WPI Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Computer Science Department


[from H.T.Tavani, Ethics and Technology: Controversies, Questions and Strategies for Ethical computing, 3rd edition, J.Wiley, 2010]

ACM Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct: A code of ethics endorsed by the Association for Computing Machinery.

accessibility privacy: A conception of privacy in terms of being let alone, or being free from intrusion into one's physical space; contrasted with decisional privacy and informational privacy.

ambient intelligence (AmI): A technology that senses changes in the environment and automatically adapts to these changes vis-a-vis the needs and preferences of users, while remaining in the background and thus being virtually invisible to users. See also pervasive computing and ubiquitous communication.

anonymity: In the context of cybertechnology, the ability to navigate the Internet and participate in online forums without having to reveal one's true identity.

applied ethics: A branch of ethical inquiry that examines practical (as opposed to theoretical) moral issues and problems. See also ethical theory.

artificial intelligence (AI): The field of study that examines relationships between machine intelligence and human intelligence. One branch of AI attempts to shed light on human intelligence by using cybertechnology to simulate it; another branch is concerned with constructing intelligent tools to assist humans in complex tasks. See also expert systems.

bioinformatics: A field concerned with the acquisition, storage, manipulation, analyses, and simulation of biological information on a computer, with the objective of making that information more understandable and useful.

biometrics: The biological identification of a person, which includes eyes, voice, hand prints, finger prints, retina patterns, and handwritten signatures.

blog (or Web log): A Web site that contains an online journal with reflections and comments; blogs may be further categorized as political blogs, personal blogs, corporate blogs, travel blogs, health blogs, literary blogs, and so forth. See also blogosphere.

blogosphere: A name given to the collective community of all blogs.

computer security: A branch of computer science concerned with both safeguarding computer systems (hardware and software resources) from attacks by malicious programs, such as viruses and worms, and protecting the integrity of the data resident in and transmitted between those systems from unauthorized access.

consequentialism: An ethical theory that appeals to consequences, outcomes, or ends as the essential criterion, or standard, used to justify particular actions and policies in a moral system. See also utilitarianism.

contract theory of ethics: A theory that ties a moral obligation to assist others to an express contract to do so. Contract theory is sometimes viewed as a minimalist theory of morality, because without an explicit contract, one would simply be required to do no harm to others; there is no obligation to actively assist others.

cookies: Text files that Web sites send to and retrieve from a Web visitor's computer system. Cookies technology enables Web site owners to collect information about a visitor's preferences while the visitor interacts with their Web sites.

Creative Commons (CC): A nonprofit organization whose aim is to expand the range of creative work available to others to legally build upon and share, via a set of licensing options intended to help artists and authors give others the freedom and creativity to build upon their creativity.

cultural relativism: A descriptive thesis stating that different cultures have different views about what is morally right or wrong. Many philosophers have argued that even if cultural relativism is true, it does not logically imply moral relativism, which is a normative position. See also moral relativism.

cyberbullying: A type of harassment (or bullying) that takes place online, via e-mail, text messaging, or online forums, such as social networking sites.

cybercrime: Criminal activity that is either made possible or significantly exacerbated by the use of computers and cybertechnology.

cyberethics: The field of study that examines moral, legal, and social issues involving cybertechnology.

cyberstalking: The use of cybertechnology to clandestinely track the movement and whereabouts of one or more individuals.

cybertechnology: A range of computing and information/communication technologies, from stand-alone computer systems to privately owned computer networks to the Internet.

cyberterrorism: The convergence of cyberspace and terrorism, covering a range of politically motivated hacking operations that can result in loss of life, severe economic loss, or both.

data mining: A computerized technique for unearthing implicit patterns in large data-bases to reveal statistical data and corresponding associations that can be used to construct consumer profiles.

dataveillance: A term coined by Roger Clarke to describe the combination of data monitoring (surveillance) techniques with data-recording techniques made possible by computer technology.

decisional privacy: A conception of privacy in terms of freedom from interference in one's choices and decisions; contrasted with accessibility privacy and informational privacy.

denial-of-service attacks: Repeated bogus requests to a Web site that are intended to disrupt services at that site. Denial-of-service attacks can be sent via third-party sites, from computer systems located in universities and organizations, to confuse the targeted sites about the source of the attacks.

