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Dealing with new ethical issues on the Internet.

Cybersins and Digital Good Deeds: A Book About Technology and Ethics by Mary Ann Bell, Bobby Ezell, and James L. Van Roekel New York: Haworth Press, 2007 ISBN: 978-0-7890-2954-6 $22.95, softcover 187 pages

As information professionals, we deal with ethical issues all the time. Privacy, copyright, and plagiarism have been important library concerns for years. But lately, technology and the Internet have brought a rush of new issues to us. How can we be safe and responsible with the Internet and guide our users to do the same? This book tries to help us understand some of the issues and formulate strategies to deal with them.

Collaborators Mary Ann Bell, Bobby Ezell, and James Van Roekel work at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas. Bell is an assistant professor in the department of library science, where she teaches classes on technology and librarianship; Ezell, an assistant professor for instructional technology in the College of Education, has also worked in K-12 education; and Van Roekel, who is director of academic instructional technology and distance learning, has an academic focus on developing applications for Web-based broadcasting and distance learning. Together, these three educators have compiled an interesting collection.

While not comprehensive, this book includes many of the strange (and often bad) things that can happen on the Internet. The 94 brief entries (usually one or two pages each) are included in alphabetical order. They range in topic from Advertising at School to Wikis and from AMBER Alerts to Worms. Most entries have a bibliography, even if it's just one entry.

Pushing Email Chain Mail

A number of the entries discuss interesting Internet phenomena and how to handle them. These include Sympathy Hoaxes, such as the continuing plea for get-well cards from a young boy with cancer. Perhaps you have even received an email about this once or many times. Or maybe you have received other spurious chain emails. Additional entries along these lines include Spam and Hoaxes.

Another category of entries explores unique new issues created by electronic communication on the Internet. One of these is Disinhibition, or the way that people's communication is "loosened up" online. This freedom from previous boundaries "should be clearly explained to young people and new Internet users." Flame Wars can be related to this issue. Flamers may say things that they would never say in person and don't take the time to consider their responses.

The Importance of Privacy

Other entries describe capabilities of new technology. These include Distance Learning Content Sharing, Digital Rights Management (DRM), and Napster. Computers and the Internet have made copying and sharing information even easier, leading to lawsuits and legislation. A number of laws have their own entries as well, such as the Child Pornography Prevention Act and the USA PATRIOT Act. Many entries serve as warnings about illegal or shady Internet activities that users should be aware of while using sites. Some of these describe Phishing, Spyware, and Identity Theft. Since we realize that privacy on the Internet is an important concern, the topic is discussed in entries for Keystroke Logging, GPS, and Encryption.

All the information presented in the book is helpful. However, it is certainly not all-inclusive or well-organized. For example, while cookies are mentioned in several entries, there is no separate entry for cookies explaining what they are and how they work. There were also some repetitive entries--for example, Crackers Lamers and Phreaks, Hackers Crackers and Hacking, and Phreaking, which could have been combined somehow. There aren't any cross-references between entries (e.g., File Swapping, see also Napster, or Junk Mail, see Spam).

This book would probably be more useful if chapters were offered on distinct topics, such as ways that Internet usage can be monitored or cybercrimes to watch. The authors obviously are quite knowledgeable about the Internet and its use. However, the information here is presented in a relatively random fashion, neither organized by subject nor as a true encyclopedic resource from A to Z. It is easy to read, but I didn't come away feeling like I had learned much or been challenged to think about technology issues. A number of the citations and issues discussed are somewhat out-of-date as well. For example, the bibliography for the entry on Movie Duplication has no citations after 2004, but I'm sure there have been developments since then.

All in all, this is not a bad light read, but I'm not sure I would buy it. The entire idea of getting up-to-date technology information from a book (which takes a year or more to get published) is flawed. At this point, it's better to use magazines, email, and blogs to keep up with new developments.

Gwen M. Gregory is head of bibliographic services at Colorado College's Tutt Library. Her email address is ggregory@colo radocollege.edu. Send your comments about this column to itletters@infotoday.com.
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Title Annotation:Cover Notes; Cybersins and Digital Good Deeds: A Book About Technology and Ethics
Author:Gregory, Gwen M.
Publication:Information Today
Article Type:Book review
Date:Jun 1, 2007
Words:811
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