how can they be legislated? Robots in the medical field can improve the quality of health care, but may compromise privacy. Brain chips can help make the lives of people living with disabilities much easier, but for people who don't need them, brain chips can mean that people are constantly "plugged in". Society needs to strike a balance between the benefits and the draw backs of all of these new products, and make sure that they are properly legislated. While there are many benefits to robotics, they need to follow the law and maintain a balance.


With the popularity of the Internet, cyberbullying is a prominent issue. "Nearly 43% of kids have been bullied online" ( 7 ), and "About 58% of kids admit someone has said mean or hurtful things to them online. More than 4 out 10 say it has happened more than once" ( 7 ). Cyber bullying "...involves the use of communication technologies such as the Internet, social networking sites, websites, email, text messaging and instant messaging to repeatedly intimidate or harass others"( 1 ). While most people know this definition, they may not know that cyberbullying is, in fact, punishable by law. Threats, harassment, sexual exploitation (sharing nude photos or videos of minors), and hate crime can all be players in cyberbullying, and all of them are criminal offences ( 1 ). In addition, "81% of young people think bullying online is easier to get away with than bullying in person" ( 1 ). What sort of morale message is this sending children? How will they see the Internet? Furthermore, cyberbullying has an impact on those whom it affects. Children who are bullied can experience depression, headaches, low self-esteem, and suicidal thoughts, among other effects ( 1 ). Children who bully can grow up to not know the difference between right and wrong and become involved in gangs or other criminal activities. They may become delinquents, abuse drugs, have academic problems, drop out of school, have difficulties in human relationships, and be a part of sexual harassment and dating aggression ( 1 ). There are many effects of cyberbullying, and there are both legal and ethical aspects of the issue. Children and adults alike need to be educated about cyberbullying so they can identify, prevent, and stop cyberbullying situations before they arise.
Technology is a great gift, when used properly. However, it's development creates many legal and ethical issues that need to be dealt with. File sharing is harming the entertainment industry, but that does not seem to stop people from illegally downloading music. While robotics can be very advantageous, they can also lead to privacy, ethical, and legal issues. Robots can now assist doctors, and implants are becoming a possibility. How can these things be legislated? Furthermore, cyberbullying gives children a freedom online that makes it easier to hurt others. What is that teaching them? How will the ability to harm people invisibly influence children's growth? It is apparent that there are many legal and ethical issues related to the use of computers. They cannot be solved overnight, but these issues do need to be addressed so that computers can be the best tool they can be.


  • Why does file sharing have a big impact on the economy?
  • Identify one new computer product and the legal and/or ethical issues associated with it.
  • Name one issue cyberbullying creates for:
    • The child who is bullied
    • The child who is bullying
    • How children view the Internet


"Bullying and Cyberbullying." Royal Canadian Mounted Police. The Government of Canada. Web. 19 Jan. 2015.
Davis, Nicola. "Smart Robots, Driverless Cars Work-but They Bring Ethical Issues Too." The Guardian. The Guardian, 20 Oct. 2013. Web. 15 Jan. 2015.
"Emerging Ethical Dilemmas in Science and Technology." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 17 Dec. 2012. Web. 15 Jan. 2015.
"For Students Doing Reports." RIAA. Recording Industry Association of America. Web. 15 Jan. 2015.
"Illegal-file Sharing Could 'cost Billions' by 2015." BBC News. BBC, 17 Mar. 2010. Web. 19 Jan. 2015.
"11 Facts About Cyber Bullying." 11 Facts About Cyber Bullying. Web. 15 Jan. 2015.


Legal and Ethical Issues Related to the Use of Computers

Legal and Ethical Issues Related to the use of Computers

By: Maia Sampaleanu

Technology has changed the lives of everyone around the world. It has created the concept of sharing ideas, spreading knowledge and has created an instant database that can be accessed everywhere. However, it is sometimes used in unethical ways. These issues are: data collection and privacy, cyberbullying, and cybercrimes.

Data Collection and Privacy

Issues regarding user privacy have only grown in concern. When companies ask users for personal information, the large debate is where it's going and who it's actually benefitting. Most American and European countries are stuck on the line between legality and illegality, making many questionable decisions. Due to the recent shut down of the "Safe Harbor" agreement, any cloud provider is forced to store all data locally in every country, meaning that data is everywhere. Consumer discomfort is growing everywhere, people don't know if their very personal information will be used wrongfully. Microprocessors and Permanent Memory are technologies that are able to remember basically anything that users share, meaning that personal information, is being stored somewhere that users can't see and can't reach. As well, there are many data analytical issues that occur from the use of the internet and consumers disclosing private information. Companies and businesses are able to track and predict very intimate information like pregnancy due dates. "In such cases subsequent marketing activities resulted in having members of the household discover a family member was pregnant before she had told anyone, resulting in an uncomfortable and damaging family situation" (1). In certain cases, data masking is not used properly because companies are not aware of the large risks of leaked private information. Due to this issue, anonymous users may not be as secretive as they believe. Companies have gotten sued, jobs have been lost. But most of all, people are forced to share their most personal information which may be used in unethical, wrong ways.


