Dangers of The Net

Cowan, R. (Producer), & Winkler, I. (Director). (1995, July 28). The Net [Motion picture]. United States: Comlumbia Pictures Corporation.Screen Shot 2015-04-28 at 9.26.15 PM

“Thou shalt not use a computer to steal.”

This is the fourth of the Ten Commandments created by the Computer Ethics Institute. Technology allows users to upload, share, and store a lot of public and personal information. Some may think this information is secure, but what happens when there’s a glitch in the system, or worse a hacker deliberately steals the information?

Screen Shot 2015-04-28 at 9.26.05 PMIn the 1995 film The Net, Sandra Bullock stars as a computer system analyst that winds up with a security system disc in her possession. This “Gatekeeper” system has a backdoor that allows unauthorized access to important information such as FBI and NY Stock Exchange files. Bullock plays the role of a secluded character that does all of her work and personal operations, such as ordering pizza, from home on her computer. Through a series of life or death events involving cyberterrorists and hit men trying to retrieve the information on the disc, Bullock’s character’s identity is erased from all computer files and is replaced with the identity of a wanted criminal.

The cyber-action thriller provides a lot of examples that demonstrate the harm that can be caused through hacking and stealing information on the Internet. A highly ranked official, that was against using the Gatekeeper security system, committed suicide when he found out “he had HIV”. Turns out it was the work of the hackers that tapped and changed his medical information. Bullock was tricked into spending time with a hit man after the hackers gathered information about her idea of a perfect man from an online chat room. Even though she escaped, her identity, credit cards, and medical history were erased completely.
Screen Shot 2015-04-28 at 9.35.03 PMIn these situations, the cyberterrorists are breaking the computer ethic commandment by using computers to steal and create harm. The two characters had their private information tampered with and dealt with harmful consequences. The harm for the official that committed suicide is obvious. He died because of false information, a situation that could have been avoided. Bullock’s character had to deal with trying to regain her identity, the most private and personal thing a person can lose, and avoid being charged for a crime that she did not do.

It is unethical for people to take and use private information, even if it is stored on the web. This brings up questions if information is actually secure on the Internet. People must be careful with what they upload and share. Chris Sims brings up the question, “…if on-demand digital pizza ordering is worth having all of our personal lives stored on computers that can be freely accessed, modified and occasionally even obliterated by anyone with the ability hack a database” (Wired, 2013). Mindlessly entering personal information on the computer may be convenient, but it runs the risk of losing privacy and creating other problems affecting every day life.


Computer Ethics Institute. Ten Commandments of Computer Ethics. Retrieved from http://computerethicsinstitute.org/publications/tencommandments.html

Sims, C. (2013, April 30). What we learned about technology from 1995’s The Net. Wired. Retrieved from http://www.wired.com/2013/04/the-net-movie-technology/

Images taken from:




When Do Ads Get Too Sexy?

The American Advertising Federation’s (AAF) Code of Ethics states, “Be free of statements, illustrations or implications which are offensive to good taste or public decency” (Plaisance, 130). Many questions are raised about the portrayal of sex and objectification of women in marketing efforts. Are these sexualized ads offensive to the public? Are they considered distasteful? I believe that the answer to these questions and concerns is dependent on the product, organization, and targeted audience.

Plaisance brings attention to advertisements by Belvedere Vodka and Dolce & Gabbana that raise questions about the ethics because of the over-the-top sexualized imagery. The luxury vodka’s commercial depicts women in provocative clothing getting spanked in public. The fashion print ad was claimed to glamourize “stylized gang rape” by the National Organization for Women (Plaisance, 132). The Case in Point quoted Wally Snyder, the AAF’s CEO, who does not think offended consumers will buy the products and companies that partake in sexual advertising will only hurt their brand’s image (Plaisance, 132)


Belvedere Vodka commercial

I do not believe that it is unethical to use sex to sell, but it should be executed tastefully and used appropriately. It is difficult to judge the extremity of sexual ads because viewers have different ideas about what is acceptable and what is pushing the limit. A study by Dahlberg and Zimmerman (2008) compared women’s reactions to sexual advertisements to a similar study done in 1991. They found younger, educated females are not as offended by these types of ads as the women in the previous study, and this could be because sexuality is an accepted quality in our culture that could represent power, sophistication, and creative art (Dahlberg & Zimmerman, 2008).

