Assessed 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.
Imagine: I am involved in a small startup company developing a shopping web application which we hope will revolutionise online shopping and make us very rich. 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
legalissues 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 their 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 an executive summary on the possible impact on our operation.
The functionality that will be part of our system is as follows:
- The online shopping application allows shoppers to login to the application and create a user profile where they can set their shopping preferences and payment options.
- The shoppers can use the application to search for products and find shops that provide the products, sorted by a secret algorithm that combines delivery time, price, the reputation of the product, and the reputation of the company.
- The shoppers can use the application to complete the transaction by providing their credit card information.
- The shoppers have the option to store the credit card information in their user profile.
- The application keeps track of the past shopping made by the customer and uses this information to recommend new products.
- Users can post reviews of the products and comment on their shopping experience with each shop. This information is then used by a secret algorithm that computes the reputation of the products and companies.
- When shoppers register we require that they give us theiremail address,full name(no pseudonyms),age,genderand thecityandcountrythey live in.
Listed below are four legal and four ethical issues relating to running the shopping 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 this course.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.
Please keep in mind that
we are launching in Australiaand you need to consider Australian law in your report.
- Requirements fordata privacygiven that we will be keeping personal and financial data on shoppers.
- Any issues relating to our liability if there is adefamationcase arising from a review or comment on a shop posted on our system. That is, what happens when someone defames a shop – what are our responsibilities and how can we best protect ourselves against litigation.
- Any issues relating to illegal communication. For example material that vilifies or constitutes communication with identified terrorist groups.
- What contracts may be needed with shops who we want to charge for services.
- How should we deal with complaints about comments or reviews posted on our system, even those that are not illegal? Complaints might come from employers or organisations that are mentioned in them. Complaints might request that certain comments be removed or modified. Who is responsible here – is it the maintainer of the web application or the author of the comment?
- What policies do we have for advertising products that might be illegal or ethically dubious?
- There are other things we could do with the user information we have since we have large numbers of user profiles and a record of their activities 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?
- We’d like to provide an option to run custom advertising based on the user profiles. Is this ok? What is best-practice in using client data to generate customised advertising?
Your report should be 800-1500 words all-together. Your report should be evidence based and you must include citations of all of the resources you use in putting your report together. Further, your report should provide summaries of resources that you have found that are relevant to the question under discussion; so, for example, if you find an article describing a case of litigation against a company running a web application, include a summary of that article in your report as well as providing your interpretation of the implications for our startup.
You must stick to the limit of 1500 words.The aim is to write an executive summary, not an essay.
The final submission is due on Friday, 7th June 2019, 11:55 PM.
A suggested structure for each part of your report is as follows:
- Introduction, a brief expansion on the question that you’ve addressed.
- Resources, a summary of the resources that you’ve found that are relevant.
- Discussion, a discussion of the question with reference to the resources – this is the main part of your analysis or argument as to what we have to or should do.
- Summary, a brief recap of your main points.
You can write the four sections separately but it would be an advantage if you could draw them together in an overall conclusion/recommendation.
The marks will be assigned as follows:
- Quality of writing– is the report readable and understandable, good grammar, spelling, presentation.
- Use of resources– how relevant and useful are the resources that you’ve identified, have you cited them properly.
- Completeness– did you address one legal and one ethical issue fully, does your report add to my understanding of the issue.
- Interpretation– did you understand the resources that you found, does your report provide a good interpretation of their relevance to our application.
- Argument– does your report provide a good, cohesive structure that embodies a useful argument for or against a particular way of doing things – that is, does it give us enough information to make decisions on how to proceed.
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