Thursday, March 22, 2012

Privacy and the freedom of info

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Privacy and the freedom of information

Summary of ‘Privacy and the Internet’ by Seumas Miller

The introduction of the Internet has been a worldwide phenomenon, but along with its huge success, there are many problems. Seumas Miller’s article covers the privacy, moral and ethical problems associated with the Internet.

Although everyone has the right to privacy, breaches can occur which can damage the reputation or well being of individuals and organisations. Criminals are the main concern for an individual and an organisation right to privacy and that is why law enforcement agencies have been introduced to catch them. These law enforcement agencies have been cleared to intercept e-mail messages of anyone that they deem to be suspicious. But who is a suspect, those that are innocent are being invaded there right to privacy, so where do we draw the line. It is important to balance the rights of individuals against the needs of the community.

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Another of Miller’s concerns for privacy is in the workplace where the majority of employers are monitoring workers Internet usage and e-mail messages. Employees do not have an absolute right to privacy in the workplace, but excessive monitoring and surveillance by employers is a violation of the right to privacy. Again the question is where do we draw the line?

As the invasion of privacy in cyberspace increases, there are also increasing measures of the prevention of privacy. One such example is encryption. But with the introduction of encryption comes the introduction of a new wave of problems. Law enforcement agencies again can look at all information with a ‘plain text’ decoder enabling them again to access anyone’s messages or private information. This absolute power is an imbalance between government, organisations and individuals. Profiling is an example of this imbalance, with government departments gathering criteria of typical computer criminals and then investigating any individuals who fit the profile. This unauthorised invasion of privacy is morally wrong, but legally it is justified as a greater good and this overrides the right to an individuals privacy.

Summary of ‘The Case for �Clipper”’ by Dorothy E. Denning

The dilemma of privacy of electronic communications may have an answer, if the US government can have its way. Dorothy Denning’s article revolves around a new type of encryption technology that is believed to be the best yet.

The Clipper as it is called, is a high tech device with many stems that allow illegal penetration almost non-existent.

The fundamentals of the Clipper chip are very complex, but essentially it is a compatible chip that encrypts a personal session key and is then encrypted into a law enforcement access field (LEAF) along with a unique chip ID. Then the LEAF is encrypted again to provide an even stronger safeguard from illegal access. Two escrow agents, one a law enforcement agent hold the session key and chip ID, so that individually the encryption cannot be broken.

The reason for this new encryption technology is said to be because it is the best way to balance individual privacy with the social good. It is also hoped that eventually this will be the only method of encryption available, so as to avoid the government being unable to stop crime and terrorists. Also, differing encryption types could interfere with US intelligence abroad because it could allow foreign countries to operate behind an electronic wall.

The concern about this encryption model is that the only way to access it is through the help of the government, which means that they still have the opportunity to monitor your files and e-mails. This could lead to corruption and still enables the possibility of the invasion of privacy.

The reason for many individuals and organisations not to choose to use the Clipper chip is a trust issue with the government, or that there may be a trapdoor to crack the encryption, enabling private information vulnerable to easy access. The trust issue with the government is a major concern, because if you need to exchange information with the government, you need the Clipper chip to be compatible, allowing law enforcement agencies to access your files.

Whether the Clipper chip will be a success or not is still in question, but all measures have been taken to ensure the Clipper is the safest type of encryption available.

Summary of ‘Threats and countermeasures’

There are many threats to computer corruption and with every threat, there is a possible solution, a countermeasure. This article covers some of the many threats and deals with the problems by suggesting possible remedies.

Computers are made and designed for convenience, compatibility and speed, they are not security minded. That is why such problems as viruses are a major concern. The recent concern with viruses is their destructive capabilities. Whereas viruses of the past send messages or intercept data, this new wave may corrupt or even destroy hard disks, rendering the computer useless.

The cheapest and easiest way to prevent these viruses’ attacking is to add virus protection software to your hard disk. This virus prevention software scans for a virus’ known signature and renders the virus useless to cause damage.

Currently there are about 150 viruses affecting IBM-type PC’s, over 00 Amiga viruses and around 5 Macintosh viruses and as yet there is no known virus that can hop across from one type of computer to another. However, what is very alarming is a new type of virus, called ‘polymorphic’, that can change its signature and also mutate to a more prolific virus. Although this is scary to even think about, experts believe that at the moment, polymorphic viruses are less of a problem than your hard disk crashing.

Now that many Local Area Networks and organisations are being corrupted, the amount of computers being infected is ever increasing. Networks facilitate the spread of viruses and within minutes, hundreds of computers can be infected. New network packages have security features that make virus insertion more difficult, but these virus protecting programs can cost up to as much as a new computer itself. That is why many people are still not purchasing them.

As viruses become more sophisticated, their means of detection must be simplified. Adequate installation of existing technology would prevent most viruses or at least disable attacks for the near future until a full proof prevention technique is found.

‘Privacy and the freedom of information’ Essay

Privacy and the freedom of information is a major concern in the world today. The above articles cover this topic and in this essay, authors own perspectives will be realized along with strengths and weaknesses in their articles. Many issues are raised and many are dealt with, while others are inconclusive in their evidence.

All the articles have a common thread of the right to privacy. Both The case for ‘Clipper’ and Threats and countermeasures have strong arguments that are backed up by evidence of strong testing over long periods of time, and that there is every chance that new security software will be successful. Also they both draw to the fact in the past, many security software packages have thought to be full proof but in time have been found to be vulnerable. Although Privacy and the Internet did not have anything to do with security protection software, it did have a strong message that any invasion of privacy is still an invasion of privacy, as privacy is a moral right. This fact conflicts with the whole reasoning behind the Clipper. The Clipper is a government initiative that will strengthen their ability to ‘eavesdrop’ on people’s communications. This is an invasion of privacy and that is why the acceptance of monitoring some activities of individuals and organisations by law enforcement agent and employers is questionable, especially when it is also agreed that the invasion of privacy is unethical and morally wrong.

The case for ‘Clipper’ focuses on all the attributes of the Clipper, without really bringing to the attention of the audience a strong understanding of possible flaws. Threats and countermeasures is quite the opposite in that it suggests no definite solutions are available, and with the rapid rate of increase of viruses, it will be hard to counter every problem. This suggestion is backed up by, ’Some new viruses are self modifying so that each new copy is slightly different from the previous one, making it difficult to protect the computer.’(Computers in your future , 1, Chapter 10, pg. 6)

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