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Machado Case

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Ethical Analysis


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Clearly there were threats to the safety of individuals in this case. Machado probably was not going to "hunt down and kill" the Asians he sent email to, but they could not know that, and some of the targets reasonably felt their safety threatened. How does this relate to computing ethics? How did Machado find out the names of the individuals? By making the email addresses of individuals easily available through a finger server, the OAC contributed in some way to Machado's action.

An additional issue is that the email addresses at UCI followed the standard protocol of using the last name of the user as the base for the userID. This is certainly convenient and make remembering the addresses easy. But names are also markers of both ethnicity and gender. So a userID of firstname.lastname@institution.domain can clearly specify both race and gender of a person.

How should computer professionals think through this issue when setting up networked systems? One question that an operator of a system needs to ask in this case is: how do the benefits of providing this information online balance the dangers to which it might contribute? This cost/benefit analysis is not an easy one, but it is important.

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