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Ten Ethics Questions to Get Your Students Talking. Deborah Morley, Author “Understanding Computers” texts. Should virtual profits made in Second Life or another virtual world be reported as taxable income?. 1. Background:.

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Ten Ethics Questions to Get Your Students Talking

Deborah Morley, Author“Understanding Computers” texts


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Should virtual profits made in Second Life or another virtual world be reported as taxable income?

1.

Background:

  • > Huge amounts of money (more than $1 billion U.S. per year) are exchanged in virtual worlds like Second Life and virtual assets are sold for real U.S. dollars on eBay.

    • A 2001 study estimated that time in one virtual world generated about $3.42 per hour.

    • In 2006, over 3,000 Second Life residents generated more than $20,000 in U.S. dollars each in virtual income.

    • In 2008, the American Cancer Society raised more than $200,000 in U.S. dollars via a virtual “Relay for Life” – over 2,000 avatars participated. 


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Background (continued) virtual world be reported as taxable income?

  • > Goods and services in Second Life are valued in Linden dollars, which have a real world value since there is a Linden dollar/U.S. dollar exchange rate.

  • > The first virtual world millionaire (Ailin Graef, creator of Anshe Chung who sells virtual real estate in Second Life) was announced in 2006.

  • > Virtual income taxability was listed as #13 in the list of the 20 Most Serious Problems in the 2008 Annual Report from the National Taxpayer Advocate. The report recommended that the IRS clarify the tax implications of virtual income.

1


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Issues: virtual world be reported as taxable income?

> Currently in the U.S., virtual income is taxable after it is converted into a real-life currency, just like any other income.

>But what about taxing virtual profits that never leave the virtual world? Should they be reported to the IRS?

>Goods or services obtained through barter or as prizes are taxable under current law. Is this different that obtaining goods or services via Linden dollars?

>China (20%, began in Nov. 2008) and Australia (2006) have implemented taxes on virtual income, and South Korea implemented a value added tax in 2007 on virtual income over a certain amount (~$6,500+).

1

Should virtual profits made in Second Life or another virtual world be reported as taxable income?


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Is it ethical to post a rumor about another student on a campus gossip site?

2.

Background:

> The use of campus gossip sites―where students can post campus related news, rumors, and basic gossip―is growing.

> Campus gossip sites were originally set up to promote free speech and to allow participants to publish comments anonymously without repercussions from school administrators, professors, and other officials.

> Some comments are meant to be harmless; others―particularly comments about fellow students―can be vicious and hurtful, and are often lies.

> School administrators state that they cannot regulate the content since the sites are not sponsored or run by the college, though they hope students avoid them.


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Background (continued) campus gossip site?

  • > Federal law prohibits Web hosts from being liable for the content posted by its users.

  • > A California court recently ruled that anonymous posts on the Internet are protected under the First Amendment, even if they are “unquestionably offensive and demeaning.”

    • Was based on verbal attacks against company executives on a Yahoo! message board.

  • > It is difficult to get a court order for the IP addresses corresponding to online posts―even ones calling for individuals to be physically assaulted.

    • Two female Yale law students couldn’t get a court order for the IP addresses corresponding to online posts calling them to be raped and beaten.

  • > JuicyCampus.com went offline in February 2009 (redirects to CollegeABC.com (College Anonymous Confession Board)).

2


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Issues: campus gossip site?

  • > Is there ever a point where content on a gossip site should be censored?

  • > Should Web hosts have a legal or ethical responsibility for the content posted on their site?

  • > What if a posting leads to a criminal act (such as a rape, murder, or suicide)? Should the Web host be held responsible?

  • > What about prospective employers or mates reading false charges and rumors on these sites?

  • >How would you feel if you read a posting about yourself on a gossip site?

2

Is it ethical to post a rumor about another student on a campus gossip site?


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Is it ethical for a business to require employees to be “chipped” for security purposes?

3.

Background:

> Implantable RFID tags like the VeriChip can be used to uniquely identify individuals. The tags are read by a proprietary scanner and can link individuals to health records and payment accounts (Baja Beach Club in Barcelona); they can also be used to grant access to secure facilities.

> The chips currently contain only an identifying number that is tied to a secure database, so hackers scanning individuals to obtain their numbers is not yet a security issue and the chips do not contain technology like GPS that can be used to track the physical location of the individual.


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> “chipped” for security purposes?Once a VeriChip is implanted into a person, it is difficult to remove and the number can’t be reprogrammed.

> The VeriChip is approved by the FDA for use on humans but has only been used since 2004 so all health and privacy implications may not yet be known.

