Ethical Issues

Digital Divide

This is the difference in quality of life that is based on the access to digital technology. This could be geographic, for example the quality of broadband speed in an area. Or it could be based on age – younger people are much more likely to be digitally literate and take full advantage of technology.


Who should have access to your data? Most people value their privacy – they don’t want to share details of their private messages or phone calls with just anyone. But the government argue that they need access to this private data in order to keep us safe. They argue that if they can monitor these private communications then they can prevent criminality such as drug dealing or terrorist attacks. While lots of people agree with this, many feel that governments could abuse this power.

Terms and Conditions

Do people understand or even read terms and conditions? You can watch the movie ‘Terms and Conditions Apply’ here (I have checked the website and as far as I can tell it is a legitimate site).

Environmental Impact

Energy & scarce natural resources are used in the production and transport of computing devices.

End of Life Management – as people and companies regularly update their technology, what happens to the old devices? There are recycling schemes where any salvageable components are reused, but many people simply dump technology so that it ends up in landfill.

Carbon Footprint – consider the increase in use of energy as a result in the increased use of technology. Phones, smart watches and wireless headphones need to be charged regularly. Even worse, they use energy simply sitting in our pockets, on our wrists or around our necks  most of the day without being used. Most families now have multiple computing devices at home for entertainment including laptops, tablets, game consoles, smart TVs, set top boxes, etc.

Some people argue that the latest technology has additional features (e.g. power saving mode) that use less energy and so reduces their carbon footprint.


Biometric devices have been used for years to enhance protection at high security buildings. However, as the cost of this technology has fallen we now see it included in many mobile phones (e.g. finger print scanners or facial recognition using the phones camera)

Intellectual Property

If I design an image, what is stopping someone copying and pasting it? If it is so easy to copy – why would anyone pay? If nobody pays, then how do designers make money? If they don’t make money, then why would anyone design? Does the internet have a negative impact on creativity?

Copyright law protects any recorded material that has been developed using intellect (your brain). This could be a song, some lyrics, a video or novel. It also includes programs that have been developed.

Patent law protects ideas. These ideas do not yet have to be developed. For example, Apple developed to concept of swiping to unlock a mobile device long before it made the iPhone. Now company that uses this feature on their devices must have Apple’s permission (of course Apple can charge a fee for this). It is today that mobile devices use features developed by their competitors and that payments are made to each of these companies each time a device is sold.


It has been argued for years that computer games  make people lazy  and antisocial and as a result physically and mentally unhealthy. However this case can be argued as technology has developed. POnline gaming often requires working with a team of people and so relationships are often built here too. New consoles require physical movement for people to interact (eg Kinect and Wii) or to actually leave their home and walk around (E.g. Pokemon).

Wearable fitness trackers (e.g. Fit Bits) allow users to keep a precise track of their exercise and fitness. By using sensors to measure heart rates and movement and GPS technology to measure distances (by tracking location), these devices can closely estimate calorie usage. But what if someone hacks into the network that these devices use – could they potentially track people as they run alone through the countyside?


Hacking is the process of gaining access to a device or network without permission. This could be simply guessing a password or using a brute force attack (a program that enters every possible password until it guessed the right one). Organisations must keep up to date with threats and should use appropriate levels of cyber security.


This involves modifying a software or device to remove certain features. These features could be security or copyright protection features. For example, iPhones only allow apps to be installed from the App Store. However, some people jailbreak, or crack, these phones to allow other apps to be installed. These unauthorised apps could possible be downloaded illegally without payment or apps used for criminal activities.

Cracking is not always illegal. A person is within their own rights to modify something that they bought. However, the terms and conditions or guarantees or user agreements with certain software or operating systems may include a clause stating that the device or software cannot be modified (or cracked)

BBC Bitesize

Teach Computer Science – Key theory for this section of the course

Craig n David – Excellent detailed videos for this entire unit (A must watch for those aiming for the higher grades)


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