deontological ethics: A theory of ethics that bases its moral system on duty or obligation rather than on consequences and outcomes that result from actions. Deontological ethical theories can be contrasted with consequentialist theories. See also consequentialism.

descriptive ethics: A branch of ethical inquiry that reports or describes the ethical principles and values held by various groups and individuals. Descriptive ethics is usually contrasted with normative ethics. See also normative ethics.

digital divide: The disparity between those who have (information haves) and those who do not have (information have-nots) computers and access to cybertechnology.

digital rights management (DRM): A technology that allows content owners to regulate the flow of information in digital media by blocking access to it via encryption mechanisms, and by enabling access to it through the use of passwords.

ethical theory: A branch of ethical inquiry dedicated to the study of philosophical frameworks for determining when actions and policies are morally right or morally wrong. Ethical theory, or theoretical ethics, is often contrasted with applied ethics. See also applied ethics.

ethics: The study of morality or a moral system. Normative ethics approaches the study of a moral system from the perspective of philosophy, religion, or law, whereas descriptive ethics typically examines morality from the perspective of social science. See also morality, descriptive ethics, and normative ethics.

expert system (ES): A computer program that is expert at performing one particular task traditionally performed by humans; developed from research in artificial intelligence. Because it is a computer program, an ES is different than a robot, which is a physical or mechanical system. See also artificial intelligence and robotics.

hacktivism: The convergence of political activism and computer hacking by which activists use cybertechnology to disrupt the operations of organizations.

identity theft: The act of taking another person's identity by using that person's name, social security number, credit card numbers, and so forth.

IEEE Code of Ethics: An ethical code sanctioned by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineering.

inductive argument: An argument form in which the premises, when assumed true, are strong enough to suggest the likelihood of the argument's conclusion. Unlike deductive, or valid, arguments, the premises of an inductive argument cannot guarantee the conclusion.

informal logical fallacies: Fallacious arguments that commonly occur in everyday discourse. Because these fallacies are so common, they have familiar names such as ad hominem, ad populum, begging the question, and slippery slope.

information warfare (IW): Operations that target or exploit information media in order to win some objective over an adversary. IW, unlike conventional warfare, can be more disruptive than destructive; it can also use false information to deceive the enemy.

informational privacy: A conception of privacy in terms of control over the flow of one's personal information, including the collection and exchange of that information; contrasted with accessibility privacy and decisional privacy.

intellectual property: An intangible form of property that is protected by a system of laws such as patents, copyrights, trademarks, and trade secrets, through which authors and inventors are given ownership rights over their creative works (e.g., books, poems, songs) and inventions.

keystroke-monitoring software: A specialized form of audit-trail software that records every keystroke entered by a user.

location privacy: A relatively new category of privacy concerned with the use of embedded chips, RFID technology, and global positioning systems to track the location of individuals at any point in time.

logical argument: A form or structure of reasoning in which one or more statements (called premises) are used as evidence to support another statement, the conclusion.

macroethics: Concerned with the analysis of moral rules and policies at the societal level, as opposed to the level of individuals. See also microethics.

malware: A label that applies to a cluster of "malicious programs," including viruses, worms, Trojan horses, logic bombs, and so forth; malware can also include "spyware."

microethics: Concerned with the analysis of moral rules and directives at the level of individuals, as opposed to the societal level. See also macroethics.

moral absolutism: A view holding that there are absolute moral principles and that there is only one uniquely correct answer to every moral question.

moral objectivism: A compromise view between moral absolutism and moral relativism; moral objectivists believe that there are objective standards for evaluating moral claims, so that there can be agreement on the correct answers to many moral issues, but that there can also be more than one acceptable answer to some moral issues. See also moral absolutism and moral relativism.

moral relativism: The view that there are no universal moral norms or standards and that only the members of a particular group or culture are capable of evaluating the moral principles used within that group. See also cultural relativism.

morality: A system that comprises rules, principles, and values; at its core are rules of conduct for guiding action, and principles of evaluation for justifying those rules. See also ethics.

