Political processes
Online campaigning, voting, lobbying, fund-raising and advertising.
Government information sites
For example, travel warnings, tourist information, environmental information and warnings, government policies, city government websites.
Access to, and updating of, personal information held on government databases
Collection, storage and updating of personal data: for example, driving licence, TV licence, tax returns, passport applications and renewals,
medical records, military service records, social security information, online police records.
Government control and use of information
Censorship, data matching across agencies, archiving, biometric data, national identity cards.
Law and order
Police surveillance, terrorist monitoring, DNA data.
Cyberwarfare, smart weapons, espionage, battlefield technology.

Political processes

Government information sites

Many governments now use the Internet to provide citizens with access to advice, services, and information about government operations.

The Internet allows access to a much wider range of information than would be possible with paper based documents gives 24 hour access to government services, and means information can be updated more readily.

Media rich government information sites offer advice on topics ranging from health to tax and student finance.

Tim Berners-Lee: The year open data went worldwide
Why Open Government is So Crucial To Our Society - Martha Mendoza

Open Government in action

Take a look at - this UK government site gives everyone access to government data through a set of open standards including such datasets as - crime statistics, housing statistics and ordnance survey maps and in the USA Obama's open Government initiative - Obama's government is opening all datasets to the public through this initiative. 

Also in the USA charts the progress of the government in implementing the 2009 Recovery Act. The website provides information on how money is being spent, displays maps of local projects to stimulate growth, and allows citizens to report suspected governmental fraud, waste or abuse. Also view other USA sites like,

Online government services can have many positive impacts, but equality of access is also a major issue. Warning over 'us and them' online services (BBC) discusses potential problems with the UK government's online service provision.

Some government sites to examine for policies (notice how they vary in design and content):

Government Information Sites Assignment

Access to, and updating of, personal information held on government databases

Government databases: DNA databases

DNA databases are used by some governments to store DNA samples taken from people arrested or convicted of a crime.CODIS (Combined DNA Index System) is operated by the FBI, and the UK's National Criminal Intelligence DNA Database are the two largest DNA databases in the world. Their web pages explain some of the issues and impacts of DNA databases.

DNA Database: Key case studies (BBC) highlights some of the successes (and failures) of DNA databases in solving old crimes.

Accuracy (data integrity) is a critical issue in any database:Outrage at 500,000 DNA database mistakes (The Telegraph) discusses problems with the UK's National DNA Database.

Another related issue is the possibility of 'genetic profiling' - i.e. discriminating against people (for example, for employment or insurance purposes) based on genetic markers that may indicate susceptibility to particular diseases.

Government databases: Citizen information

Governments routinely (and necessarily) collect and store data about their citizens. However, large, connected computerised databases open the door for new possibilities - good and bad. 

In some cases, electronic databases simply offer a quicker way to perform tasks that have long been possible - though privacy concerns may still be raised.. The ATF Wants 'Massive' Online Database to Find Out Who Your Friends Are, for example, discusses a large database requested by the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) to help with criminal investigations. 

U.S. Terrorism agency to tap a vast database of citizens (Wall Stret Journal) details a March 2012 proposal - which was passed into law - allowing the National Counterterrorism Center to examine government data on citizens even if they were not suspected of a crime.

Government control and use of information

Exercise 14.1: Internet filtering, censorship, and surveillance

Reporters without Borders and the Open Network Initiative (ONI) both maintain up to date information about global Internet surveillance and censorship. In addition, the following articles are useful for stimulating conversation about types of appropriate and inappropriate content, and whether government control of the internet is appropriate. Increasingly search engines, social networks, and other web sites may also be asked to block access to certain content - either locally or globally. The news articles below provide examples of this type of filtering:

Law and order

Law and Order Assignment

Local law enforcement increasingly relies on technology to investigate, research, and solve crimes. While the fundamentals of policing remain the same, methodologies have changed with the times. Many of the new technology tools bring up ethical concerns.

Your assignment will be to create a storyboard about one of the given topics below. Use the attached file storyboard.pdf to gain an understanding of HOW you will create your one page storyboard of the topic. Be sure to use graphics, talk about ethical/social concerns, identify stakeholders, and cover the topic is as much detail as you can. Write 1 TOK style question for each section of your page (ex: "To what extent do CCTV's violate personal privacy?" or "to what extent do offender databases prevent crime?")

You will give a 2-3 minute presentation on your storyboard (which will be projected on the classroom screen). The purpose of your presentation will be to identify the tech involved, identify the stakeholders, and tell the class about social/ethical concerns. You will also be expected to provide possible solutions to ethical issues.

Police use of IT: Risk profiling and crime prediction

Crime predictionSince 2001 governments and airports have invested huge sums of money in systems to detect potential terrorist threats. Software which analyses passengers' data to establish their 'risk score' is explained in Risk profiling software tackles the terrorist threat (BBC), while Airport Screening Concerns Civil Liberties Groups (NY Times) discusses the inherent concerns about profiling and privacy. Finally, Deception Is Futile When Big Brother's Lie Detector Turns Its Eyes on You (Wired) details software that can - relatively accurately - detect liars at border control points.

