Computers, Information Technology, the Internet, Ethics, Society and Human Values
Philip Pecorino, Ph.D.
Queensborough Community College, CUNY
Chapter 7 Secrecy and Security
Few would want to disagree with the claim that certain information should be kept secret. Some kept confidential. National defense information might fall under the first heading along with trade secrets. Health and financial information would fall under the second heading. Governments do not want vital and critical information accessed by real or potential enemies and companies would not want their trade secrets known by competitors. Individuals would not want their personal health matters and financial situation or status known to just anyone. Just what should be available to individuals, groups, institutions, corporations, businesses and others to provide security for their information?
Employers and institutions need to safeguard the information of those in their employ and of those who provide personal information to them. How far must they go to provide for the security of that information? When placing personal information into information networks what security measures are needed? Permitting unauthorized access, intentionally or otherwise, to personal information exposes those whose personal, financial and health information it is to harms in a number of ways including fraudulent use of their identities (identity theft) or use in exposes intended to harm them.
Balancing the need for secrecy and security of information with the need for providing for the security of the nation and for its institutions on the part of government is no easy task. When there is a conflict between the two needs how is it to be resolved? What of the competing values?
Banks hold items for clients in safe deposit boxes and funds in vaults. Keys to these areas are not handed over to unauthorized agents. Government seeking access to vaults and safe deposit boxes must present their case to a court and argue that the conditions are met for granting access and then it is an access limited by the order of the court. What about information that people value as they do their funds and the contents of safe deposit boxes?
What is to be done to protect information? What if those wanting to protect that information are terrorists or other form of criminal enterprise or threats to national security? How far should government go to halt or stop the development or distribution of encryption entities?
What of individuals wishing to protect their identities in cyberspace when communicating or depositing information or data? Is that always, sometimes, or never a morally good thing when communicating with others?
READ: Cryptoanarchy Discussing
READ: A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace by John Perry Barlow
“Any people that would give up liberty for a little temporary safety deserves neither liberty nor safety”.
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Last updated 8-2006 Return to Table of Contents