> Non-implanted RFID use is becoming more common, such as on employee and student ID cards.

> In 2006, a Cincinnati company requested any employee who works in its secure data center to be implanted with a microchip. Two employees volunteered and were chipped.

> In 2008, California made it illegal for any California employer to require an implanted RFID chip as a condition for employment or other benefits.

Background (continued)

3


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Issues: “chipped” for security purposes?

>If implanted RFID chips prove to be the best way to protect access to a highly secure facility, is it fair to not allow a business to utilize this technology?

>If businesses begin chipping employees on a voluntary basis only, would there be eventual pressure on individuals choosing not to participate?

>As non-implanted RFID use with individuals (ID cards, RFID wristbands used by FedEx, etc.) becomes more common, will implanted RFID chips seem to be the next logical step?

>What happens if the number becomes compromised?

>Would you consider getting chipped if it meant you could get a better job?

3

Is it ethical for a business to require employees to be “chipped” for security purposes?


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To what extent is it ethical for the government to require the use of technology that potentially infringes on an individual’s privacy in order to implement taxes?

4.

Background:

  • > The U.S. Congress is considering a mileage tax (VMT – vehicles miles traveled) to supplement or replace the federal gas tax now used to pay for the upkeep and repair of highways and bridges.

  • > One proposal requires a GPS device in each car to record the mileage driven by each car; it could also keep track of the time and location in order to tax more on crowded roads during rush hour, for instance.


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Issues: the use of technology that potentially infringes on an individual’s privacy in order to implement taxes?

  • >Privacy advocates are concerned about the privacy implications of the government being able to track where you drive.

  • >Who would pay for the devices? Can they be disabled or hacked? Can they be used for law enforcement purposes? Will their use be extended in the future? (ex. Terrorist attack, slippery slope?)

  • >If they install them in just new cars, is that fair to consumers?

  • > Senator Barbara Boxer advocates an ‘honor system’ in lieu of the GPS devices? Is that fair to honest citizens who would report their mileage?

4

To what extent is it ethical for the government to require the use of technology that potentially infringes on an individual’s privacy in order to implement taxes?


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Should you get permission from a friend before uploading photos or videos containing that individual to your Facebook page, YouTube, or another site?

5.

Background:

>A majority of young people today use social networks―Facebook alone has more than 120 million active users.

>Many individuals upload photos and videos that include friends and other individuals. Often these are taken at parties and other situations where the individuals may not be portrayed at their best. Individuals can be identified by surrounding text, Facebook tags, etc.


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Background (continued) photos or videos containing that individual to your Facebook page, YouTube, or another site?

>Some colleges are monitoring social networks for inappropriate behavior, such as underage drinking and drug use, and actions can lead to suspension or expulsion.

>Some students and parents of students competing to get into the most elite colleges are resorting to “Facebook sabotage”―sending anonymous letters to college admission offices suggesting that admission officers check out the photos on a rival student's Facebook page, MySpace profile, or blog.

>Online photos can also interfere with getting a job and keeping a job. For instance, a recent CareerBuilder study revealed that one in five employers check Facebook profiles when researching a job candidate and several individuals have been fired for photos posted on social networks.

5


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Background (continued) photos or videos containing that individual to your Facebook page, YouTube, or another site?

  • >Examples of individuals losing their jobs due to inappropriate or unprofessional online content:

    • 2007: After administrators viewed the MySpace profile photo of a Pennsylvania student teacher that was labeled “Drunken pirate” and showed the woman wearing a pirate hat and holding a plastic cup a few days before her graduation, she was denied her teaching credential.

    • 2007: A Florida substitute teacher was fired for including photos of the tattoos on her back on her personal blog.

    • 2008: A nontenured Connecticut teacher’s contract was not renewed because his MySpace page contained content deemed inappropriate by the school and he used it to have what the school considered overly familiar contact with students.

    • 2009: A U.K. teenager was fired from her job after commenting on her Facebook page that her job was boring.

5


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> photos or videos containing that individual to your Facebook page, YouTube, or another site?Mobile phone cameras increase the odds of being captured in a photo at a public or social event.

> Posting a compromising photo or video of yourself or a friend can impact your college and professional life.

> Once a photo or video is posted online, you lose control of it. Though you can control access to your Facebook page, you can’t prevent posted content from being distributed elsewhere and you can’t control photos containing your image that are posted by others.

> A related issue: ‘sexting’ (18-year-old Ohio girl’s suicide; 20% of teens have sent nude photos of themselves to others). 

Issues:

5

Should you get permission from a friend before uploading photos or videos containing that individual to your Facebook page, YouTube, or another site?


