The ability to create, modify, store, send, and link digitalized information is the most notable invention of the twentieth century. This phenomenon is widespread in all spheres of life around the globe. The continuing proliferation of information technologies and services has presented many legal, social, and ethical issues. These issues are the subject of discussion among government officials, academics, and others. This essay examines the contemporary issues that are facing multimedia and information technology in the modern world.
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Since the early 1960’s, Information Revolution has been the buzz word. The world has been experiencing, at an accelerating pace, an unprecedented Third Wave-fast forward movement. The Information Revolution is characterized by information becoming the central and most significant commodity.
An interesting offshoot of the Information Revolution is Information of Society, on the one hand, and the commoditization of information on the other. The significance of dawn of Information Revolution is underlined by the number of information-related terms it has risen. These include, but not limited to, ‘Information Society’, ‘Information Technology’, ‘Informatics’, and ‘Informatization’. Information has become a catalyst for economic development, and a key resource for literacy, education, and social development.
An Information Society is a society characterized by abundant information in terms of both stock and flow, quick and efficient distribution and transformation of information, and easy and inexpensive access to information for all members of society. The primary role of the workforce in Information Society is in the areas of information production, processing and distribution .
The Information Age has brought with it a myriad of issues proportionate to the number of contributions it has made to society. As such, discussing all the contemporary issues brought by multimedia and Information may take more than the limitation of this paper. Consequently, the scope of this paper will be limited to an overview of a number of legal, social, and ethical issues in the Information Age. These include privacy, intellectual property, and computer crime.
With the vast amounts of data and software available in the modern world of technology, individuals or companies are prone to theft of intellectual property. This crime consists of violation of copyrights, patents, trade secrets, or the terms of license agreements. It also entails unauthorized duplication of materials. This latter phenomenon is common in academics, whereby people might be tempted to reproduce other people’s works, views or invention as their own working for commercial or scholarly purposes.
Companies or individuals, therefore, should strive to obtain software, or information legitimately instead of coping it. There are several benefits associated with legal acquisition of software or information. Legal acquisition of software or information ensures that the company is kept abreast with the bounds of the law in their business practices and day-to-day operations.
This ensures that the company’s professionalism and reputation are maintained. Another fundamental reason why companies should go for legal software is because the legitimately purchased software comes with crucial benefits such as technical support, patches, upgrades and documentation. These properties cannot be found in pirated software. Companies or individuals who engage in illegal acquisition of intellectual risk fines, expensive settlements or serious legal action.
Intellectual property just like any other controversial contemporary issue in multimedia and information technology has its proponents and opponents. Those who argue for the private ownership of intellectual property base their arguments on well-known scholars such as John Locke (1632-1704). Locke held that one has a natural right to the things they have removed through their labor.
Another philosopher, Hegel (1770-1831), argues that property enables an individual to put his or her will into something . As such, property is an expression of an individual’s personality in the world. Another argument to support the private ownership of intellectual property is that it is a necessary incentive to create and to work. This idea is dated back to David Hume (1711-1786). Hume argued that people should own their creations in order to encourage useful habits and accomplishments.
The opponents of private ownership of intellectual property question the validity of the assumption that an idea can be owned solely by one individual. They hold that probably any idea that people have are not their own. Most of the ideas that people have come form other people, or place.
As such, originality can be viewed as the combination of existing ideas in new ways. Basically, when someone is original, they are expressing an idea in a new way, may be seeing new associations between ideas that were not noticed before. Anything creative that is achieved is the adding of something to pre-existing ideas, which have been obtained from others .
Like physical property, intellectual property implies that someone can access certain ideas, or information. However, the notion of private ownership of an idea or concept is highly controversial. This is because it implies that others are excluded from the use or development of those ideas.
Ownership of ideas in the modern Information Age will remain a mammoth challenge to the free society, not unless there is a balance between rewarding innovators for their creative ideas, while still allowing those ideas to be shared for the benefit of the community and for human progress .
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When thinking about the contemporary issues that are facing multimedia and information technology, privacy is, perhaps, the single issue that concerns people the most. Personal information is gathered in various ways such as profiles left to credit-checking companies, and supermarkets. The kinds of information held by credit-checking companies include names and addresses, former addresses, and current credit ratings.
The information in these databases has invariably being collected through a wide range of sources and organized so that it constitutes a history and assessment, of one’s trustworthiness as a debtor. Supermarkets are now compiling vast databases of information about their customers. This is done through their loyalty cards, in conjunction with records of credit card transactions at their stores .
Information in such databases is used to analyze the shopping patterns of customers and to target them with precise advertising based on their demographic profile and spending patterns. Still on privacy issues, another trend in the use of personal information is data matching.
This is the combination and comparison of information from different databases Personal information that is supplied, or collected for one purpose and stored in a particular database is cross-referenced to information in other databases, where data may have been gathered for an entirely different purpose.
This trend has been of significant concern to privacy advocates and civil liberties, who view it as prone to misuse. There is an unlimited number of misuses of information that is obtained form the databases. It could lead to vetting for jobs, denying someone a bank loan, based on their current health, their propensity to certain conditions, or their family medical history.
New technologies, including computers, offer new opportunities for committing a crime through the development of more expensive commodities for theft, devising novel ideas of stealing them, or harming others. This phenomenon is referred to as computer crime. It is a contemporary issue in the Information Age that has left many puzzles than the invention of computers have solved. Criminals can access a company’s financial records and wire unfathomable amounts of money in their bank accounts .
In addition, computer abuse involving spamming is proving a very expensive affair. This is in terms of resources and time dedicated to dealing with such unwanted and irrelevant e-mail messages. Although spam filters may be used to block unwanted messages, the strategy is not foolproof as it may end up blocking legitimate messages .
In conclusion, information technology has given rise to many unexacting possibilities which the existing law has not yet found solutions. The Information Age is coming up with changes that call for new ethical, legal, and social debates in societies in order for solutions to be found.
These issues revolve around ethical, social, professional, and political principles. In terms of privacy, it is clear that contemporary information systems technology is posing a tremendous challenge to the traditional paradigms of safeguarding individual privacy, as well as intellectual property .
Technologies used in storing and analyzing data are easing the ways firms are collecting data on individuals from various sources and analyzing them in order to come up with an in-depth electronic profile about an individual and his or her conduct. The widespread use of computers also increases opportunities for computer crime and abuse . Given these myriad of issues, there is a need to approach Information Technology with a degree of professionalism and try, where possible, to act in the most ethical way possible.
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