Legal & Ethical Issues in Technology

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The rapid rise of technology has raised a host of legal and ethical issues that are unique to the 21st century. From personal privacy online, to the appropriate uses of new technology, to copyright and intellectual property on the Internet, the legal and ethical issues in technology are multifaceted and complex. Because of the ever-evolving nature of technology, new ethical and legal considerations are constantly arising to challenge ethicists and legal professionals alike.

Appropriate Use


One of the biggest ethical concerns, which often also becomes a legal issue, is the appropriate use of technology. As technology advances in its capabilities, age-old ethical questions are raised and brought into the realm of public discussion. The advancement of stem cell research, for example, brought with it a host of ethical and legal implications for scientists and politicians supporting it.

Earlier developments in cloning technology raised similar debates regarding the definition of "human" and the ethical obligations of the biological sciences. In the realm of non-scientific technology, the development of technology for military use has raised questions about the responsibilities inherent in creating technology that can help encourage or exacerbate war and genocide.


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Privacy is a particularly hot-button issue in technology, considering the pervasive nature of the Internet in people's daily lives. Many websites collect user data, from usernames and passwords to personal information such as addresses and phone numbers, without the explicit permission of users. Selling this information is widely considered unethical, but is often in a legal grey area because the user provides the data in the first place.

Similarly, the use of Internet monitoring technology in the school and workplace has raised questions about where to draw the line between personal Internet use and public resource use. On a larger scale, the use of technology by some governments to infringe on the privacy rights of their citizens is a troubling legal and ethical issue being dealt with in the legal systems of many countries.


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Copyright and intellectual property rights are also major issues that have taken the public spotlight with the advent of technology. The development of the Internet as a publishing medium created a forum where copyright infringement became extremely easy and almost unavoidable for many creators. Software piracy and the battle of copyright holders to exert control over their intellectual property is a fight that is played out on a daily basis online and in the courts.

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