Spam Emails Code of Ethics

Discuss about the Spam Emails Code of Ethics.

The most common problem which every individual, organization and all those who have an email id face is that of junk or spam emails. These emails are unwanted and unwelcomed messages that appear in our inbox every day. However they are irritating because of the lack of usefulness of these mails. Some may be commercial mails sent by companies as a form of advertisement as this is one of the cheapest methods to advertise one’s own goods and services but some may be Trojans. Thus if someone falls into its trap and opens any one of it then it may end up destroying the computer or the laptop’s software completely and even cause major loss of data and information. Apart from the problem of malware which these spam emails create there is yet another issue of utilization of the network bandwidth and the number of spam mails is so huge that it eats up a major part of the same (Beal, 2015). In the following paragraphs we would discuss what’s wrong with spam and how to deal with the same.

Ethical Analysis of Spam Email

On analysing the ethical side of spam emails, various people and organizations have varied view points. Some find it nothing more than a nuisance creator whereas some treat it as a method of invading the inboxes of people in the form of commercial advertisements which doesn’t cause any harm and obstinately shifts the cost of advertisement from the advertisers to the ultimate users and there are some who view it as a malware which could infect their system by attacking over the personal and crucial database stored (Bennett, 2001). The ethical analysis of the spam mails can be categorized under various sub-heads for better appreciation of the said issue. They are as under:

Utilitarianism: Any person or organization creates an email id for a purpose such as to ensure communication in a faster, clearer and a more secured manner. Its utility gets defeated if the mail boxes are flooded with mails which are unwarranted and unsolicited in nature. Due to the increased number of spam mails, users tend to ignore important mails also. But it is to be understood that the concept of spam mails arise when the organizations decide to advertise their products via emails. They hire spammers who send emails to a huge database they have. ‘Jeffrey Slaton’ a spammer, charges $425 from its clients to send messages to numerous email ids. His prerogative is simple that sending email to 6 million email addresses is more cost effective than selecting a million out of it. This is where the utility of spam mails gets diluted and the question of ethics arises. People start viewing their inboxes as a ‘junk box’ as they get clogged by mails which are of no use. Thus it is used as a method to reach one out of a million customer by sending mails to people for whom it is of no interest and an unwanted cause of harassment is suffered. Thus even if spam mails may be safe but it is morally a wrong act (Bush et.al. 2000).

The said dilemma can be addressed by educating the advertisers and the marketers. They should be made aware of the consequences of such spam and how it is putting a negative impact on the minds of the receivers of such emails about the company on whose behalf they are sending spam. Most of the time the companies are unaware that the advertiser is sending a spam mail on the company’s behalf to a crowd who is least interested. Thus their reputation is also at stake unknowingly and unintentionally. However this theory of ethics in case of spam is highly criticised as it aims to satisfy a large group of people by hampering a smaller group which is detrimental. Thus it is the organizations and the marketers who can provide the best solution by governing and controlling the advertisements posted by hired spammers (Quinn, 2002).

Deontology This theory of ethics in spam mails is just the opposite of what the utilitarian theory suggests. It concentrates upon the intentions and the motives of the spammer. Therefore it is rightly said that just because the receivers detest spam mails in their respective inboxes doesn’t make the said act illegal or wrongful. But what is to be understood is the intention behind sending such spam mails by spammers. There may be some who send such mails with malafide intentions to corrupt somebody’s system or gain access to confidential information or any such intention which may cause harm to the receiver of such spam (Moreland, 2009). In such circumstances the issue of ethics come to light.

However the spam mails are considered to be unethical by the receivers due to reasons such as encroachment of their privacy, voluminous in nature, lack of relevance of these mails, deceptive, offensive messages and targeting consumers who are susceptible to such spam mails. Not only the receivers but also the various service providers are facing numerous hindrances due to such spamming. The internet service providers have to incur huge costs due to such spam mails (Tavani, 2009). Thus the intention and motive behind it is not good but harmful by nature. They stand in contrast to the principle of universality and reversibility as stated by the theory of deontology. Thus the possible benefits to the spammers are endangering the system processes of organization by sending Trojan viruses via such mails. Spam mails can also benefit a competitor in the corporate world who would ask the advertiser of its competing organization to send offensive mails on the hired company’s behalf for a higher price. This way the spammer gains from both ends monetarily.

The possible solution to waive this dilemma of dealing with ethical conduct of spam mails basis the deontological principle is rather very simple. It concentrates upon enlightening the organizations who hire such advertising agencies for sending bulk mails to a group of customers. They should check the content of the mail and the data base before circulating the mails. An act of vigilance should be conducted from time to time so that the reputation of the company does not get hampered. Second solution that the email receivers should possibly apply is scanning of every email for the viruses before opening it((Athanassoulis, 2002). This way it can protect attacks by Trojan.

Social Contract: The social contract theory is yet another very striking theory while analysing the ethics in case of spam mails. The theory explains that everybody has the right to speech in this democratic environment. Therefore there is no rule binding upon sending of emails. However there lies one more belief that people also have right not to adhere to what others are saying. This is what the reason for emerging conflicts is (Hafner 2003). The said theory views spammers as disguised entities who make all possible attempts to enter into your system wrongly.

It is very natural that survival in isolation is not possible. Thus we inadvertently end up accepting a contract with the socio-cultural environment. Some of the rules of the contract are self imposed whereas some are spelt out by the government. Thus for preventing the people to act wrongly, the forbearance of these rules are treated as the ultimate solution.

