Social and ethical issues (if you can stay awake…)

This should be useful in answering those boring social and ethical questions that for some reason the IB insist on including in the Computer Science course…

Summary of Social and Ethical Issues


  • privacy of the individual – security of data and information
  • accuracy of data and information
  • changing nature of work
  • appropriate information use
  • health and safety
  • copyright laws

Social and ethical issues in collecting

  • bias in the choice of what and where to collect data
  • accuracy of the collected data
  • copyright and acknowledgment of source data when collecting
  • the rights to privacy of individuals on whom data is collected
  • ergonomic issues for participants entering large volumes of data into an information system

Social and ethical issues associated with organising

  • current trends in organising data, such as:
  • the increase in hypermedia as a result of the world wide web
  • the ability of software to access different types of data
  • a greater variety of ways to organise resulting from advances in display technology
  • the cost of poorly organised data, such as redundant data in a database used for mail-outs
  • the appropriateness of a two digit date field at a time when storage and processing was more expensive, versus the current inappropriateness

Social and ethical issues associated with analysis

  • unauthorised analysis of data
  • data incorrectly analysed
  • erosion of privacy from linking databases for analysis

Social and ethical issues associated with storing/retrieving

  • the security of stored data
  • unauthorised retrieval of data
  • advances in storage and retrieval technologies and new uses such as data matching

Social and ethical issues associated with processing

  • types of computers on networks
  • flexibility from the distributed processing of personal computers on networks
  • security from the centralised processing of network computers (terminals)
  • ownership of processed data
  • bias in the way participants in the system process data

Social and ethical issues associated with transmitting and receiving

  • accuracy of data received from the Internet
  • security of data being transferred
  • net-etiquette
  • acknowledgment of data source
  • global network issues, time zones, date fields, exchange rates
  • changing nature of work for participants, such as work from home and telecommuting
  • current developments and future trends in digital communications, radio and television
  • the impact of the Internet on traditional business

Social and ethical issues associated with displaying

  • communication skills of those presenting displays
  • past, present and emerging trends in displays
  • appropriate displays for a wide range of audiences, including:
  • standards for display for the visually impaired
  • displays suitable for young children

Social and ethical issues associated with Planning, Design and Implementation

  • machine-centred systems simplify what computers do at the expense of participants
  • human-centred systems as those that make participants’ work as effective and satisfying as possible
  • how the relationships between participants change as a result of the new system
  • ensuring the new system provides participants with a safe work environment
  • awareness of the impact the system may have on the participants:
    • opportunities to use their skills
    • meaningful work
    • need for change
    • opportunities for involvement and commitment

Social and ethical issues related to information systems and databases

  • acknowledgment of data sources
  • the freedom of information act
  • privacy principles
  • accuracy of data and the reliability of data sources
  • access to data, ownership and control of data
  • new trends in the organisation, processing, storage and retrieval of data such as data warehousing and data-mining

Social and ethical issues related to communication systems

  • the use of communication systems to share knowledge, not just data
  • issues related to messaging systems
    • ideas delivered by this means appear less forceful and caring than ideas delivered personally
    • danger of being misinterpreted
    • power relationships
    • privacy and confidentiality
    • electronic junk mail
    • information overload
  • implications of Internet trading including:
    • local taxation laws
    • employment ramifications
    • nature of business
  • trading over the Internet and its commercial implications
  • the difficulties of censoring content on the Internet
  • issues arising from Internet banking, including:
    • security of banking details
    • changing nature of work
    • branch closure and job loss
  • the removal of physical boundaries by enabling:
    • work from home
    • virtual organisations, ie organisations structured around the communication system
    • removal of national and international barriers to trade
  • how participants are supported:
    • individuals by providing a means for communication
    • participant teams by enabling the exchange of ideas and data
  • the emerging trend of accessing media such as radio and video across the Internet

Social and ethical issues related to multimedia systems

  • copyright: the acknowledgment of source data and the ease with which digital data can be modified
  • appropriate use of the Internet and the wide spread application of new developments on it such as live video data
  • the merging of radio, television, communications and the Internet with the increase and improvements in digitisation
  • the integrity of the original source data in educational and other multimedia systems

Social and ethical issues related to transaction processing systems

  • changing nature of work and the effect on participants, including:
    • the automation of jobs once performed by clerks
    • the bypassing of clerks by people in the environment performing their former roles
      (Eg collecting now done by customers using the bank’s ATM machines instead of via the bank clerk)
  • the need for non-computer procedures to deal with transactions when the computer is not available in real time systems
  • bias in data collection:
    • when establishing the system and deciding what data to collect
    • when collecting data
  • the importance of data in transaction processing, including:
    • data security
    • data accuracy
    • data integrity
  • control in transaction processing and the implications it has for participants in the system

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