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Cloud computing and its ethical issues

Information Technology Ethical Issues that Arise Because of the Technology:
The Internet: search engines, filtering, pornography, access, etc.

Databases: data mining, privacy, security, etc.

Communication: e-mail, social networking, monitoring, etc.

Gaming: regulation, violence, addiction, gender stereotyping, educational games, etc.

Cloud computing and its ethical issues

            It is indubitable that information technology is a very dynamic field, with new technologies emerging within a short span of time. The emergence of new technologies raises new ethical issues. In this paper, cloud computing will be discussed as an emerging technology, as well as its ethical implications. Some of the basic questions to be addressed in the paper includes the definition of cloud computing, the ethical issues involved in cloud computing and ways of addressing these issues.

Cloud computing is gaining prominence in both technological and social fields to both individuals and organization. It is an internet based computing service that operates with on basically any form of a computer connected to the internet. It is considered among the fastest growing segments of computing and information technology. Cloud computing involves storage of documents, pictures, messages, and diverse forms of information online (Andriole & Khorasani, 2010). Some of the positive attributes of this technology includes low costs of operation and maintenance, accessibility, ease of sharing and information safety. Notably, cloud computing is significantly cheaper compared to on-site servers, desktops, and software. However, the approach has also raised numerous ethical concerns globally that will be discussed in this paper.

One of the main concerns and ethical issues with cloud computing is information control. Ideally, cloud computing entails removing information and data from a local computer to a cloud where the information owner has minimal control over. This is more serious when the information is highly sensitive, such as the governmental or bank data. Hacking of the systems is common globally as most institutions do not 100 percent control of their information once it gets into the cloud. Other possible challenges that results from lack of control includes unauthorized access to information by a third party, corruption and manipulation of data, failure of system and infrastructure and outing / unavailability of information at some point due to increased data traffic (Andriole & Khorasani, 2010). Lack of control also makes it hard to trace the source of information hacking or manipulation. In such cases, hackers can easily manipulate data without being caught or held responsible. This is more profound in banking and communication sector where billions have been illegally acquired or lost through cyber crimes. This ethical challenge is a major headache to the information and communication technology sector in the contemporary times.

The second ethical challenge revolves around the ‘problem of many hands’ that occurs when several people are involved in establishing and maintaining a system; thus an undesirable income can be traced to many people’s omission or commission. When dealing with cloud computing, service delivery depends on several systems through the service-oriented architecture. In this architecture, functionalities consist of service that can be further aggregated to form a large application that delivers services to the end user (Paquette, Jaeger & Wilson, 2010). In such an arrangement, it is hard to establish where the backstops in case there is an undesirable outcome.  This also results in other ethical challenges such as accountability and transparency in information sharing and management. In most cases, most of the spammed emails that are cloud computed get to different users with a minimal chance of tracing the source. As such, disgusting and distorted messages continue to spread over the internet with the senders going scot free, raising a key ethical question of how to control and regulate what is shared within the cloud.

The issue of ownership of what is shared within the cloud is also a major challenge. Information ceases to be private and personal when it leaves your personal or organizational computer and gets into the cloud. Despite many benefits associated with posting the information on the cloud, there are several ethical issues that emerge from the process.  One is about who really owns that information and who should be responsible if the same is distorted or misrepresented. In addition, some of the cloud sites create an unnecessary dependency on them to access information that you generated. Leaving passwords and login information on the cloud sites, in most cases, leads to information abuse and exploitation by the third parties to the information owner’s disadvantage. This trend is creating new risks and ethical concerns as more individuals and organizations embraced the cloud computing technology globally. To illustrate, personal data in the cloud have in several incidents been used to conduct the cyber crime and fraud (Van den Hoven, 2008). In such cases, the authentic owner of the information is unable to defend himself from the crime, especially when it involves money laundering. Ownership of the information is also a major headache when dealing with copyright issues. Cloud computing has given web browsers an almost unlimited access to all sorts of information, whether copyrighted or not. Ultimately, the web users are able to use and share the information widely without giving due regard to the copyright issues; thus leading to ethical concerns on information use. Notably, academics theft through plagiarism is one of the challenges that results from availing too much information on the cloud.

There are several ways of dealing with ethical issues in cloud computing. One of the processes is through enforcing tough measures on plagiarism to protect academics from unethical thefts.  These measures should also be extended to other unethical activities involving cloud computed information and data, such as fraud and cybercrime. There is also the need for precautionary principle by the organizations and individuals before they share their information online (Won, 2009). It is noteworthy that any information shared online sticks forever unless it is deliberately deleted or modified. It is, therefore, unethical to share personal and organizational details without considering the implications of the action to self and others. Precaution also requires putting necessary measures such as copyrights and passwords to restrict access to information shared on the cloud. It is also important to store backup information on personal machines when you transfer the information online. This cushions one to the likelihood of information manipulation online.

                        References

Andriole, P. & Khorasani, R. (2010). Cloud Computing: What Is It and Could It Be Useful?           Journal of the American College of Radiology. Volume 7, (4), 252-254.

Paquette, S., Jaeger, P. & Wilson, C. (2010). Identifying the security risks associated with     governmental use of cloud computing. Government Information Quarterly 27(3), 245 –     253.

Van den Hoven, J. (2008). Information Technology, Privacy and the Protection of Personal          Data. Information Technology and Moral Philosophy 321 (10). 301-321

Won, K. (2009). Cloud Computing: Today and Tomorrow. Journal of Object technology. Vol. 8,      (1).

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