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"A Discussion of the Internet Privacy"
A Discussion of the Internet Privacy
Gina Allred
Who Will Protect Them?

The Internet has been shaping American society more than anticipated. From personal communications to public services, from trade to politics, the Internet is almost everywhere in our society. People are increasingly dependent on the Internet for their information and activities. While it brings enormous advantages to the society, the Internet also produces lots of concerns about privacy.

Jacob Weisberg raises this ethical issue timely in the article "A Banner Year." Aristotle Publishing is a political firm. It maintains up-to-date voter lists and sells them to campaigns for use in various kinds of voter targeting. Aristotle also developed an Internet application. It cross-referenced its voter information with data collected by portals, Web sites, and Internet service providers. Such sifted information was used by both Bush and McCain's campaigns to target voters of special interests in the 2000 elections. With regard to Aristotle's practices, Weisberg asks an ethical question: "Should a person, by virtue of registering to use a certain Web site, become the involuntary recipient of political propaganda?"

Giving personal information is unavoidable in our society. Anytime one applies for credit card, has medical service, or visits certain Web site, information about this person is collected and stored. But, there is no doubt, people have the expectation that their information will remain confidential when they provide it, and they are unhappy to see their information become a commodity for sale. In this paper, I will try to answer the question raised by Weisberg from two ethical theories, namely Kantian and Utilitarian points of view.

Before we evaluate Aristotle's practices, let us take a moment to review the essence of Kantian ethical theory and the Act Utilitarian theory.

Kant "removed moral truth from the zone of contingency and empirical observation and placed it securely in the area of necessary, absolute, universal truth." Instead...

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