Saturday, December 18, 2004

Productivity and Ethics of the Internet

Q: What are the productivity issues of the Internet? Are there ethical issues of the Internet? What does a consumer need to be leery of purchasing goods or services online? What are the greatest risks?

What are the productivity issues of the Internet?

The internet by its very nature is both productive and counter productive. There is a wealth of information hidden in a sea of obscure information and at times disinformation. I find myself a child and veteran of the internet evolution chasing related rabbits down tangent paths. It is very easy to jump from one topic to the next as they are related, linked or of interest. As a result a great amount of time can be spent on reviewing information that is really not relevant to the task at hand.

In the work place web surfing is abused by everyone to a certain degree. Most of the customers I support in Medical, Commercial Real Estate, and Law Firms have very little time to play as small business professionals tent to be extremely busy.

In these small businesses the most abuse is by the low paid workers, who is not as in tuned to the immediate needs of the business and are left unsupervised. As a result the most common abuses are instant messaging, shopping surfing, and online games as a result the PC’s become infected with spyware and other malware software.

Since most entry level computer users do not know how to clean their trail it is easy to tell where and what they have been doing and looking at. To manage these workers we have deployed stealth employee monitoring software that records everything that the user is doing, along with screen shots, keystroke logging, application usage times, email, web surfing, etc. It flags the user when they are doing something they should not and notifies the supervisor or manager. This has dramatically dampened the abuse of the Internet for personal usage and set productivity back on track.

Are there ethical issues of the Internet?

The ethical issues of the internet are more numerous that I can list here. The internet is still a baby as compared to other technologies like the phone and light bulb. I would have to say that there are more ethical violations on the Internet than there are not.

The 50,000 foot view of the ethical issues are a broad range of Legal, Online Activism, Government, Censorship, Free Speech, Intellectual Property, Fair Use, Privacy, Security, Infrastructure, Culture and Legislation. The ethical issues are still in their initial states of definitions, some very clear, most very unclear.

In the news the most recent popular battles on ethical issues is P2P (Peer to Peer) file sharing. With the RIAA filing numerous law suits to stop music swapping it is still a highly debated subject. Identity theft is on the rise, but mostly via spyware and other malicious software. Static’s still show that identify theft is still done the old way of dumpster diving and mailbox raiding. Online identity theft is on the rise with techniques called PHISHING. The ethics of the internet are abused all the time both on purpose and by a lack of understanding what the user is doing.

What does a consumer need to be leery of purchasing goods or services online?

Never purchase anything without an encryption connection to the commerce site that you are connected to.

Never buy anything from a site that is not well known such as Billy-Joes’s House of Pain 666 Book Store. Buy instead from Amazon, Borders, Barnes & Noble, etc.

Always read the return policy, restocking policy, privacy policy, site usage policy, warranty policy, shipping policy, insurance & pricing policy, the user reviews and industry publications reviews of the site that you are purchasing from before you complete your purchase. Compulsive shopping can get you into a lot of unwanted charges and stuck with a product that you can not return.

Never give more information that you have to in order to make the purchase.

Never sign-up for vendor product referrals or allow the site to provide your information to a third party sources. Product newsletters and new release updates are usually ok to check and receive.

What are the greatest risks?

The greatest risks are your account information being compromised, your bank account being emptied, and you being stuck with an ineradicable amount of debt where you did not make the purchases.

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