ITGS Syllabus

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Section 1

Social and Ethical Issues

The widespread use of IT raises questions about social and ethical issues that shape the world today. Students should become familiar with all the social and ethical issues described in this section. Teachers should introduce the social and ethical issues as appropriate using the integrated approach illustrated in the diagram at the beginning of the syllabus details. In this way students can examine social and ethical issues that are raised when IT systems are used in a range of areas. The use of IT is likely to bring both advantages and disadvantages, both costs and benefits, and students should study the impact of IT in a critical way. It is important that examples are drawn from the local, national and global level.

1.1 Reliability

Reliability refers to the operation of hardware, the design of software, the accuracy of data or the correspondence of data with the real world. Data may be unreliable if it is entered incorrectly or if it becomes outdated. For example, a medical record that becomes dissociated from the patient it refers to becomes unreliable. The reliability of machines, software and data determines our confidence in their value.

1.2 Integrity

Integrity refers to correspondence of data with itself, at its creation. Data lacks integrity when it has been changed accidentally or tampered with. For example, a hacker might change driver licence data resulting in arrests of innocent people.

1.3 Security

Security refers to the protection of hardware, software, machines and networks from unauthorized access, alteration or destruction. Security measures include restricted access to machines and networks and encryption of information. The degree of security of information systems determines society’s confidence in the information contained in the systems.

1.4 Privacy and anonymity

Privacy is the ability of individuals and groups to determine for themselves when, how and to what extent information about themselves is shared with others. At its extreme, privacy becomes anonymity, which might be called for in some contexts but is dangerous in others. For example, discussion of a delicate subject might require anonymity, or at least privacy. On the other hand, anonymity could also conceal the perpetrators of criminal, terrorist or computer hacking acts.

1.5 Authenticity

Authenticity means establishing the user’s identity beyond reasonable doubt. Authenticating the user is crucial in many situations, particularly in business and legal matters. A simple example of authentication is user login onto a network. A more advanced example would be the use of encrypted digital signatures in a business transaction.

1.6 Intellectual property

Intellectual property includes ideas, discoveries, writings, works of art, software, collections and presentations of data. Copyrights, trademarks and patents legally protect intellectual property, but easy and accurate duplication methods made available by IT can undermine such protections. On the other hand, the same methods create opportunity for inexpensive dissemination of information.


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