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Assignment: Report on Legal and Ethical Issues for Web Applications
In this assignment you will write a short report on the legal and/or ethical issues related to running a modern web application. The assignment requires that you carry out your own research on this topic and summarise it in your report. There will be two submissions. In the first you will nominate a few resources that you will use and identify the focus of your report. In the second you will submit your full report.
I am involved in a small startup company developing FlowTow which we hope will revolutionise the world of online images and make us very rich (this is just imaginary, by the way :-). The technical team is almost finished with the main features that will launch as version 1 of the application. I have been asked to review the ethical and legal issues that might impact on the company's launch and management of this application. The rest of the team is a bit vague on what is required, but they've heard that some startup companies have got into legal trouble because they didn't understand what they were required to do by law or where there legal responsibilities lie. They are also very keen to be seen as an ethical company and so want to understand what best ethical practice is in this context.
This is a big topic and there's no way I can do this all myself within the timeframe. Luckily I have a team of interns (you) who are keen to show off their research skills and attack part of the problem for me. Your job is to take some aspect of the legal or ethical landscape and write a summary report on the possible impact on our operation.
The one addition we have made to the FlowTow application is that users are able to post comments on images once they have logged in.
The functionality that will be part of our system is as follows:
• FlowTow is a web service that supports users uploading images and making comments on images
• Users must login to post images and comments, all images and comments are associated with a user and their username is displayed alongside the images and comments
• When users register we require that they give us their email address, full name (no pseudonyms), age, gender and the city and country they live in
• We have been very thorough about security, no HTML content is allowed in comments to prevent cross-site-scripting attacks
Listed below are four legal and four ethical issues relating to running the FlowTow! web application. There might be some overlap between these two as the ethical questions might have legal implications and vice versa. Your task is to take one issue from each list, research them and write a summary report on your findings.
Your report should be evidence based - I don't just want your opinion on these issues, I want to know what the real legal position is. In the case of the ethical issues, your opinion will come across in your report but you should still reference what other companies are doing in your report.
Note that you won't find answers to these questions in the notes for COMP249. This assignment requires you to do your own research and find relevant resources and interpret them for your report. This is a learning exercise as much as an assessment task. I will provide some initial pointers but your job is to go beyond them to find the answers.
1. Copyright. What policies do we have if users upload images where the copyright belongs to others? Do users waive their own copyright over images so that the images can be freely used by others? Is copyright on images retained by uploader, or assigned to our site? Who is responsible for copyright infringements, either uploading or downloading from the site? Is a copyright notice required somewhere?
2. Requirements for data privacy given that we will be keeping personal data on our users and website owners.
3. Any issues relating to our liability if there is a defamation case arising from a image or comment posted on our system. That is, what happens when someone insults somebody else - what are our responsibilities and how can we best protect ourselves against litigation.
4. What contracts may be needed with third parties who want to pay us for services such as advertising, etc.
1. How should we deal with complaints about comments made on our system? Complaints might come from website users or organisations that are mentioned in them. Complaints might request that certain comments be removed or modified. Who is responsible here - is it FlowTow or the author of the comment?
2. What policies do we have for the uploading of offensive images, whether violent, vilifying, or pornographic? Do we need to restrict access according to age or other criteria?
3. There are other things we could do with the user information we have since we have large numbers of comments made by users that might give clues to their interests etc. This would be valuable information to any marketing organisation. What can we do and what should we do?
4. We'd like to provide an option to run custom advertising based on the user profile derived from our user comment database. Is this ok? What is best-practice in using client data to generate customised advertising?
words: 1200 words.
Number of Ref: above 4.