Sex is prominent in our society through all forms of media which we are exposed to throughout our days. I think since we are so accustomed to seeing sexual messages, they do not really bother us or significantly catch our attention. This obviously depends on the subtleness or extremity of the depictions. I agree that ethical questions can be raised when an advertisement clearly shows graphic or degrading representations of women and sex. I think marketers can go for the risk if they take careful considerations about whom they are targeting and how they are sending their message. The saying “sex sells” is frequently repeated, but is it accurate?

An article on Business Insider, “Do You Think Sex Sells? Think Again”, would disagree with the common saying. Ira Kalb lists reasons that sex does not sell, which includes offensiveness, seen as gimmicks, and distraction of attention from the product (Business Insider, 2012). People believe it works since it is used a lot. I believe it works for “sexy” products such as luxury cars and lingerie. It shouldn’t be used for fast food or construction tools, even if the primary audiences consist of men.

Sex isn’t going to be banned from music, television, or movies anytime soon. Advertisers are going to keep attempting to use it to persuade consumers to buy their products and services. The ethical standpoint is going to be determined based on the consumers’ opinions. I personally think if you like and use a brand, but you find their advertising somewhat offensive you shouldn’t let that affect your purchases. In the end, it’s about the quality of the product and personal preference of the buyer.


Dahlberg, J., & Zimmerman, A. (2008). The sexual objectification of women in advertising: A contemporary cultural perspective. Journal of Advertising Research. DOI: 10.2501/S0021849908080094 http://pure.au.dk/portal/files/10594/8_-_sexual_objectification_of_women.pdf

Kalb, Ira. (2012, April 16). “Do you think sex sells? Think again.” Business Insider. Retrieved March 5, 2015 from http://www.businessinsider.com/do-you-think-sex-sells-think-again-2012-4

Plaisance, P. L. (2014). Media Ethics: Key Principles for Responsible Practice, 2nd edition. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.


Blog #1: Fears from Facebook


Anytime you create a membership on a website or social media service you give away personal information about your identity. The more you use and contribute to the site, the more owners and other users are able to gather knowledge about you. With today’s technology, it’s easy for site owners to keep surveillance over users and content. But when does this tracking cross the line of privacy?

In Cooper’s article (2008) discussing media ethics, he summarizes a list of themes that were persistent in his study. Escalating concerns about invasion of privacy was common among the people that participated. When respondents were asked to share their greatest concerns about the Internet, 34% had expressed fears involving privacy. Today privacy concerns can be linked to the many social networking sites that have large membership bases.

Facebook-Emotional-Manipulation-400x300Facebook is a social media site that allows members to join for free because of the revenue they make from selling spots for advertisements. In order for these ads to be effective, they must be tailored to the wants and interests of the users viewing them. During a week in January 2012, Facebook’s research team conducted a study that over 689,000 users unknowingly participated in (Forbes 2014). The research was done to measure how exposure to negative or positive posts affects peoples’ emotions. When the paper was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences during 2014, people including lawyers, internet activists, and politicians claimed the “emotional manipulation” was intrusive and disturbing (The Guardian 2014).

Though the research was done to make Facebook more relevant and engaging, some feared it was for boosting advertising revenues and political purposes (Forbes 2014). Facebook’s data use policy includes a section regarding research, but does their terms of service, that usually go unread, live up to the definition of informed consent? Facebook officials responded by reassuring there was no unnecessary information collected and everything was done securely to see how people respond to different types of content (Forbes 2014).

When the topic of Facebook and privacy was discussed with interviewees, the term “creepy” was collective among the respondents. People generally think the government and marketers are stalking their every move and word on social media to be used in manipulation. One college student said, “I find it freaky that I Google search shoes and the next thing I know my Facebook feed is full of DSW ads.” The comments of the participants were correlated to the information provided in Cooper’s article and the uproar of angry Facebook users after knowledge about the sneaky research.

There is not much Internet users can do to protect their information except limiting what they do and say on the web. As long as people use free networking sites, they are going to be under surveillance and used for research to be targeted by advertisers. Whether or not these actions are ethical or not, they are going to take place with the expansion of technology and growth of activity on the Internet.