A similar technological development is 'predictive policing': the use of software and large amounts of data to make predictions about where crimes might occur - and even who might commit them - before they happen. Predicting crime - a step towards a safer world? (BBC) is a good resource for introducing this topic, while Wired explains how U.S. Cities are Relying on Precog Software to Predict Murder (Wired). Students will also enjoy watching IBM's video Predictive Analytics - Police Use Analytics to Reduce Crime.

Police use of IT: Crime mapping tools

Crime mapSeveral sites provide online crime mapping data. The UK police run Local Crime and Policing information - just type in the name of any UK town or village. Website plots area Crime-by-Crime(BBC) explains the site in more detail. is another site that maps crimes in the UK, US, and Canada. Trulia Crime Maps covers the US, creating 'heatmaps' of different crime types.

Online crime mapping clearly raises several ITGS social and ethical issues: the article Will crime maps work? (BBC) discusses some of the potential impacts. Online offender databases, which go one step further and include the personal details of offenders on their sites, are covered below.

Police use of IT: Offender databases

Offender databasesFamily Watchdog lists details of sex offenders living in the community (US), while the Michigan Public Sex Offender Registry (PSOR)contains records of sex offenders in the state of Michigan.Florida Department of Corrections Offender Database has online records of prison inmates, released inmates, and fugitives. TheSensible Sentencing Trust is a similar database of offenders in New Zealand - interestingly this is not operated by the government, which could raise further issues related to privacy and integrity.

Mugged by a Mug Shot Online (NY Times) discusses some of the potential long term ramifications of exposing such data.

Police use of IT: Surveillance tools / Smart CCTV

Smart CCTVAlthough regular CCTV is not an IT System in the context of ITGS, Smart CCTV, which combines video images with artificial intelligence software that looks for 'suspicious' behaviour, is - and its use raises some important ITGS issues - including surveillance and privacy.  Chicago video surveillance gets smart(CBSNews) and City Gets 'Crime detecting' CCTV (BBC) both discuss this relatively new phenomenon. This brief video from New Scientist is also a good resource.

Meet the face of Big Brother in NSW is a very worrying article about similar technology that is currently being applied in New South Wales, building biometric templates of citizens' faces from CCTV footage  - without their permission. The wall that knows whether you're a criminal (PCPro) discusses a similar system.

The Telegraph reports that Brazilian police will use 'Robocop-style' glasses at the 2014 World Cup.

Police use of IT: Surveillance tools / ANPR

ANPR technologyThames Valley Police - Road SafetyANPR technology in Plymouth police cars (video) and New Technology Targets Criminals (BBC) explain another new technology being used by the police and private businesses alike - Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR). ANPR uses OCR technology to read car number plates and automatically look them up in a database - perhaps a database of suspect vehicles or a database of authorised vehicles in a secure car park. Your Car is Being Watched (WSJ) explains that both the police and private companies are using this technology, even if cars are not suspected of wrongdoing.
In Are You Being Tracked (ACLU) warns about high-speed cameras that capture your record your licence plate and the civil liberty issues surrounding the issue.

Police use of IT: Surveillance tools / Cell phone tracking

Cell phone tracking'Stingrays' are devices that impersonate a cell phone tower to trick phones into connecting to them, allowing traffic to be captured. How 'Stingray' Devices Work (Wall Street Journal) discusses the privacy and surveillance issues related to their use. In A Police Gadget Tracks Phones? Shhh! It's Secret (NY Times) discus the secretive nature of Stingray.

Washington state will now require a warrant (The Verge) for law enforcement to use Stingray.

Police use of IT: GPS offender monitoring and tracking

GPS offender monitoringPrison without Walls is an excellent article about the use of GPS trackers to monitor paroled offenders. It covers the technical aspects of the system (Strand 3: IT Systems) plus the plethora of impacts and issues (Strand 1), including economic impacts and psychological impacts. However, according to the LA Timesand The Atlantic, some of these ankle GPS trackers have serious reliability and security issues which mean prisoners have been able to disable them. 

SecureAlertGPS Monitoring Solutions, and G4S are all companies that develop and supply offender tracking technology - their home pages include a lot of detail and examples about how the systems work and their impacts. 


Cyberwarfare... composed of an attack or a compromise of a computer-based system. Rather than using bullets and bombs, the warriors in these confrontations use bits and bytes. Using the current technology, hackers find weaknesses in their targets and exploit them. There are three major sectors targeted by most nations involved in cyberwarfare:

Advantages Life saving military uses: Disadvantages 

Social and Ethical impacts


With highly advanced technology, hackers can shut down the victim’s firewall making his computer system more susceptible to attacks. Companies under these kinds of attack tend to have a hard time recovering the vital data that have been stolen; restricting the company from expanding. Because the Net is not regulated by the government, it is up to these private companies to ensure the safety of their networks. In a bigger scale, by infiltrating the enemy’s nuclear system, a hacker can cause global destruction by initiating a nuclear warfare. 

Main concerns in this category are: