Society, Law, and Ethics: Societal Impacts – Notes

Societal Impacts


  • Digital Footprints
  • Digital society and Netizen: net etiquettes, communication etiquettes, social media etiquettes
  • Data protection: Intellectual Property Right (copyright, patent, trademark), violation of IPR (plagiarism, copyright infringement, trademark infringement), open source softwares and licensing (Creative Commons, GPL and Apache)
  • Cyber-crime: definition, hacking, eavesdropping, phishing and fraud emails, ransomware, preventing cyber crime
  • Cyber safety: safely browsing the web, identity protection, confidentiality, cyber trolls and bullying.
  • Safely accessing web sites: malware, viruses, trojans, adware
  • E-waste management: proper disposal of used electronic gadgets
  • Indian Information Technology Act (IT Act)
  • Technology & Society: Gender and disability issues while teaching and using computers

Digital Footprint:

Whenever we surf the Internet using smartphones, tablets, computers, etc., we leave a trail of data reflecting the activities performed by us online, which is our digital footprint.

Our digital footprint can be created and used with or without our knowledge. It includes websites we visit, emails we send, and any information we submit online, etc., along with the computer’s IP address, location, and other device specific details. Such data could be used for targeted advertisement or could also be misused or exploited. Thus, it is good to be aware of the data trail we might be leaving behind.

Types of Digital Footprint:

There are two kinds of digital footprints we leave behind.

Active Digital Footprints: which includes data that we intentionally submit online. This would include emails we write, or responses or posts we make on different websites or mobile Apps, etc.

Passive Digital Footprints: The digital data trail we leave online unintentionally is called passive digital footprints. This includes the data generated when we visit a website, use a mobile App, browse Internet, etc.

Most of our digital footprints are stored in servers where the applications are hosted. We may not have access to remove or erase that data, neither do we have any control on how that data will be used. Therefore, once a data trail is generated, even if we later try to erase data about our online activities, the digital footprints still remain.

There is no guarantee that digital footprints will be fully eliminated from the Internet. Therefore, we need to be more cautious while being online!

All our online activities leave a data trace on the Internet as well as on the computing device that we use.

Digital Footprint can be used to trace the user, his/her location, device and other usage details.

Digital Society

Digital society thus reflects the growing trend of using digital technologies in all spheres of human activities. But while online, all of us need to be aware of how to conduct ourselves, how best to relate with others and what ethics, morals and values to maintain.


Anyone who uses digital technology along with Internet is a digital citizen or a netizen.

Being a good netizen means practicing safe, ethical and legal use of digital technology.

A responsible netizen must abide by net etiquettes, communication etiquettes and social media etiquettes.

Net Etiquettes

We follow certain etiquettes during our social interactions.

(A) Be Ethical

i) No copyright violation: we should not use copyrighted materials without the permission of the creator or owner.

ii) Share the expertise: it is good to share information and knowledge on Internet so that others    can access it.

(B) Be Respectful

   i) Respect privacy: as good digital citizens we have the right to privacy and the freedom of

personal expression. At the same time, we have to understand that other digital citizens also have the same rights and freedoms.

We should respect this privacy and should not share those images, documents, files, etc., with any other digital citizen without each other’s’ consent.

(C) Be Responsible

Avoid cyber bullying: any insulting, degrading or intimidating online behaviour like repeated posting of rumours, giving threats online, posting the victim’s personal information, sexual harassment or comments aimed to publicly ridicule a victim is termed as cyber bullying.

Cyber Bullying : It implies repeatedly targeting someone with intentions to hurt or embarrass.

Don’t feed the troll: an Internet troll is a person who deliberately sows discord on the Internet by starting quarrels or upsetting people, by posting inflammatory or off topic messages in an online community, just for amusement.

The best way to discourage trolls is not to pay any attention to their comments.

Communication Etiquettes

Digital communication includes email, texting, instant messaging, talking on the cell phone, audio or video conferencing, posting on forums, social networking sites, etc. All these are great ways to connect with people in order to exchange ideas, share data and knowledge.

(A) Be Precise

Respect time: we should not waste precious time in responding to unnecessary emails or comments unless they have some relevance to us

Respect data limits: For concerns related to data and bandwidth, very large attachments may be avoided. Rather send compressed files.

(B) Be Polite

We should be polite and non-aggressive in our communication. We should avoid being abusive even if we don’t agree with others’ points of view.