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6. photos or videos containing that individual to your Facebook page, YouTube, or another site?

Is it ethical for bloggers to be paid to blog about a company or product?

> Traditionally, blogs are online personal journals where the blogger expresses his or her opinion on desired topics. Bloggers post because they want to, not because they have been hired to do so―unlike professional journalists, for instance.

> Some bloggers today are accepting compensation to write “sponsored posts”―in other words, being paid to post a favorable review of a product or service on their blog (in Dec 2008, Kmart gave $500 gift cards to six well-known bloggers).

> A 2009 report by Forrester Research suggested that marketers should take advantage of “sponsored conversations.” 

Background:


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6 photos or videos containing that individual to your Facebook page, YouTube, or another site?

> Advertising services that connect paid bloggers with companieshave arrived and thousands of bloggers are signing on to be paid bloggers (PayPerPost alone has over 50,000 bloggers as members).

Background (continued)

> Some paid bloggers disclose the fact that they are being paid for particular comments (PayPerPost requires it), though others may not.

> The FTC states that

any paid word-of-mouth marketing (which includes paid blog posts) must be disclosed.

> Sponsored posts can impact search rankings if those Web pages are counted by search spiders (Google requires ‘no follow’ tags).


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Issues: photos or videos containing that individual to your Facebook page, YouTube, or another site?

>If a blogger is paid to post his or her honest opinion about a product or service, does that lessen the credibility of that post?

>How does the reader of a sponsored post know if the post accurately reflects the blogger’s opinion or if the blogger was instructed what to post?

>How does the possibility of sponsored posts affect the blogosphere as a whole?

>If you based a purchase on a review posted in a blog that you later found out was sponsored, would you feel misled?

6

Is it ethical for bloggers to be paid to blog about a company or product?


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7. photos or videos containing that individual to your Facebook page, YouTube, or another site?

If an individual finds a lost device like a USB flash drive, is it ethical to look at the contents in order to try to determine its owner?

Background:

> Millions of USB flash drives are in use today worldwide and thousands are lost each day, according to one estimate.

>While some USB flash drives today use encryption to protect the contents of the drive, most are left unprotected and the data can be viewed by anyone finding a lost drive.

> Some devices contain identifying information (name, phone number, or e-mail address, for instance) printed on the device that can be used to return it to the owner. But many do not.


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Issues: photos or videos containing that individual to your Facebook page, YouTube, or another site?

  • >When a lost USB flash drive or other device is found that does not contain identifying data on the outside of the device, what should the individual finding the device do?

    • Leave the device where it is?

    • Give the device to a responsible party, like an airline attendant or restaurant manager?

    • Look at the data on the device in order to determine its owner?

  • >Which actions are ethical and which are not?

  • >If the device is turned over to a responsible party (such as an airline attendant or a restaurant manager), which actions are ethical for that party to perform?

  • > If you lost a device, would you want someone to look at its contents in order to determine your contact information?

7

If an individual finds a lost device like a USB flash drive, is it ethical to look at the contents in order to try to determine its owner?


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This question was featured in an “Ask the Expert” box in the 2009 Update Edition of Understanding Computers.


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Is it ethical for ISPs to block selected traffic going to or from their customers or to set limits on bandwidth?

8.

Background:

> Internet traffic has increased tremendously recently as individuals are watching TV and videos online, downloading music and movies, using online backup services, playing online multiplayer games, and otherwise performing high-bandwidth activities.

> It has recently been discovered that some ISPs (like cable giant Comcast) have been blocking selected traffic to and from their customers, such as blocking the use of P2P sites like BitTorrent to download movies, music, and other large files. Others are slowing down traffic to and from heavy users during peak Internet usage periods.


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  • > from their customers or to set limits on bandwidth?Most ISPs state in their service agreement that they can use tools to “efficiently manage its networks,” in order to prevent some customers from using a higher than normal level of bandwidth. However, the Comcast issue was considered by many to be a blatant net neutrality issue—blocking access to multimedia from sources other than its own cable sources.

  • > It is also becoming more common for ISPs to include an overall bandwidth limit for customers. After reaching their limit, they either lose Internet access for a specified period of time or are charged an additional fee.

  • > Bandwidth limits vary from relatively generous (100 or 250 GB of downloads per month) to 200 MB/day (no multimedia at all).

    • March 2009 lawsuit: $5,077 bill from AT&T for a new $100 Netbook - she unknowingly had a 5 GB/month cap (charge is ~$500/GB for over cap).

Background (continued)

8


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Issues: from their customers or to set limits on bandwidth?

