The Government Needs Boundaries

Summary:

In today’s article I read about some more things that the government has been doing in their war against terrorism.  The trouble is that these actions seem to indicate that the government’s definition of “terrorist” is expanding to “anyone who does things the government doesn’t like”.  Let’s take a look at what’s been happening, and what it reveals about the governments priorities.

Analysis:

Today’s article focuses on an event in the aftermath of the Snowden leaks which speaks volumes about the government’s attempt to maintain its secrecy.  The event is that a Brazilian citizen was detained in Heathrow Airport for 9 hours before being released without charge.  This journalist, David Miranda, was detained and questioned legally by U.K. law, but the only reason for the detention appears to be that Miranda is affiliated with Glenn Greenwald, who is in turn connected to Edward Snowden.  Miranda has been acting for some time acting as a messenger between Greenwald and his other contacts, and when he was detained he also had all of his electronics confiscated, which would have contained the information he was carrying.

As I read  through the article I couldn’t help but think about the inherent friction which by necessity exists between the government and the news.  On the one hand freedom of the press is a thing.  The government should not be allowed to interfere with the reporting of news, seeing as how it is the only way the public can often get information.  On the other hand, not all information should be reported, as some intel could severely compromise military endeavors, leading to needless deaths on the battlefield.  This very fact was what led to the creation of the the phrase “loose lips sink ships” in the US.  Reporting too much can be damaging.  So, up until this point, there has been a semi-unspoken agreement between the press and the government to avoid reporting on things that could potentially get people killed, which is a very sensible agreement to have.  The trouble is that the government has grown used to, and even expectant of, its secrecy, and looks to be ready to fight to keep it.

We appear to be entering a new era of reporting, where reporters are finding it to be necessary in the pursuit of professional integrity to report on the government itself, which obviously the government does not appreciate too much.  The reasons for the government’s dislike for the reporting is two-fold.  There is first of all the reporting of information which is harmful to the government’s personnel’s safety, such as military recruits and such.  This falls under the whole “loose lips” category, and it is understandable if the government wishes to continue to keep this information under wraps.  The other side of the coin is when the information reported is harmful to the government itself, as in it affects the public’s opinion of the government’s activities.  The situation with David Miranda falls under this second category.  The leaked Snowden files have more to do with how the government has been getting info than with what that information itself is.  Therefore, the government backlash has not been in pursuit of the safety of its people, but rather the safety of its operations.  The detainment of David Miranda speak out that the government is willing to use its powers not just to protect people form harm, but itself from criticism.

I do, to an extent, understand and uphold the government’s hold on secrecy.  They do need it to do their work, work which does do much to protect people.  But Snowden did what he did because he saw the government purposefully going around the sanctions placed on them.  When this happens then the government suddenly has no way of being restrained, and this makes it all the more important to restrain it.  Therefore in this situation I have to say that I support the actions of the reporters.  They are trying to show that the government is getting too big and independent, while the government is trying desperately to hold on to its power.  The fact that it has reacted so strongly to hide what they’re doing is evidence that they know what they are doing is morally sketchy at best, and that the general populace would not be pleased with what is happening.  Romans 13:1 says “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.”  we should obey the government.  But our governing officials are subject to laws themselves, and if they are breaking those laws then they need to be brought up short just like anyone else.  Even Paul brought up his Roman citizenship when his accusers were doing things which they ought not.  Part of being a good citizen is standing up to a corrupt government, by legal means, and that is what these reporters are doing.

Conclusion:

The government is getting a little too aggressive in protecting its secrecy.  Yes, secrecy is important is you want to keep sensitive information protected.  But if you’re detaining people in airports just because they’re affiliated with people who are reporting on you, that borders on totalitarianism, and needs to to be curtailed rapidly.  Hopefully, we’ll be able to get the government in check before it gets to big to stop.  Hopefully it’s not there already.

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Music Piracy! Good or Bad? Does It Even Matter?

Summary:

It’s a new day, and a new half of the semester!  That means I have new articles, and more Ethical Issues to write about!  And today is an especially good day, because I can actually engage with the information!  Today’s article is about music piracy.  More specifically it’s about how recent information casts doubt on the long held notion that piracy negatively affects music sales.  This raises the question:  If downloading music off the Internet really doesn’t hurt music sales (and might in fact help improve them), then should it really be illegal to do so?  Let’s take a look, shall we?

Analysis:

So, there’s this company in Britain called Ofcom.  It’s basically a survey company which keeps track of what people in Britain are downloading.  Over the last year it has found that overall music downloads have gone down by about a third, while the number of people pirating has gone down by about 10%.  This is all well and good, except that there has NOT been a corresponding increase in actual music sales during this same period, or any real change at all in the music industry’s slow but steady decline. this should be puzzling since for as long as piracy has been a thing the music industry has been claiming that it hurts their sales.  But now we have a case where piracy has gone down, but there’s been no change in the industry, which calls into question that position.  Note, this does not in any way disprove that piracy hurts music sales, but it at least gives cause for taking a second look at the data.  But what is that data exactly?  Well, there’s the aforementioned lack of apparent correlation between decrease in piracy and market sales.  Then there’s also some other information which is interesting, which is that as far as buying digital music, people who pirate are more likely to pay for things that people who do not.  This is to say that pirates, at least in Britain, make more money for the music industry per capita than non-pirates, at least ostensibly so.  The Recording Industry Agency of America (RIAA) firmly believes that arguments built on these statistics are flawed, as described in this article.  Granted, even they agree that people who pirate are more engaged with music, and therefore might buy more of it along with pirating, but they see the pirating as being a result of their involvement in music, not the other way around.  So, pirates may or may not be bad for the music industry.  But how does this relate to Ethical Issues?

Well, whether or not piracy affects the music industry really does not the issue. Romans 13:1 says, “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.”  From this I would say that even if piracy were to be found to be completely beneficial, beyond a shadow of a doubt, it would still be wrong based on the fact that the government says that it is wrong.  We need to obey the government as far as we can for want of conscience.  But, on another note, for discussion’s sake, should it be illegal?  Should the laws perhaps change, or the industry change, or should everything remain as it is?  Going back to the first thing which started the discussion, the lack of noticeable difference if music sales, despite decrease in piracy.  The fact, which cannot be denied, is that sales are down, and the primary reason appears to be decreases in the sale of physical CDs.  I think personally that the big issue here is not the pirates, whatever they may be buying or not buying, but rather the changes happening in the music industry as a whole.  The Internet is filled with articles talking about how the music industry is moving from physical to digital, and from industry-funded to crowd-funded.  It is no longer popular for music to hard-copy (unless we’re talking about vinyl).  People increasingly seem to prefer their music to be digital, and artists no longer need record companies in order to become famous.  With this in mind you can say that in reality the entirety of the music world is changing, though perhaps not very quickly.  Record companies have a choice.  They can either change with the musical landscape, and learn new was of promoting and selling music, or they can slowly lose their relevance.  I don’t know what exactly that would look like, but I know it will involve a drastic change in the way the music industry does its business.

Conclusion:

Piracy may or may not actually affect the sales of the music industry.  Pirates might actually buy more stuff that non-pirates, and like their music more.  But the fact of the matter is that it doesn’t matter.  Piracy is illegal, and therefore should not be committed.  However, the decrease in music sales does need to be addressed.  If the music industry really wants to turn around it needs to take a good look at the ways that it does business.  Music is going digital, and the industry has to as well, if it really wants to survive in a meaningful way.

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If No One Says Nay, The Government Assumes Yea

Summary:

The government has recently been getting a lot of heat over their data-gathering activities.  In response President Obama has requested that the various branches of the intelligence community strive for greater transparency.  As part of that endeavor there has been released an official opinion by Judge Claire Eagan, which essentially explains why she re-authorized the collection of phone records from various, undisclosed, phone companies, over a period of three months.  The article I read today was not, however, that opinion.  It was instead this article, which focuses on the fact that when they were asked in the past for the records apparently none of the phone companies protested, even though there were clear channels for doing so.  This played a part in the re-authorizing of the process more recently.  What is the ethical issue?  Well, just because it’s legal does that make it right?  And is the government so big that companies can’t protest even if they wanted to?  Well, let’s think about this, okay?

Analysis:

Here’s the deal: since 2006 there has been a law which allows the government to collect phone records from phone companies for 90 days.  Every 90 days this law is renewed, and so the government has had access to phone records for the past 6-7 years, relatively uninterrupted.  Because of all the heat recently Judge Eagan defended her position, saying that it is legal, and has been uncontested all this time, so there’s no reason to not re-authorize it.  This all sounds well and good, but there are at least three things which have to be noted before thinking this through.  First is that while the phone companies may not have protested, Yahoo claims that it vehemently protested when it was ordered to hand over it’s records, but those protests (which are sealed records) were overruled.  Second is that according to Jameel Jaffer, of the ACLU, there have been significant changes in precedent since 2006, including a case involving GPS, which significantly changes the legal landscape, and necessitate a more rigid re-examination of the law than that given by Judge Eagan.  Finally, Judge Eagan’s opinion admitted that there have been times when the National Security Agency (NSA), the agency in charge of all the data-collection, has circumvented the limits placed upon them, such as the need for warrant, but stated that measures have been taken to correct the problem.  (Information regarding Jameel Jaffar and this last point were taken from this article).  Let’s look at each of these issues in turn.

First, the protests of Yahoo.  It may very well be that the phone companies did not protest to giving over their records.  But if Yahoo did protest, and it made no difference, then perhaps the phone companies simply didn’t see the point.  It becomes like the school bully who is messing up a kid, and when the teacher comes up and asks if anything is wrong the bully says no, and the bullied kid is too scared to say otherwise.  The fact that Yahoo protested and was shut down speaks volumes about the options available to companies on the receiving end of the NSA’s data-collection.  If they can’t protest effectively, then it would make sense that they wouldn’t even try, since protesting would just be a waste of time and money.  The government has effectively shut up any opposition with the threat of failure, especially now that Yahoo has failed.  This is clearly not a situation that we want our country to be in, one where the government can do what it wants, and no one can say nay.

Second: the ignoring of precedent.  This ties in with the previous point, in that they both deal with changing times.  The original phones record collection law was passed back in 2006.  That was 7 years ago now, and things change.  Phone companies didn’t think to much about giving up records back then, but Internet providers think giving up the same information is highly inappropriate.  In the same way the legal scene in 2006 wasn’t very preoccupied with privacy, but now it is.  Many new laws have been passed which significantly change the way that the government is allowed to interact with its people, and laws which are coming in from the past ought to change to reflect that.  To simply ignore the fact that things have changed is very irresponsible, and undermines the transparency that the government is aiming for.

Finally, the ignoring of rules by the NSA.  This is probably the most serious of the three problems.  The fact that the NSA has at times failed to comply with standards placed on them with regard to the handling of the information they receive in troubling.  By giving them access to the information they have we are very explicitly trusting them to not use that information inappropriately.  By breaking that trust they have made it impossible to ever truly trust them again.  And if we can’t trust them to use our information responsibly, then they should not have access to it.  Proverbs 11:3 says that “Honesty guides good people; dishonesty destroys treacherous people.” (NLT).  They have been dishonest in their use of our information, and that will ultimately lead to destruction.  Who exactly will be destroyed remains to be seen, but dishonesty cannot lead to anything but problems.

Conclusion:

There are quite a few problems with NSA being re-given access to America’s phone records.  There doesn’t not appear to be any true way to protest the records seizure.  It may not be completely legal in view of recent developments in law. And the NSA has demonstrated that they cannot be trusted with the amount of information they are being given.  What should be done about this? Well, the NSA needs to be limited.  I still hold that they do good work, and they need information to do what they do.  But they do need stronger limits, not simply to keep them from misusing the information, but also to keep watch and make sure that they don’t try to get around their limits.  Also, there needs to be stronger protocols regarding the acquisition of a warrant before gathering information, so that they only get information they need.  We need to control what they get, not only what they use of what they get.  They cannot go around safeguards and browse through phone records if they have not already been given those records.

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Government Surveillance Claims Another Victim

Summary:

It seems that I will have to delve more deeply into the issue of government surveillance.  Up until this point I have said that  thought that the government should be allowed a certain amount of liberty in data-gathering.  I thought that as long as they had clear limits on what they could do, and did not exceed those limits, using what they learned responsibly, then it would be okay to let the government snoop a little.  Today I’m re-examining that opinion.  I read today about a company called Groklaw.  I had never heard of the company before, but apparently they provided commentary on legal issues regarding open-source projects.  When the manager of the site heard about what happened to Lavabit, she felt that because of the government’s actions Groklaw would be unable to operate.  Groklaw required e-mail to function, and if the government was snooping in, the work would be stifled beyond functionality, and so the site was discontinued.  Today I want to talk about this, and what exactly it is that the government should and should not be allowed to do. Let’s get to it 🙂

Analysis:

The big question here is the argument of privacy vs. security.  The more safe you are, the less privacy you have.  The more privacy you have, the less security the government can provide.  In the past I was of the mind that privacy is not that important, because to me it’s not.  I’m not a private person, neither do I hide things, at least not anymore.  I’ve trained myself to have no secrets, just things I don’t reveal due to common decency.  I don’t feel violated when people go through my stuff, and don’t care if they know my darkness of my past.  All this to say that it is difficult for me to empathize with people who really are disturbed by these things.  Today’s article taught me a lot about that which I don’t understand.  I want to talk about three of those things: the clear effect of the government’s actions, the human need for privacy, and problem of government control.

First, let’s think about the harm that the government has been causing.  I do not think that the ends and the means of an endeavor are related.  They must both be right, and one does not justify the other.  With that said, just because government interventions have caused three companies (Lavabit, Silent Circle, Groklaw) to shut down or amend their services does not mean that what the government is doing is wrong.  However, it must be remembered that the role of government includes helping to improve the economy.  If the actions of the government are stifling the economy, however well-meant those actions, then they need to be either changed or stopped completely.  I still hold that the government needs to have some surveillance in order to do its job, but at this point it seems clear that the amount of surveillance going on is too much, and is causing perhaps more harm than good.  And the harm goes beyond simply the economy.  It extends to humanitarian issues.

In her article the manager of Groklaw talks about the basic human need for privacy, how people need a sense of being alone in order to function.  I’m naturally introverted, so I understand this sensibility.  I like being with other people, but I need time to myself every once in a while.  I’ve known this is true, but I never really connected it with the Internet.  Perhaps because my online presence is so minuscule I don’t think about the fact that someone might be watching me…  Or perhaps, because I spent so much of my past looking at things on the Internet that I ought not I got used to the feeling that someone is ALWAYS watching me.  When I’m on the Internet I don’t feel anonymous or secure, but rather I feel like everything I say or post is eventually going to be seen, so I walk on eggshells anyways.  Either way, it doesn’t bother me to think that someone might be reading my e-mails.  But, I can understand how that would be extremely uncomfortable for others.  With this in mind, the fact that the government not only can read, but has been reading, people’s e-mails takes on a new significance for me.  True, security from terrorists is important.  But if that security comes at the cost of peace of mind and being able to live your life effectively, then it’s all for naught.  There’s no point proecting a life that not worth living.  But then the final problem arises, which is the problem of government controls.

Again from Groklaw’s manager, a good point arises:  What to do when is the government gets too big, too controlling, too powerful?  The answer, of course, is to change the way the government operates. But how to do that if the government can see and hear everything you do?  Groklaw’s manager correctly points out that if the government is too powerful, and you’re trying to weaken it, then if it knows what you’re doing it will be able to accuse you of petty crimes and take you out of commission.  If the government watches everything, then there is no way to resist the government.  If you can’t resist the government, then the government can do whatever it wants, and that will lead ultimately to a totalitarian government.

Conclusion:

The government has been getting steadily bigger and more controlling and watchful since 9/11, with even old data gathering laws gaining new meaning and far-reaching powers.  I was of the mind that these new powers were okay, since they were for the purpose of keeping the American people safe.  But I have now been convinced that the amount of damage these new governmental licences are causing is not worth the security they are supposedly providing.  For the reason of evident effects, basis human dignity, and the ability to stand against the government if necessary, it must be admitted that the government has been too zealous in its control.  Matthew 10:16 says “Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.”  I have been as innocent as a dove, but not as shrewd as a snake.  I have trusted, but not been discerning.  I am now taking steps to fix this attitude, and not realize that the government need better guideline to keep it in check, and better ways to make sure it actually follows the guidelines that are set out.

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Apparently “Like” Now Equals “Support”

Summary:

Well, today’s article is about constitutional rights on the Internet.  B.J. Roberts is a sheriff in Virginia, an in 2009 he was up for re-election.  He won the election, and afterwards he fired several of his employees.  He said it was to hire other, perhaps more qualified, employees, or simply because he did not consider the employees a good fit with the office.  Several of the employees protested, saying that they had been fired because they had “liked” the Facebook page of Roberts’ opponent in the election, and that their dismissal violated their freedom of speech.  At first the courts sided with Roberts, but in the court of appeals it was decided that “liking” a Facebook does indeed fall under the protection of free speech.  So, how does ethics fall into this?  Well, read on and you’ll see.

Analysis:

So, where does “liking” a Facebook page fall under the First Amendment? Well, in the past court-rulings have established that putting a political sign in your front lawn is free-speech, and therefore you cannot be fired for that.  The court’s ruling put “liking” under the same category.  But is that really right?  The court which originally tried the case ruled that “liking” a Facebook page does not constitute free speech since there is no content to it.  In order to be free speech there would have to be some sort of content attached to it, such as a post on the site.  It was only when the case reached the court of appeals that it was ruled free speech to simply “like” a page, citing placing a sign in the yard as a supporting example.  So, which court was right in its ruling?  After thinking through this issue I think I have to side with the appeals court.  In the first place I have to think about what it actually means for something to be “free speech”. Does it simply mean that you cannot be prosecuted for what you say?  Or does it mean that you have to take responsibility for the things that you say?  I think it’s the latter.  Even if there are no consequences to “liking” a Facebook page, by doing so you are making a statement, a statement which at least implicitly says that you approve of the content of that page.  In Matthew 12:36 it says that “…on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak”.  I think that this includes the pages that people “like” on Facebook.  A lot of times people, including myself, “like” a whole lot of pages, and do not think about what it means to attach their names there.  We cannot be prosecuted for free speech, but we can be judged for it, and the decision to classify “liking” something on Facebook as free speech helps solidify that action as what it is: a very direct statement of support.  This decision ought to make people think more carefully before hitting the like button, about what message they are sending to the Internet at large.  On the other hand, there are ways to make it impossible to see a Facebook page unless you “like” it first, as detailed in this article, which raises a whole slew of ethical issues in its own right.  But if you like a page without seeing it first, realize it’s trash, but forget to unlike it, it is good to know that you cannot be prosecuted for it, since you don’t actually support it.  Obviously you should still try to clean up your “likes” to show what you actually support, but if you forget one or two things, at least it’s not the end of the world.

Conclusion:

In the end, “liking” a Facebook page is just what it says:  an indication that you like something, and therefore an expression of support.  You might not actually like everything you “like”, but that is the message you send.  As such it is goo that the government is acknowledging the power of a “like” and classifying it as free speech.  This protects people from being targeted for things that they support, or even don’t support but were tricked into “liking”.  In a world of ambiguity, it is goo to have some things set in stone, and protected.

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Border Patrols… It’s a Trap!

Summary:

So, in light of what I’ve been saying over the last few posts about giving the government some leeway in the pursuit of terrorists, today’s is about how those special freedoms can be abused.  The government has been using some special power they have at the border to do things that those special powers were not originally meant for.   So, let’s talk about some ethical issues.

Analysis:

     Here’s the story.  There’s this private in the army who leaked a bunch of documents to Wikileaks, was arrested, and is in jail.  There’s this other guy who was part of the fundraising team for the private’s defense.  This fund-raiser guy, David House, went on a trip to Mexico, and on the way back he was detained at the border, had all of his electronic equipment was confiscated, which was copied and analyzed by the Army Criminal Investigation Command (ACIC) over a period of seven months.  The problem?  They did not have a warrant to search his equipment, nor any indication that he had been involved in criminal activity.  So how was he able to be detained as he was?  Well, the United States Border Patrol (USBP) has a certain amount of leeway in the way they conduct searches.  Since there is a lot of smuggling that happens on the US border, courts have been willing to allow the USBP to conduct unauthorized searches as a means of deterrence and prevention.  When the ACIC realized they needed information on House they put an alert on the government network saying that if he crossed the border they were to confiscate his electronics for processing.  in other words, because the government could not examine his things without a warrant, and they did not have enough information to get one, they used the special permissions of the border patrol as a work around, getting themselves the information they needed deviously, and yet still legally.

What’s the big problem here?  For me it is not that they government used the border patrol to get information.  If there had been anything suspicious about House, then I might even uphold their decision.  No, the problem is that there was not reason to suspect House of any wrongdoing, and so the government used its powers to try and find something to convict him of.  They were not looking for evidence of a crime, but rather a crime they could evidence.  I’ve talked a lot about giving the government the right to look where they need to to stop terrorism and stuff.  I have not talked as much about the possibility, perhaps even surety, of those rights being misused.  The government is not good, neither is it bad.  It is neutral, and the actions it takes are shaped by the people in government who are in positions of authority.  These people are sinners just like everybody else, and as such they will by default misuse their powers.  That’s pretty much a given.  Therefore it is necessary to limit their extent of the government powers, while still letting the do what thy need to do.  In California this same issue has come up, in a case very much like the one involving House, and as a result a ruling has been made saying that before electronic equipment can be searched there has to be reasonable suspicion of criminal activity.  This is a step in the right direction.  I would add to that rules such as that the special permissions at the border apply only to people the Border suspects, and that the information the Borer collects is confidential, an can not be shared with other agencies except as is necessary for national security.  Also, as this report points out, the authority of the border patrol should be confined to the border, and not extend too far inland.

Summary:

In the book named after himself Daniel makes some enemies, not because he did anything wrong, but because he did everything right, and as a result the king honored him.  In response the other wise men plotted to get rid of Daniel, and the first thing they did was try and find something, anything, they could pin on him.  They found nothing, and so they changed the law of the land in such a way that they knew he would break it.  This is what I thought of when I read about the case of David House.  People using their authority wrongly, as a tool of self-promotion, rather than civil protection. May our country be protected from the wiles of those who would use their positions to further their own ends, rather than to protect their people.

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Hacking: Does the Name Really Matter?