Cyberbullying is when someone is being harassed or bullied on electronic devices such as computers, phones, and tablets. Though it is not technically illegal, it is possible for it to be considered as a criminal offense under several acts. "Unlike other forms of bullying, the harassment, humiliation, intimidation and threatening of others through cyberbullying occurs 24 hours a day" (2). Cyberbullying has become such a severe problem since the invention of computers and the internet causing many kids feel unsafe at home, on top of school. The youth is now able to hide behind their devices, possibly bullying through anonymous accounts. Cyberbullies also aren't able to see the pain they inflict, meaning that to continue being mean comes easily because they don't have the empathy. Due to the many forms of social media, people with a following are automatically targeted by 'haters', people that do not know them comment hatful and harsh things. After a while they get desensitized from it but it still stings. Studies from the UK show that 7 out of 10 people have experienced cyberbullying, and 20% of young people experience extreme cyberbullying on a daily basis (3). Several acts of bullying may even be illegal. These include; death threats, criminal harassment, assaults, and distribution of images without consent. People that bully others are usually seeking a position of power, and control of their prey. As well, those who bully often have hard lives at home or some type of stressful environment and wish to inflict their pain on others. Cyberbullying in combination with direct bullying can have detrimental results, the most extreme being suicide. In general, bullying and more specifically cyberbullying need to end because not only is it harmful in the present, but it can change someone's life.


Cybercrime, also known as computer crime, is when a computer and network are used for a crime, or are the target of one. "More and more criminals are exploiting the speed, convenience and anonymity of the Internet to commit a diverse range of criminal activities that know no borders, either physical or virtual, cause serious harm and pose very real threats to victims worldwide" (4). There are two main types of internet-related crimes: Advanced cybercrime, which involves sophisticated attacks against computer hardware and software, and Cyber-enabled crime, which are more 'traditional' crimes that take advantage of the internet. Cybercrime has cost the economy billions of dollars, and sees no stop in the near future. "In the past, cybercrime was committed mainly by individuals or small groups. Today, we are seeing highly complex cybercriminal networks bring together individuals from across the globe in real time to commit crimes on an unprecedented scale" (4). The internet has become such a popular stage for cybercrimes due to the ability to make large profits in a very small amount of time. Most of the cybercrimes committed are just like crimes in real life: theft, fraud, illegal gambling, sale of fake medications and more. INTERPOL, the International Criminal Police Organization is taking the responsibility of dealing with these crimes in hopes of ending them, they have the aid of many law enforcement agencies and other private industries working with them as well. The 'Darknet' or 'Deep web' are terms for the unreachable sections of the internets that are often used with malicious intent, no one can see what users are doing and criminals are able to hide behind a screen and remain anonymous whilst doing criminal activity. In conclusion, many crimes occur every day in the depths of the internet while the criminals may never be caught.


Harold, R. (n.d.). 10 Big Data Analytics Privacy Problems. Retrieved January 24, 2017,
Cyberbullying. (n.d.). Retrieved January 24, 2017,
Cyberbullying Statistics: What They Tell Us. (2016, November 15). Retrieved January 24, 2017,
Cybercrime. (n.d.). Retrieved January 24, 2017,
11 Facts About Cyber Bullying. (n.d.). Retrieved January 24, 2017,


3.1 Fundamentals of algorithms

3.2 Programming

3.3 Fundamentals of data representation

3.4 Computer systems

3.5 Fundamentals of computer networks

3.6 Fundamentals of cyber security

3.7 Ethical, legal and environmental impacts of digital technology on wider society, including issues of privacy

3.8 Aspects of software development

Glossary and other links

Glossary of computing terms.

AQA 8520: The 2016 syllabus

General content


Ethical impacts

Ethical Problems in Computing 1

Ethical Problems in Computing 2

Ethical Problems in Computing 3

Ethics versus morals

Ethical issues

Ethical cases

Legal impacts

The 8 principles of the Data Protection Act

Police misuse of Ripa powers to spy on journalists is systemic, MPs told

BBC and Royal Mail 'using Ripa terror powers to spy on public'

RIPA: Passwords

The Grim RIPA

Five Welsh councils used undercover surveillance on staff

The Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 – an overview

How Protection of Freedoms Bill will work

Protection of Freedoms Act 2012

Guide to Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations

Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR)

What is the Freedom of Information Act?

 A Short Guide to the Freedom of Information Act

Plain English Guide to Freedom of Information

Freedom of Information - a summary

Computer Misuse Act

Computer Misuse Act prosecution numbers falling

Computer Misuse Act 1990 cases

A brief history of Copyright.

Equality Act 2010

Equality act 2010: What do I Need to know?

Section 127 of the Communications Act 2003: Threat or Menace?

Communications Act 2003

Digital Economy Act

A Guide to the Digital Economy Act 5 – Summary

Malicious Communications Offences

What is Sending Malicious Communications?

The UK’s 15 most infamous data breaches

Forrester Research Data Privacy Heat Map, 2015

India: Data Protection Laws In India: The Road Ahead

Data protection in India

Data Protection Laws Of The World (interactive)

Data Protection Laws Of The World (pdf)

ICLG comparisson tool

The Investigatory Powers Act 2016 And Internet Connections Records

Data protection not just about personal data and compliance

Jargon buster guide to GDPR

Does Facebook own my pictures?

Pirate bay

Envirormental impacts

Environment issues

Environmental impacts

Useful links for Green IT

What is Green IT?

What Is Green IT, and Why Should You Care?

Green IT: Changing IT without it costing the earth.

Whatever happened to Green IT?

Pictures: India's Poor Risk Health to Mine Electronic "E-Waste"

India: The Rising Tide of E-Waste

BCS commentary on Greening Government ICT

Privacy issues