Booth, R. (2014, June 29). Facebook reveals news feed experiment to control emotions. Retrieved February 20, 2015 from http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2014/jun/29/facebook-users-emotions-news-feeds

Cooper, T. (2008). Between the Summits: What Americans think about media ethics. Journal of Mass Media Ethics, 23. 15-27. DOI: 10.1080/08900520701753106

Hill, K. (2014, June 28). Facebook manipulated 689,003 user’s emotions for science. Retrieved February 20, 2015 from http://www.forbes.com/sites/kashmirhill/2014/06/28/facebook-manipulated-689003-users-emotions-for-science/

Ralph B. Potter, Jr.

Picture taken from http://fjucrm2010.blogspot.com/2014/09/ina-ralph-b-potter-jr.html

Ralph B. Potter, Jr. was a professor of social ethics at Harvard University between 1965 and 2003 (Cheeseman, 2010). During 1999, Potter realized an ethical predicament concerning the build-up of nuclear weapons. He was going to use this subject for his doctoral paper by establishing a Christian standpoint on the view of the nuclear arms policy. This was the theoretical groundwork for his contribution to ethics, the Potter Box. (Backus & Ferraris, 2004).

The Potter Box is a categorized, step-by-step process that can be used for ethical decision-making. It can be visualized as a box divided by four sections labeled Definition, Values, Principles, and Loyalties. The steps go in a rotation to create a fluid process of decision-making. The decision maker starts with the Definition box. He or she understands the facts known present in the situation. Next, values are identified and taken into consideration. Based on the decision maker’s values, he or she contemplates ethical principles. These can be extracted from the teachings of philosophers such as Aristotle, Immanuel Kant, John Stuart Mill, and John Rawls. The last step involves choosing loyalties within stakeholders. The decider must determine whom he or she has responsibility of. The end result does not guarantee the most ethical course of action, but it helps an individual examine the choices available and the penalties at stake when making a decision. (Backus & Ferraris, 2004).


The Potter Box is an ethical framework that involves the teachings of past philosophers. Aristotle teaches The Golden Mean, which encourages placing virtue between two extremes. Kant teaches the Categorical Imperative, which encourages people to act as if what they do will become a universal law. Mill teaches the Principle of Utility, which seeks the greatest good for the greatest number of people. Rawls teaches the Veil of Ignorance, which he or she imagines themselves in the positions of others that could be affected. (Plaisance, 2014).

Even though Potter originally used this framework to look at positions involving war, it has been applied to conflicts in communication, specifically in public relations (Backus & Ferraris, 2004). Public relations involves managing and communicating information about an individual or organization. It can guide PR specialists when making decisions that follow under the values listed in their code of ethics, which are advocacy, honesty, expertise, independence, loyalty, and fairness (Plaisance, 2014).

This is a scenario in which the Potter Box could be applied in public relations: A restaurant has been promoting a special night that they ordered large amounts of food for in preparation. Stockholders that are planning on donating money to open a second restaurant are going to be in attendance. Customers have already bought meal tickets and the event is a day away. When the food arrives at the restaurant, the chefs notice the expiration dates are well passed.

This is an important event for the owners of the restaurant due to the rare attendance of their stockholders. The two situations they can define are either ignoring their knowledge of the bad food or canceling the event and risk losing an opportunity of receiving a grant for the second restaurant. The owners then have to consider certain values. In this case, they have to whether or not to be honest to the public and loyal to their customers. Based on who is deciding, they would next look at different principles. For example, if they followed Mill they would have to decide what is the best decision for the largest amount of people. When looking at loyalties, they have to determine the importance between customer loyalty and stockholder loyalty, and which is more important. The end result will differ depending on the values and moral principles held by decision maker.


Backus, N. & Ferraris, C. (2004). Theory meets practice: Using the potter box to teach business communication ethics. Association for Business Communication. Retrieved from

Cheeseman, Morgan. (2010, September 21). The potter box. [Web log comment]. Retrieved from https://ethicshelp.wordpress.com/2010/09/21/the-potter-box/

Plaisance, P. L. (2014). Media ethics: Key Principles For Responsible Practice, 2nd edition. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Potter Box picture retrieved from http://www.google.com/url?sa=i&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=images&cd=&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0CAYQjB0&url=http%3A%2F%2Fstanzzapatterson.com%2Fthe-potter-box-model-of-reasoning%2F&ei=cE_eVL_uJYWZyATF1YG4Ag&bvm=bv.85970519,d.aWw&psig=AFQjCNEpleBzOnMzYpKrtxfbME6uvKTkqA&ust=1423941871219111

Ralph Potter picture retrieved from http://fjucrm2010.blogspot.com/2014/09/ina-ralph-b-potter-jr.html

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