Computing Ethics; Surrounded by Machines

Kenneth D. Pimple in his article on Computing Ethics; Surrounded by Machines he is able to point out on scenarios that exhibit ethical concerns arising due to computers. He in all the scenarios he presented in this article showed how computer users have lost their privacy to the computing gadgets and they feel as if someone is always keeping a watch at them. There is a general feeling by computing device users that there is always unseen force that determines most of their decisions. Kenneth also elaborated on how pervasive sensing system which is was developed through Bike static project exposed users to coercion, surveillance and control which in turn hinders their privacy. Mobile computing devices can also be used to estimate exposure to air pollution and also to determine his/her carbon footprints according to Personal Environmental Impact Report; this just expounded on how the privacy these participants were compromised during the project.

Kenneth also addressed the issue of lack of privacy when he presented Kalpana Shankar’s contributing on the ‘Ethical Technology in the Homes of Seniors’ (ETHOS). The development of presence clock with an aim of providing a caregiver and an elder a sense of mutual present could sometimes cause situations where a caretaker makes an elder to feel intrusive.  The author also portrayed how it is the young generation that is fascinated with the computing technology. They have gone as far as employing the use of this technology to help their aging parents to enjoy an assisted living facility in an ethical manner. However, it is important to note these elder parents do not understand the performance of the computer devices and this shows the gap that is between the people have the computer knowledge and the ones that lack it.

Chapter one of our textbook which mainly discusses on the social impact of computing, specifically on the parts that discusses on ethics supports the Kenneth D. Pimple’s point of view by asserting the fact that despite in as much as computing technology has created a lot of benefits to its users around the globe; it has also brought with itself its negativity which has adverse effects on the lives of its users. It deprives them of their privacy. There is lack of privacy to any data collected; there is no security for the data; the data may be unreliable due to wrong input; limited ownership to intellectual properties because they can be copied and reproduced easily.  The author of the textbook also addressed the gap between the people who have access to information from computer devices and those who lack access to such kind of information. This is what is referred to as “Digital divide” in this textbook and forms the author’s last item on ethical issues due to computing.

My point view on the privacy as an ethical issue in computing, I would concur with both the author of the textbook and Kenneth on his article on computing ethics that lack of privacy on the computer users is a serious issue that requires right measures to address. Several people have fallen victims of this issue across the world. For instance, there are people who genetic data has been hacked and used to victimize them on recruitment and insurance covers. Others have had their personal information used to steal money from their bank accounts. Cybercrime is on the rise and hackers are becoming more dangerous and smarter every day.

Lastly Kenneth appreciated Keith W. Miller’s contribution on the development of a computing autonomous system. There is lack of ethics in the development of computer artifacts because there is no one who is ready to accept any wrong doing in the system. This is what she refers to as the lack of moral responsibility among the players in the computing development.

This is intermittent with what the textbook provides for in the first chapter. The author of our textbook believes that there is a close relationship between ethics and power. Corruption is brought about by power and when there is absolute power then corruption is also absolute. The author of textbook also appreciated the work of James Moor which defined computer ethics as a study on wise use of power developed from computers. It is therefore moral to accept responsibility whenever something goes wrong in autonomous system which is basically the foundation of computing.

My point of view on the autonomous system is that both developers and users of the computing system are human and are prone to make errors; they should learn to accept mistakes and wrongdoings whenever such cases arise.

Why you should bet big on privacy

Rand Hindi in this article has addressed the most fundamental side effect of computing, which is privacy. He has presented the issues exactly as the Kenneth D. Pimple presented it in his article on computing ethics. He has asked the reader whether he/she has ever felt being watched online. It is actually a common practice that whenever you search for a particular item on the internet using any search engine, you must always find ads of that particular search on that page. There is no any other way to explain this except for you being surveyed by these marketing agencies without consent. This shows how privacy is compromised when you are disclosing one’s detail in the internet. Rand Hindi cited a situation whereby one’s private details can be leaked to insurance and recruitment companies leading to victimization. He also stated that by one using search engines such as Google, he/she partly gives away his/her right to privacy to whoever cares to use your personal data. He went ahead to recognize the fact that each and every person is entitled to the right to privacy. Society is also built on the privacy and privacy as an ethical issue has been there since the beginning of civilization. The author  believes that privacy is not a luxury to any person but it is a necessity  that has to be present for a society to exist and no one should argue that he/she has disclosed his/her secrets and would not care whether other persons’ privacy is violated. He has brought the idea of having the companies seeking for personal data to keep it safely away from hackers and even its employees. For instance Apple has done a commendable job in safeguarding the privacy of its customers according to the author.

This issue is addressed in the textbook where the author wrote that it is important to allow only authorized persons to gain access to one’s personal data. Privacy should be upheld at all times by the person responsible. The author has also pointed out that computers have created power that in turn has compromised ethics especially lack of privacy. The author of the textbook suggested that users of the computers should ensure they use the power created by the computer wisely to avoid causing harm to their fellow users. Through this privacy would be restored and it would cease to be an ethical issue in computing. In the textbook, the author recognized the computers role in providing new capabilities to the society but it also called for the users to be responsible to avoid violation of each other’s right to privacy.

My point of view on lack of privacy as an ethical issue in computing with respect to this Rand Hindi’s article on why you should bet big on privacy is that it is each and every individual’s responsibility to ensure that his/her right to privacy is upheld. One should avoid by all means necessary not to post or write personal data on the social platforms such as Facebook. Search engines such as Google should also be avoided when dealing with personal data. I have learnt from Rand Hindi that there are companies such as Apple which manufacture and operate computing devices and have put necessary mechanism to ensure personal data belonging to their clients are secured from external threat. Users of computers should therefore avoid companies which have not adopted the mechanisms of “Privacy by Design” in protecting personal data of their clients from hackers and unauthorized access and embrace the ones that have conformed to such requirements. This will force such computing companies to prioritize on the client privacy that any other thing.



Ogozalek, V. Z. (1991). The social impacts of computing: Computer technology and the graying of America. Social Science Computer Review, 9(4), 655-666.


Pimple, K. D. (2011). Surrounded by machines. Communications of the ACM, 54(3), 29-31.

Rand Hindi (2016). Why you should bet big on privacy. Crunch Network