In the context of spam mails this theory questions about confidentiality of the mail addresses, the act of satisfying one’ own interest thus causing disagreement amongst the common public and supporting terrorism to some extent. This theory raises an issue about breaking the law of confidentiality. Thus the proposed solution to ensure that the said dilemma is answered is various. Some of the most sought after solutions guided by this theory is that it is the moral responsibility of the technologists to ensure that such spam attacks are dealt with full virtue. Adequate training sessions should be conducted so as to safeguard the receivers from such spam and viruses. The most important amongst them is the understanding of the responsibility of these information technologists towards the society (Palmer, 2005). It is they who create such programs, therefore they should be made aware about the moral values which get defeated by the malware codes they create and release in the market to hamper the innocent. Once the makers of these codes are hauled, a major solution to ethics in case of spam mails will get resolved.

Charcter-Based: This theory is based on the individual virtues of a person. The character based ethical theory focuses upon a person rather than an act. It not only concentrates upon what is right and wrong but also guides a person with regards his character traits and behavioural patterns. Character based theory basically analysis a person’s upbringing and how he utilises his knowledge whether in a productive manner or a destructive manner. Spammers are those who have high end technological knowledge, thus are highly educated but the problem lies on the virtuous characteristic of the person (Spinello, 1999).

It is to be understood that one’s educational background doesn’t train a person to act immorally. But it is the situation which at times pulls a person towards the path of easy money. Spammers are one of those kinds who may be of a very good character, friendly and kind but the environmental factors and societal pressures forces a person to adapt unethical path such as that of sending spam mails. Therefore this is a clear case of self-centeredness where the person acts in a particular manner for satisfying oneself (Statman, 1997).

Thus keeping the above views in mind people often get confused about the kind of actions they should perform which would satisfy them as well as the other person. Therefore it is the duty of the society also to give respect to people belonging to any class and also encourage them to utilize their knowledge for doing something fruitful in the positive sense (Computer and Information Ethics. 2001). Further these knowledgeable people who may have a very strong character often get lured by the offers the organizations give them for performing such acts of sending spam emails and disrupting other people’s life for no fault of theirs. It is their strong character which they should develop towards an optimistic direction on a continuous basis so that they have the capability to distinguish between the right and the wrong (Sangchoolie, 2015).

Acs Code of Ethics: The Australian Computer Society (ACS) has prescribed some code of ethics which all the information technology professionals are to abide by in order to ensure effective, honest and a dignified code of conduct. These ethics are very important for the spammers as well to understand that they are also under the veil of this code and non-adherence to the same may lead to unprofessionalism. The code as mentioned below specifies solutions to the spam mail generators. First and foremost it requires the spammers to think twice before doing such an act. It spells out that these professionals should place the interest of the public prior to their own. They are professionals and their duty is to cater to the benefit of the society as a whole and thus not does any such act like spamming which would have a detrimental effect on their lives. Undoubtedly the spammers work diligently and competently but they should carve their path towards something fruitful for the society (acs.org 2016).  Also it is against professionalism and the spammers bring disrespect to the profession in the eyes of the law as well the society. Thus adequate education and enlightenment is the solution along with some strict and rigid rules which would keep these spammers deterrent before conducting such an act.

Conclusion

Therefore the above report clearly states that spam mails are not always harmful. But the volume in which they attack a person’s mail id is what is irritating and unacceptable. Due to this people generally ignore seeing important mails as well. Thus the same should be controlled by installing adequate firewalls and anti-viruses. The organizations should monitor every mail received in the inbox of the employees and whenever a spam is noticed the same should be blocked on an immediate basis. However the report also clarifies that most of the spam mails are dangerous as they contain malware such as Trojans which may infect the computer system in such a manner that it may lead to consequential monetary losses as well. Therefore adequate ethical standards are a must to be maintained by the information technologists as well the organizations who use this method as a way to advertise their company products and services.

References

acs.org (2016). ACS Code of Ethics. Retrieved from https://www.acs.org.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0005/7835/Code-of-Ethics.pdf

Athanassoulis, N. (2002). Virtue Ethics. Internet Encyclopaedia of Philosophy. Retrieved from http://www.iep.utm.edu/virtue/

Beal, V. (2015). Spam. Retrieved from http://www.webopedia.com/TERM/S/spam.html

Bennett, C. (2001). Cookies, Web Bugs , Webcams and Cue Cats : Patterns of Surveillance on the World Wide Web. Ethics and Information Technology, 3, 197-210

Bush, V. D., Venable, B.T., Bush, A. J. (2000), Ethics and Marketing on the Internet: Practitioners’ Perceptions of Societal, Industry and Company Concerns. Journal of Business Ethics, 23, 237-248

Computer and Information Ethics. (2001). In Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy. Retrieved from http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/ethics-computer/

Hafner, K. (2003, October 23). A change of Habits to Elude Spam’s Pull . The New York Times.

Moreland, J.P. (2009). Ethics Theories : Utilitarianism Vs. Deontological Ethics. Christian Research Institute.

Palmer, D.E. (2005). Pop-Ups,  Cookies and Spam: Toward a Deeper Analysis of the Ethical Significance of Internet Marketing Practices. Journal of Business Ethics, 58(1), 271-280.

Quinn, M.J. (2002). Ethics for the Information Age: Chapter 2, Introduction to Ethics, 6th ed. Pearson: London

Sangchoolie, B. (2015). Email Spam and the Ethics of Antispam Measures. Chalmers PhD Course in Ethics and Philosophy of Computing 2015. Retrieved from http://www.cse.chalmers.se/~jomoa/fdat065/slides-Behrooz.pdf

Spinello, R.A. (1999). Ethical Reflections on the problem of spam. Ethics and Information Technology. 1(3), 185-191

Statman, D. (1997). Virtue Ethics. Cambridge: Edinburgh University Press.

Tavani, H.T. (2009). Ethics and Technology : Controversies, Questions and Strategies for Ethical Computing (3rd Ed). USA: John Wiley & Sons

 

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