MMORPGs: Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games, which include popular games such World of Warcraft and Second Life.

nanotechnology: A field dedicated to the development of extremely small electronic circuits and mechanical devices built at the molecular level of matter.

normative ethics: A branch of ethical inquiry that is concerned with evaluating moral rules and principles by asking what ought to be the case, as opposed to descriptive ethics which simply reports what is the case (i.e., what individuals and cultures happen to believe) with respect to morally right and wrong behavior. See also descriptive ethics.

online communities: Computer-mediated social groups that interact in virtual space, as contrasted with traditional communities in which interaction occurs in physical space.

open source software: Software for operating systems and applications in which the source code is made freely available to use, modify, improve, and redistribute. Open source software, such as the Linux operating system, is contrasted with proprietary operating system software such as MS Windows.

P2P technology: Peer-to-peer technology, which enables two or more computers to share files through either a centralized directory such as Napster, or a decentralized system such as Morpheus, KaZaA, and Gnutella.

pervasive computing: A computing environment where information and communication technology are everywhere, for everyone, at all times. See also ambient intelligence and ubiquitous communication.

PETs: Privacy-Enhancing Technologies are tools that both protect a user's personal identity while the user interacts with the Web and protect the privacy of communications (such as e-mail) sent over the Internet.

phishing: A fraudulent use of e-mail to acquire a user's password, social security number, etc., to gain unauthorized access to information about the victim; often, the e-mail looks as if it was sent by an official site such as eBay or PayPal.

prima facie duty: A type of moral duty that one has, all things being equal. David Ross provides a list of prima facie duties such as honesty, benevolence, justice, and so forth. Prima facie duties can be overridden by circumstances; these duties are contrasted with absolute duties.

RFID: Radio Frequency Identification is a technology that consists of a tag (microchip) containing an electronic circuit, which stores data, and an antenna that broadcasts data by radio waves in response to a signal from a reader.

risk analysis: A methodology used to make an informed decision about a product based on considerations such as cost. A costs-benefits model of risk assessment for software can include safety, reliability, schedule, budget, consumer demand, and so forth.

robotics: The field of research and development in robots and robotic parts/limbs. See also expert systems.

sexting: The use of cell phones (or similar handheld electronic devices) to send nude or semi-nude photos of oneself to others; in some cases these photos become widely distributed and can eventually end up on the Internet.

Social Networking Service (SNS): A Web-based service, such as Facebook or MySpace, which enables users to construct a profile and share information with other members (i.e., "friends") on the online forum.

softbots: Software robots and artificial agents (sometimes called bots) that perform highly specialized tasks on the Web. Metasearch engines (Web crawlers) and negotiation agents are examples of softbots.

Spam: E-mail that is generally considered to be unsolicited, promotional, and sent in bulk to multiple users.

spyware: A type of software installed on users' computers without their knowledge that records information from the source computer and sends it to a destination computer.

ubiquitous communication: Aims at ensuring flexible and omnipresent communication possibilities between interlinked computer devices that can be stationed in various locations. See ambient intelligence and pervasive computing.

utilitarianism: A consequentialist ethical theory based on the principle that an act or policy is morally permissible if it produces the greatest good (usually measured in terms of happiness) for the greatest number of people affected by it. See also consequentialism.

valid argument: An argument form in which the premises, if assumed true, are sufficient to guarantee the truth of the conclusion.

virtual environment: An online (or computer-generated) environment, which is contrasted with an environment in physical space. Virtual environments, as opposed to virtual reality (VR) environments and applications, can be either two-dimensional (e.g., text-only) or three-dimensional. See also virtual reality.

virtual reality: A three-dimensional, interactive computer-generated environment, as contrasted with physical reality. See also virtual environment.

virtue ethics: A theory that stresses character development and the acquisition of "correct" moral habits as opposed to duty-based (deontological) and consequence- based (utilitarian) ethical theories, which stress obligation or duty and conformance with certain rules of action.

virus: A program that can insert executable copies of itself into other programs; also generically referred to as a malicious program or a rogue computer program. See also worm.

VSD: Value Sensitive Design, a theoretically grounded approach to the design of technology that accounts for human values in a principled and comprehensive manner throughout the design process.

worm: A program or program segment that searches computer systems for idle resources and then disables them by erasing various locations in memory; also generically referred to as a malicious program or a rogue computer program. See also virus.


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