> Can an ISP ethically block selected Internet traffic, such as a particular type of activity or Web site? Why or why not?

>If an ISP chooses to block Internet traffic or impose a bandwidth limit, how upfront should they be to convey that information to their current and prospective customers?

>As the amount of Internet usage consumed by the average individual continues to grow, whose responsibility is it to ensure that Internet service can meet this rising demand?

8

Is it ethical for ISPs to block selected traffic going to or from their customers or to set limits on bandwidth?


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Is it ever ethical to Wi-Fi piggyback? If so, under what conditions?

9.

> “Wi-Fi piggybacking” refers to using an unsecured Wi-Fi network

Background:

  • to access the Internet without authorization.

  • > Wi-Fi piggybacking includes only accessing unsecured networks without any harmful intent to the network.

  • > The legality varies - it is illegal in the U.K. and in some states in the U.S. Individuals have been arrested and prosecuted for Wi-Fi piggybacking.

    • 2007: Michigan man arrested for using a café‘s free Internet service regularly from his car.

    • 2008: 16-year-old U.K. boy arrested for using his neighbor’s Wi-Fi by accident.


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Issues: conditions?

  • > Does the appropriateness of Wi-Fi piggybacking change based on the type of network being used (business or home, for instance)?

  • >Does the type/amount of use make a difference, such as checking e-mail or viewing a map while traveling vs. using your neighbor’s Internet connection on a daily basis?

  • > Does the individual or business leaving the Wi-Fi network unsecured mean that they are inviting outside use? (Unlocked front door)

  • > How would you feel if someone piggybacked on your Wi-Fi network?

9

Is it ever ethical to Wi-Fi piggyback? If so, under what conditions?


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Can newspapers or photographers ever ethically digitally edit a news photo?

10.

Background:

  • > Digital cameras and the computers and software available today make digital manipulation of photos a very easy task done by many individuals.

  • > Editing your own personal photos to remove red eye, create artistic collages, or remove an offending background object is one thing―digitally editing images that are supposed to represent the truth (like news photographs) is often considered another.


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> edit a news photo?There are many examples of airbrushed or composite photos being published in the news media. Some combine a person’s head with another person’s body, some are edited to remove or add an individual or object, some are edited to make a person less or more attractive.

> The National Press Photographers Association Code of Ethics states “Editing should maintain the integrity of the photographic images' content and context.”

> Some photographers believe that any editing of a news photograph is dishonest.

Background (continued)

10


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> edit a news photo?1994 - O.J. Simpson TIME and Newsweek covers.

> 2000 - University of Wisconsin digitally inserted a black student into a crowd of white football fans in a brochure to illustrate the school’s diversity.

> 2000 - Daily News printed a cover of Bill Clinton and Fidel Castro about to shake hands, which apparently happened but was not photographed.

> 2003 - L.A. Times news photographer was fired after a photo they printed of soldiers in Iraq was discovered to be a composite – the same situation but the composite was more compelling.

> 2007 – Ohio newspaper reporter resigned after admitting he altered a photo. It was discovered that at least 79 photos submitted that year were digitally altered (one example – he added a basketball to a game shot).

Background (Examples)

10


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Issues: edit a news photo?

> If a news photograph is edited, is it still a news photograph? Does it depend on the type and extent of the editing?

> How does the lack of photo negatives or other evidence of the original photograph affect news photographers today?

> Does using a photograph not related to a news story (such as a stock photo or a photo taken in another context) in conjunction with a news story constitute digital manipulation?

> Would you feel misled if you found out a news photograph you viewed was digitally manipulated?

10

Can newspapers or photographers ever ethically digitally edit a news photo?


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Want a concepts textbook that… edit a news photo?

  • Is current and accurate?

  • Explains concepts clearly and understandably?

  • Includes societal coverage?

  • Has lots of industry input?

  • Includes topics relevant to students’ lives?

  • Includes lots of online extras, such as FREE online videos, podcasts, practice tests, study guides, Web links, and more?

Well, we’ve got a book for you!


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Understanding Computers edit a news photo?– Now in THREE versions:

  • UC Comprehensive (2009 Update) – 16 chapters; includes complete coverage of hardware and software, plus systems, e-commerce, security, privacy, ethics, and more.

  • UC Introductory – Ch 1-9 only; includes complete coverage of hardware and software and one security chapter.

  • UC in a Changing Society – 8 chapters including condensed HW and SW coverage, plus SIX chapters devoted to societal issues.


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Questions? Suggestions? edit a news photo?

[email protected]

I’m working on the 13th edition now (will be available in early 2010) and love suggestions and feedback!

THANK YOU!


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