Whether the communication is synchronous (happening in real time like chat, audio/video calls) or asynchronous (like email, forum post, or comments)

(C) Be Credible

We should be cautious while making a comment, replying or writing an email or forum post as such acts decide our credibility over a period of time.

Social Media Etiquettes

Social media are websites or applications that enable their users to participate in social networking by creating and sharing content with others in the community. These platforms encourage users to share their thoughts and experiences through posts or pictures.

(A) Be Secure

Choose passwords wisely: it is vital for social network users. Never share personal credentials like username and password with others.

Know who you befriend: social networks usually encourage connecting with users (making friends), sometimes even those whom we don’t know or have not met. However, we need to be careful while befriending unknown people as their intentions possibly could be malicious and unsafe.

Beware of fake information: fake news, messages, and posts are common on social networks. As a user, we should be aware of them. With experience, we should be able to figure out whether a news, message or post is genuine or fake. Thus, we should not blindly believe in everything that we come across on such platforms,

(B) Be Reliable

Think before uploading: we can upload almost anything on social network. However, remember that once uploaded, it is always there in the remote server even if we delete the files.

Data Protection

Data or information protection is mainly about the privacy of data stored digitally.

Sensitive Data: Elements of data that can cause substantial harm, embarrassment,  inconvenience, and unfairness to an individual, if breached or compromised. Examples of sensitive data include biometric information, health information, financial information, or other personal documents, images or audio, or videos.

Privacy of sensitive data can be implemented by – encryption, authentication, and other secure methods to ensure that such data is accessible only.

Intellectual Property Rights (IPR)

Intellectual Property: if someone comes out with a new idea, this original idea is that person’s intellectual property.

Intellectual Property refers to inventions, literary and artistic expressions, designs and symbols, names, and logos.

The ownership of such concepts lies with the creator or the holder of the intellectual property. This enables the creator or copyright owner to earn recognition or financial benefit by using their creation or invention.

Intellectual Property is legally protected through copyrights, patents, trademarks, etc.


Copyright grants legal rights to creators for their original works like writing, photograph, audio recordings, video, sculptures, architectural works, computer software, and other creative works like literary and artistic work.

Copyrights are automatically granted to creators and authors. Copyright law gives the copyright holder a set of rights that they alone can avail legally.

The rights include:-

  • right to copy (reproduce) a work,
  • right to create derivative works based upon it,
  • right to distribute copies of the work to the public, and
  • right to publicly display or perform the work.

It prevents others from copying, using, or selling the work.

It would be an infringement of the writer’s copyright if someone used parts of the novel without permission.

To use others copyrighted material, one needs to obtain a license from them.


A patent is usually granted for inventions.

Unlike copyright, the inventor needs to apply (file) for patenting the invention.

When a patent is granted, the owner gets an exclusive right to prevent others from using, selling, or distributing the protected invention.

A patent gives full control to the patentee to decide whether or how the invention can be used by others.

Thus it encourages inventors to share their scientific or technological findings with others.

A patent protects an invention for 20 years, after which it can be freely used.

Recognition and/or financial benefit foster the right environment, and provide motivation for more creativity and innovation.


Trademark includes any visual symbol, word, name, design, slogan, label, etc., that distinguishes the brand or commercial enterprise, from other brands or commercial enterprises.

For example, no company other than Bata can use the Bata brand to sell shoes or clothes.

It also prevents others from using a confusingly similar mark, including words or phrases. For example, confusing brands like “Nikke” cannot be used.

However, it may be possible to apply for the Nike trademark for unrelated goods like notebooks.

Violation of IPR

Violation of intellectual property right may happen in one of the following ways:


Presenting someone else’s idea or work as one’s own idea or work is called plagiarism.

If we copy some contents from Internet, but do not mention the source or the original creator, then it is considered as an act of plagiarism.

If someone derives an idea or a product from an already existing idea or product, but instead presents it a new idea, then also it is plagiarism.

It is a serious ethical offense and sometimes considered as an act of fraud. Even if we take contents that are open for public use, we should cite the author or source to avoid plagiarism.

Copyright Infringement

Copyright infringement is when we use other person’s work without obtaining their permission to use or we have not paid for it, if it is being sold.

Suppose we download an image from the Internet and use it in our project. But if the owner of the copyright of the image does not permit its free usage, then using such an image even after giving reference of the image in our project is a violation of copyright.

Hence, check the copyright status of writer’s work before using it to avoid plagiarism.

Trademark Infringement

Trademark Infringement means unauthorized use of other’s trademark on products and services.

An owner of a trademark may commence legal proceedings against someone who infringes its registered trademark.

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