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Preparing for your digital life in the 21st Century
Preparing for your digital life in the 21st Century

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3.2 Ethical and legal considerations

[Break point. This would be a good point to take a break if you need to do something else before returning later.] In using a computer for communications you have many rights of free expression, but you also have certain responsibilities to respect others and to have some awareness of privacy and confidentiality in relation to online communications. You should be aware of the following points:

  • An email is generally considered to be equivalent to a private letter, and should not be quoted or forwarded to anyone else without the permission of the original sender. This can be particularly poorly observed in companies (even those whose employees are told to assume that all online communications are for the recipient’s eyes only, unless otherwise stated).
  • Besides the informal rules of netiquette, most forums have a code of conduct and conditions of use that govern acceptable behaviour. For example, the use of the online forums provided by The Open University is covered by its Computing Code of Conduct. You will usually find a forum’s terms of use linked from its home page, or listed in the code of conduct that you are asked to agree to when you first register for an account.
  • Considerations of copyright and plagiarism (cheating by using another person’s work as if it were your own) apply to online discussions. If you are quoting something written by someone else, put it in quotation marks and acknowledge the source.
  • Some forums are not wholly public, in which case messages should not be copied outside the forum. The forum’s terms of use may specify this.