Summary:

The last four blog past have all been centered around the NSA controversy, so I was happy when I realized that today’s article has nothing to do with that.  Today’s article is about the use of the term “Ethical Hacker” in the computing world.  The position of the writers of the article is that prefixing the term “ethical” onto “hacker” really is meaningless, and doesn’t need to be used.  My position is slightly different.  I agree with the article that ethics doesn’t not really play a part in the technical term “hacker”, but I would believe that the title “ethical hacker” can still be used legitimately.

Analysis:

As computer security systems have improved there has also arisen a subset of computer techies who dedicate their lives to finding ways to break through that same security.  Some do it for nefarious reasons, looking to acquire bank account passwords, or sensitive business information, or the like.  A great number of others do it simply for the thrill and recognition of having cracked a particularly difficult code.  But regardless of the reason, the fact remains that it is very hard (read: impossible) for a corporation trying to protect its data to think of every possible way that a hacker could exploit vulnerabilities, especially since hackers tend to be able to think of very innovative ways of working their chosen craft.  As such companies have begun to hire the hackers themselves to try and break the company’s security, and then report ways to shore up the found weaknesses.  As hackers generally have a bad reputation in the computer world, it has become relatively standard practice to refer to those who hack for criminal reasons as “blackhat hackers”, or just the regular hackers, while the ones who hack to help improve security are called “whitehat hackers”, or “ethical hackers”.

This brings us to the subject of our article today.  The argument of the writers is largely a semantic one.  They present five different arguments for the illogicality of the use of the term “ethical hacker”.  These arguments are as follows:  1.  The hacker is a hacker no matter what else you do.  if you think of a hacker as a criminal, then adding “ethical” makes no sense, while if you think of it simply as someone likes to mess with computer systems then there’s nothing ethical about it, just like there’s nothing ethical about any other interest or hobby.  2.  Adding “ethical” doesn’t really do anything to help the image of hackers.  3.  Hacking isn’t about right or wrong, but rather about breaking into computer systems, for whatever reason.  “Ethical” is not part of the equation.  4.  Many people have criminal records for hacking which were caused by dumb laws on the subject.  This does not justify or require a change in the term used.  5.  Sometimes people talk about an “ethical hacker” as someone who was a non-ethical hacker, but then change over to help people.  This doesn’t change what he does, only who he’s doing it for.  The article asserts that in the end there is no difference between a regular hacker and an “ethical hacker” is function, simply in their attitudes toward what they are doing, therefor calling a hacker “ethical” makes as much sense as calling someone an “ethical locksmith” (their actual example),

I agree with them that there is “technically” no morality or ethics attached to hacking.  A hacker is by definition simply someone who breaks through computer security, and that would apply equally whether they are hacking an ATM or just destroying their own firewalls in their basement for fun.  The problem in the argument of the article is that it does not give proper attention to the denotation vs. connotation of words.  Yes, there is nothing wrong with hacking… except for the fact that whenever one says “hacking” the word is immediately associated with all the stigma attached to those people who use hacking for criminal purposes.  The attachment of the term “ethical” therefore does not actually refer to the type of actions performed by the hacker, but rather to the type of person that the hacker is.  It is a retronym.  Originally all hackers would have been thought of as “ethical hackers”, but now there is a need to distinguish between ethical and non-ethical hackers, the good guys and the bad guys.  After all, 1 Peter 2:12 tells us to “keep [our] conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against [us] as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.”  That would be very hard if when people hear that we’re a “hacker” they think that we steal confidential information, instead of simply stress-testing the company’s computer security.

Conclusion:

The writer’s of this article are correct in saying that the term “ethical hacker” does not make any real sense.  Hacking is neither ethical nor unethical, but rather an action similar to running or solving a puzzle.  However, this does not mean that the term should not be used.  In today’s world, where there are so many hackers who mean to do harm, it is helpful to have a term with clarifies that the work a hacker does is not in any way immoral.  Clarity of speech is extremely important, and the term “ethical hacker” helps with that immensely.

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