You need to be aware of the legal and ethical issues related to computing.
The Data Protection Act
This relates to data that is collected by organisations which is usually collected when people use their websites. Companies like Facebook collect huge amounts of data including personal details, photos, posts and messages. While retail companies like Tesco collect details of our shopping habbits, credit card details and addresses. Search engines like Google store our search histories and browsing habbits. Often apps on our phones collect lots of data including our location. As these companies have so much data about people, laws were put in place to ensure that our data is safe.
The data protection act requires companies to adhere to the following principles:
Data should be used fairly – this means that it should be used with our permission for the intended purpose. If we provide our address for delivery, it should not be used for marketing of other products unless we agree to this.
Data should be accurate and kept up to date where necessary. If our address is required for regular deliveries, it should be updated when we move house.
Data should not be kept longer than is necessary. If we only want one item to be delivered, there is no reason for our address to be stored indefinitely.
Excessive data should not be collected – if we buy a DVD online, we should not have to provide details of our family, pets or our likes or dislikes. This data is not required for the transaction.
We should be able to access data that is stored about us if we request it or to have data removed from records if it is inaccurate.
Data should be stored safely to ensure that our information cannot be accessed by anyone else.
Data should only be stored in the European Economic Area or in countries with similar data protection laws.
Many companies get around this law by asking customers to accept lengthy terms and conditions in which they ask our permission to use our data in other ways. Many people simply cannot be bothered reading the full terms and conditions and simply accept them.
The Computer Misuse Act
This law prohibits people from using computers to commit a crime. This includes using a computer to commit fraud and using a computer to access material without authorisation.
The Copyright Design and Patents Act
Copyright protects anything that is recorded like a film or song. It also protects anything we record by writing or typing it like song lyrics, a novel or even a computer program. You do not need to register for this, it is an automatic right; as soon as I write song lyrics, they are protected.
Design refers to the way a product looks and this could be the actual product, a user interface, packaging or a logo.
Patents are used to protect new inventions. You must apply for a patent and prove that your invention is significantly different from anything that currently exists. Once a patent has been awarded nobody else can create this product without your permission.
Trademarks are images, words and songs that are used to identify a company or brand. It is not acceptable for someone to use a company’s trademark to try and sell a product or service.
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