by Kaly T
Every day billions of users’ access search engines such as Google or Bing. The amazing thing about these search engines are that they essentially comb through millions of databases in a matter of milliseconds to give you the results you are looking for. A database is a place where an organization can store a large amount of information and records. The application can be found in a wide variety of subjects, some good some bad. This is where this article takes its direction. Databases can contain very sensitive information and require a great deal of ethical and moral values to ensure its proper use. Ethics and morals boils down to what is right and what is wrong, in this case, ways to use databases.
In the business world, companies use databases to track and record the history of the company. These can vary from things such as payroll, expenditures, et cetera. This is good for the purposes of keeping a company strong via proper management of what goes on in a company. However, this is not always the case. In some cases, companies use these databases to gather information to market their customers better. In a story published in the LA Times, a man was sent a letter from OfficeMax addressing him as “Mike Seay, Daughter Killed in Car Crash.” This turned out to be true. The man’s daughter had indeed been killed in a car accident not too long prior. A mailing list, which is a form of a database, was rented out by some third party company to OfficeMax. There are some ethical issues that come from using databases in this way. How would knowing his daughter died be useful in marketing to this man? This would be a breach of this man’s right to his own privacy. Ethics is thrown out the door with the lack of respect for a grieving father for the ultimate gain of profit.
With social media taking an ever growing turn, interacting with each other online has become simpler than ever. Profiles are created and stored on the provider’s database. Users can explore profiles to meet up with friends and acquaintances, outside of face-to-face interaction. This is powerful in sharing our world with each other. For example, LinkedIn is a database of potential colleagues, employees and employers. Their database helps the world connect and even create job opportunities for those looking. On the other hand, having such large databases readily at hand does not necessarily mean they are utilized properly. Google got into some hot water over the years due to the fact that they have such large amount of information at their hands. For instance, there was some criticism over the Google’s email service, Gmail. Computers would scan emails send to/from the servers to look for ways to market specific ads related to the emails. This brought on large amount of angry users who believed that their private emails and inboxes were for them alone. Their emails are stored in databases that are owned by Google. Infringing on user’s private information to prove what is advertised to them is a touchy topic. There are some who believe that this is unethical in that it is invading on their own personal boundaries while others may welcome the related ads. However, in the end, this is an example of how databases in the world of all things social can used ethically and unethically.
Even at Cal Poly Pomona, they database for in ways you wouldn’t imagine. The air conditioning system that Cal Poly runs on is provided by a mixture of cold and hot water that runs around the campus and that is mixed with the air to provide the temperature we all enjoy. The cold water runs from a facility right behind the parking lots above the top of the hill using a 2.5m gallon tank of chilled water. However, what many people didn’t know is that there are people who monitor the temperature of all the buildings on the campus. They actually record and store this information on regular basis. Some of the data recorded is every minute. The reason is because the engineers designing this air conditioning system use the database in order to optimize and create the most efficient air conditioning system to fit our school’s need. And then, we have the students. With the spread of technology, students have so many ways to access the internet and its databases. The rate at which technology is growing makes making rulings on what is ethical and unethical difficult. This is because there isn’t enough time to define what should be considered ethical and unethical. This is referring to the abundance of information in the palm of all these students’ hands. All of this blurs the lines of what is ethical because some students begin to believe that all answers can be simply found on the internet and that would be the end of their problem. With no regard to who may have put that information on the internet, they use it for their own purposes such as tests and papers. Students don’t even realize that they are stealing from others that contribute to those sources that they are borrowing.
It is safe to say as technology advances and the rate at which information is produced increases, the need for databases will forever increase. Technology can become obsolete. Humans may forget. Things may become irrelevant. But, everything in this world ultimately relies on some form of a database to function or exist. This is why, as examples for the future generations, we must understand the power that can be contain in a database and use it with good judgment and reason. Ethics is what keeps the world from crumbling. Information is powerful and there must be precautions taken to ensure that this information isn’t misused nor taken into the wrong hands.
Molnar, Kathleen K., Marilyn G. Kletke, and Jongsawas Chongwatpol. “Ethics vs. IT Ethics: Do Undergraduate Students Perceive a Difference?” Journal of Business Ethics (2008): n. pag. Web. 29 Feb. 2014.
Patel, Nilay. “Yes, Gmail Users Have an Expectation of Privacy.” The Verge. N.p., 14 Aug. 2013. Web. 01 Mar. 2014
Pearce, Matt. “Dad Gets OfficeMax Mail Addressed ‘Daughter Killed in Car Crash'” Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles Times, 19 Jan. 2014. Web. 01 Mar. 2014.