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Cyberethics is a term that is used to describe activity that takes place in an online environment that is considered to be honest, forthright and sensitive to the rights of others. Different from cyberlaw, cyberethics is not a collection of rules and regulations that are set forth in some type of list of legal obligations that must be followed or face punitive measures from law enforcement officials. Rather, cyberethics focuses more on choosing to engage in conduct that is respectful of self and others online while still enjoying all the opportunities that are provided by the Internet.
There are a number of issues that may be touched upon when it comes to the practice of cyberethics. One has to do with respecting the privacy of others online. This means choosing to not expose personal information regarding another individual in online environments such as social networking sites, chat rooms, or public forums. Ethical behavior online would dictate that personal information remains personal until that individual chooses to share that data about themselves in one of those settings. For example, it would be a breach of cyberethics to reveal on a social network that two friends are engaged to be married before the happy couple chooses to make the announcement themselves.
Along with discretion in sharing personal information about other people, cyberethics also involves respecting the rights of others to hold differing opinions on various subjects, including politics, religion and business. While this does not mean that those differing opinions must be affirmed or agreed with in any manner, basic ethics require that any opposing responses focus on the opinion itself and not on the intelligence or character of the individual holding the opinion. This approach can often lead to greater understanding among people who hold different ideologies, even if they never actually reconcile their differing thoughts.
In many respects, cyberethics are identical to the ethics that are displayed in any other type of interaction between individuals. The expectation is that each person participating in the virtual discussion or environment will conduct themselves in a manner that displays integrity, honesty, and respectful of others. Within the scope of this type of behavior, this means that online professional ethics will preclude the use of misleading or vague data when presenting products to prospective customers, or attempting to use proprietary data associated with competitors as a way to undermine the competition and capture a greater market share.
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