Ethics in Data Mining and Cryptography

Thursday, 5 December 2002, 3:13 PM EST

In recent years, computer science has become more of an applied science than a pure discipline. It is true that much of the driving force behind proliferation of computing devices is commercial. However, over-commercialization has begun cultivating products that give rise to ethical issues.

In this brief article, I shall mention two such areas which require our immediate attention in both making the public aware and warning the future researchers of the implications.

When we refer to ethics in science, we imagine fields such as nuclear physics or genetic engineering. It is harder to conceive that similar ethical controversies can exist in a mostly mathematical discipline with seemingly less connection to the physical world. Computer Science, however, has walked out of the lab 3 decades ago and has tightened its stronghold in our homes with the Internet. That is not to say that Computer Science threatens our lives in a mean way. On the contrary, being a computer scientist I think the field has enormous benefits for mankind.

Nevertheless, we are in a period where we have kin that is lower than common slime. The phenomenon known as SPAM has truly battered the heart of "Matrix", the asynchronous facet of the Internet. Previously a highly efficient means of communication, e-mail is now searching for a needle in the haystack. The sad part of the story is that SPAM is a work of man; it is not a computer fault in any way.

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