The Ethical Issue
Surveillance is the dedicated, efficient, and repetitive attention to the details of individuals in order to influence, direct, manage or protect them or other people (Richards, 2013). It is the observation and or monitoring of a person. Surveillance concentrates on learning facts about individuals. It is systematic and deliberate rather than unplanned or subjective. It can have a wide variety of purposes, rarely totalitarian domination, but more characteristically understated means of influence or control. There is much disparity between the standards used in surveillance, which is a matter of serious concern (Mameli, Miller, Salane, & Schwartz, 2011).
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Getting the Facts
In the United States, the levels of accountability required for surveillance is not similar to that provided by the constitution for protecting citizens from unreasonable searches and seizures. Subsequent to the 9/11 attacks on the US, there has been the enactment of such laws as the Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act (USA PATRIOT). Citizens, however, have not been provided with the same protection with regard to electronic surveillance (Bradley, 2002). There was also the passing of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) in 1978, which was a result of years of debate about whether the President holds natural constitutional authority to approve warrantless electronic surveillance for national security purposes. There have been many technological improvements over the years, making electronic surveillance more invasive than a physical search (Bradley, 2002).
Further, the US government has shown a strong inclination to acquire information through surveillance and use it for unknown purposes. This surveillance intensified after the 9/11 attacks on the US. Reports have revealed that the National Security Agency (NSA) is constructing a huge supercomputing facility in the Utah desert. The probable goal of this is for the capture and archive of much of the world’s Internet traffic. Moreover, the worth of the existing surveillance market exceeds 5 billion dollars (Patel, 2014).
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American citizens are widely affected by surveillance as government security agencies can access their information without their consent. Surveillance promotes the government’s treatment of people as mere conscripts for their purposes, denying their independence and privacy.
The government clashes with software developers’ professional responsibilities. It is because no professional software developers would ever approve the creation of software that contravenes the privacy of users and beats the best interest of society.
Considering the Consequences
Surveillance will reduce privacy in daily livelihood. The government has the means to track a known target’s movements to a sensible degree. This, however, ensures that American citizens benefit from immunity from surveillance since government fails to respect the autonomy of individuals. It seems to make sense as most people are law-abiding citizens and will not be targeted for surveillance (Mameli, Miller, Salane, & Schwartz, 2011).
Moreover, the government’s use of surveillance allows to protect lives of ordinary people from criminals and terrorists with only little invasion into its citizens’ privacy. There is a major setback on the government’s security details and surveillance. To tackle this, it is necessary that every IT institution has a corporate code of ethics (Mameli, Miller, Salane, & Schwartz, 2011).
Evaluating the Policies
The USA PATRIOT Act enhanced the power of U.S. law enforcement agencies to combat terrorism by providing the government with the right to search telephone and internet communications, financial and other records. It fails to consider various essential issues when collecting personal information such as practices that make private data susceptible to misuse by trusted insiders (Bradley, 2002). An example of this was when Benjamin Robinson, a special officer of the Department of Commerce, was indicted for using a government database for tracking the travel scheme of his ex-girlfriend and her family. With the spread of surveillance, such abuses could become numerous as the amount of personal data collected increases.
Developing and Evaluating the Options
The current practices used for government surveillance are extreme, equally unacceptable, and having shown to violate several laws. They are unethical and should be limited and/or controlled. The government should be allowed to survey its citizens, but only on the consent of the parties involved. According to the human rights approach, ethical practice is that which safeguards and respects the moral rights of those affected. It explains that the practice is unethical if it violates rights that have been given by law. The rights-based ethical theory requires democratic governments to issue the laws and regulations provided by the people’s elected government agents.
There should be more detailed disclosures from the government, as well as an option for the firms to willingly disclose aggregate statistics regarding the information they are being compelled to provide to the government. Under the utilitarian ethical approach, the act of government surveillance policy is an ethical violation. From this perspective, one should consider the effects of an action and decide on the consequence that would be the most appropriate for the majority of the persons involved. In this instance, the government does not act according to what the greatest good would be. The greatest good gives society the ability to freely take part in and change the system.
Reviewing the Decision
The determination of what is ethical is particularly difficult since everyone holds different beliefs, values, and feelings. An ethical practice is one that safeguards and respects the moral rights of the persons affected. Humans can decide what to do with their lives. They bear a right to be treated with respect, especially as to what regards their private life. The government should not treat its citizens like puppets where the end justifies the means. Individuals are entitled to decide on the life they want to lead and are entitled to know the truth and have a sensible level of privacy. In America, the entitlement to free speech is a crucial and defining aspect of democracy respected by the country. The U.S. announces being one of a few countries that provide and protect the rights and freedoms of its citizens. According to this statement, the government should uphold citizens’ and private companies’ requests for a surveillance-free nation. The government should have open talks with the people and the private companies to reduce or go away with the surveillance issue (Bradley, 2002).
Evaluating the Results
Technology is an amazing opportunity. Human life has become virtually dependent on instruments and gadgets. However, this convenience has brought about a significant threat to personal privacy. The ability of new technology to increase people’s potential, however, does not make these novel abilities ethical. People deserve the right to have certain things private, whether by law or personal ethics. For people to enjoy equal rights, the laws provided must be stated more elaborately and comprehended by all. More important is that people know those activities that are, or should be, monitored or not (Richards, 2013).