Questions

Chapter 8

1. What basic assumptions does the study of ethics make about individuals?

The study of ethics makes the basic assumption that individuals are free moral agents who are in a position to make choices.

5. Explain why someone with a serious medical condition might be concerned about researching his or her condition online, through medical search engines or pharmaceutical sites, for example. What is one technology that could prevent one’s identity from being revealed?

An individual with a serious medical condition might be concerned because in the United States there is no federal agency charged with enforcing privacy law. Private organizations and businesses can still use personally identifiable information gathered in commercial transactions for other business purposes. If a person with a serious medical condition were to purchase pharmaceuticals online for that illness, he or she would have cookies placed on his/her computer that would identify the person as a potential customer for other drugs for that illness. Because many companies do not even follow their own stated privacy policies, and opt-out procedures are usually difficult to find on a site, personal information or personal profiles might be sold or transferred to other companies, potentially even insurance companies. Advertising networks, or “profiling companies,” that have ads on the search engine site or pharmaceutical site may likely, without the person’s permission, place tags or identifiers on the person’s computer that will be used to track his or her movements as the person surfs the Web. In addition to collected behavioral information, a profile may contain inferential or psychographic data, information that the company infers about that person based on the sites they have visited.

The transition from fee-for-service health care to managed care has led to a demand for an unprecedented depth and breadth of personal information by a growing number of players, including health insurance companies. At the same time, the environment for information is moving rapidly from paper forms and files to electronic media, giving organizations a greater ability to tie formerly distinct information together, including data collected from the Web. The possibility of being dropped by an insurance company, not being able to transfer to a new insurance company along with new employment, or not being able to obtain health insurance at all, or of an employer finding out about a medical condition through the transfer of this data might be daunting. This is why, as people become more aware that their movements on the Web are being tracked, they might become far less likely to explore sensitive topics such as personal medical conditions.

10. How do safe harbors work? What is the government’s role in them?

Safe harbors are private, self-regulating policy and enforcement mechanisms that meet the objectives of government regulators and legislation but do not involve actual codified regulation and enforcement. Industry groups or other organizations submit self-regulatory policies that implement the protections set forth in the safe harbor to the overseeing governmental agency or commission. The overseeing governmental agency certifies the submitted plan if it meets the protection goals they are seeking. Commission-approved safe harbors provide Web site operators with the opportunity to tailor compliance obligations to their business models with the assurance that if they follow the safe harbor, they will be in compliance with the rule.

15. Define cybersquatting. How is it different from cyberpiracy? What type of intellectual property violation does cybersquatting entail?

Cybersquatting means registering, trafficking in, or using a domain name with the bad-faith intent to profit from a trademark belonging to someone else. It refers to the practice of buying domain names that reflect the names or trademarks of existing businesses intending to extort payments from the businesses. Cybersquatting is different from cyberpiracy because although cyberpiracy involves the same behavior, the intent is to divert traffic away from legitimate sites to infringing sites. It is a bad faith attempt to divert traffic that dilutes the value of the legitimate trademark. Cybersquatting is considered an intellectual property violation because the creator of the trademark or company name owns it according to the general principles of intellectual property law, which state that any tangible or intangible product of the human mind is protected from infringement.

20. What is the doctrine of “fair use”? Why did the courts decide that Google’s scanning of copyrighted books was a “fair use”?

 The doctrine of fair use allows copyrighted material to be used without permission of the copyright holder under certain circumstances.  These are: character of use, nature of the work, amount of work used, market effect of use, and context of the use.  Courts have concluded that Google's scanning of copyright books was a fair use because the project had a broad public purpose of making it easier for students, researchers, teachers, and the general public to find books, while also preserving consideration for author and publisher rights. The Google project was “transformative” in the court’s view, giving books a new character and purpose, making it easier to discover old books, and leading to increased sales.