Author: Ian Musyoka
Monday, May 17, 2021

What Are Ethical and Unethical Practices Related to Internet Use?

Category: Ethics

What Are Ethical and Unethical Practices Related to Internet Use?

Information technology has made the world more accessible than ever in history. Different people from different parts of the world have the ability to access the internet and simultaneously make use of online resources. Do not be deceived that whatever you do alone behind the screen does not affect anyone else. Your actions on the internet affect more people than you can imagine.

Internet ethics is the acceptable behavioral code when using the internet. In simple terms, it is a manual of what is acceptable online. Internet ethics affects everything we do on the web. With better technology comes more decisions to make. Unlike in the past, our actions are no longer constrained by our weaknesses but by our ethical judgment. Unfortunately, some people choose to ignore this moral guide in pursuit of self-interest.


Ethical Internet Behavior

When using the internet, it is important to embrace honesty, respect privacy, property, and rights. However, as many organizations embrace and explore the internet with specific goals, these goals are not in the best interest of everyone. The ethical practices encouraged by computer users include:

  • Your computer should not be used to harm others.
  • Your computer should not be a tool of intellectual theft.
  • Request an author’s permission to copyright software.
  • Respect copyright policies and laws.
  • For others to respect your privacy, learn to respect theirs.
  • Request for permission before using someone’s computer resources.
  • The internet should be used ethically.
  • Report illegal activities and communications to the authorities or internet service provider.
  • Internet users are responsible for the safeguarding of their personal information.
  • Do not use your computer to modify or retrieve personal information about others, such as files and passwords.


Ethical Concerns of Internet Usage

Ethical debates surrounding the internet focus on accessibility, property rights, information integrity, and proper information use. The following are some of the ethical questions surrounding information technology:

1. Privacy

Online privacy has one of the most sought-after questions in regards to internet ethics. Every day, there are growing concerns among people about the nature of data collection and storage. Internet users want more awareness about how their data is knowingly and unknowingly being used. Some are concerned that their data may be used in ways they do not anticipate, while others are afraid that their data can be used against them.

This issue presents a big problem in this medium of communication. In addition, an ethical concern arises: is the internet still a safe space that invites expressive freedom, creative outlets, and information sharing even as it transforms into a weapon of mass surveillance?

2. Net Neutrality

Net neutrality has been a major ethical backbone behind the internet’s development. It runs around the principle that people who control the internet pipeline will have no control over what information is available online. Information is supposed to flow freely.

However, the companies behind the running of these pipelines are developing ways to reap from or encourage specific content consumption. This creates an internet ethics issue. There is a divide on whether the internet remains a neutral entity for information transfer and communication or a tool used to favor specific content.

3. Net Neutrality

The rise of the internet has led to an eyebrow-raising phenomenon that involves the accumulation and inspection of big data. Several ethical concerns have popped up as a result:-

  • Whose data is being collected?
  • What data is being collected?
  • What are the reasons behind the collection of this data?
  • Does this type of data collection exempt anyone? Who is being exempted?
  • Is the data reliable?
  • Who decides how the data will be used?

With such data being widely used as an objective source of truth on a societal level, there are concerns about whether its reliability is solid. This is because big data affect major decisions like the best job candidate, who can access insurance, who will get bail, and who gets a prison sentence. Big data has eventually matured to create responsibilities that big data analysts and proponents had not anticipated.

4. Net Neutrality

Lack of internet is not only limited to underdeveloped countries. Some people living in countries that boast high broadband speeds have limited to no internet access. This raises concerns as to whether internet access in our current society is an ignored human right.

The presence of vast numbers of US citizens struggling with internet access creates an ethical imperative that schools, corporations, and governments should consider. The assumption that everybody has access to the internet is not true. It is a question of ethics regarding how equality can be created in a country dependent on the internet, while others have no access to it.


Common Unethical Internet Behavior

What Are Ethical and Unethical Practices Related to Internet Use?

1. Identity Theft

Identity theft is the fraudulent use of someone else’s personal information to get access to loans, credit and commit fraud. Identity theft affects both individuals and businesses of all sizes on a global scale. Therefore, businesses and individuals need to take proper measures to protect their information.

In this digital age, data breaches are common, and personal information is a major target. For example, social security information, names, addresses, and birth dates are subject to theft to create counterfeit accounts. If this information is not safeguarded, massive private lawsuits and legal fines will follow suit. Moreover, consumer trust is lost.

2. Piracy

The illegal distribution of movies, intellectual property, books, and music is called piracy. Media piracy is one of the most prominent ethical issues that plague the internet. However, given the vast nature of the internet, getting a hold of the perpetrators is a challenging task.

If your business is caught using information obtained through media piracy, it will result in legal recourse and fines. At the very least, the media owner may obtain a cease-and-desist letter for the organization using their information.

3. Financial Theft

Not all hackers are interested in information theft; some are only interested in penetrating organizations and diverting financial input to steal money. Professional hackers have the ability to redirect an organization’s donation information to other accounts owned by them. As a website user, you can easily be tricked into believing that your transaction was successful and complete, while in reality, the business involved was never notified of your transaction. Moreover, you will lose all your money.

4. Ransomware

Cybercriminals are known for penetrating a company’s main server to hold it hostage—the anonymity provided by the internet aids these thieves to attack businesses. Using complex encryption methods, these hackers freeze the website of a business, eventually shutting it down. This is referred to as a denial-of-service attack. The business is then asked to pay a fee by the cybercriminals to regain access to their site. Organizations that are more susceptible to these attacks are those that ignore server security updates.

5. Intellectual Theft

Piracy is not the only type of unethical distribution of intellectual property. For example, the digital age has given companies an avenue to create proprietary information that may cost millions of dollars. On the other hand, the competitors will try and use any underhand methods to get a hold of this information. Often, patent-pending or already patented information is the main target.

This type of theft is often carried out by contract workers or moles with uninhibited access to the target company’s server. Unlike external theft that can easily be mitigated using tough security protocols, internal infractions are difficult to prevent.


As technology and the internet progress, the questions about internet ethics issues will take more root. More attention needs to be put around the importance of online ethics if a better technological future is realized. By following the moral codes surrounding the internet, we play a role in shaping the kind of future we want.


Internet ethics provides a manual guide of actions that are acceptable on the web. Information technology has made it possible for different people to access online resources through the internet. Not everybody with access to the internet has the best interests of everyone- this is why it is important to respect the privacy of others and their rights. Advancements in technology will only raise more questions about internet ethics. Our conduct when using the internet will be directly responsible for the technological future we want.

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