Cyber Citizenship

You are the most effective way to protect your identity. If you are concerned you may have fallen victim to an Identity Theft, contact IT Services immediately.

When we plug into the internet or the cellular networks, we instantly become full-fledged members of a worldwide community.  We will have instant access to every other person who is also wandering around in that world. Immediate access, physical distance and the perceived anonymity of the cyber world may cause humans no end of trouble.

To be a good cyber citizen, we need to know what that actually means. Citizenship is the rights, privileges and duties conferred on a member of a society. It most often includes both protections (e.g., the Bill of Rights) and duties (e.g., obeying the law, contributing to the community). Cyber citizenship is the rights, privileges and responsibilities required of internet and cellular network users.

Cyber Rights

Cyber citizenship is based on the general concept of citizenship but differs in a couple of ways. First, there are no real “rights” you have as a cyber citizen other than the legal protections you already have as an actual citizen. Moreover, some of those are not available due to the global nature of the cyber world. Nevertheless, every citizen of the cyber world should have the right to respect, privacy and their own opinion. We have the right to privacy.

While the cyber world does not have a bill of constitutionally protected rights, we should still be required to respect certain unalienable rights:

  • Life: Right for fair and reasonable treatment online. In the cyber world, the right to life is primarily about being treated in a civil and respectful manner. This means interacting with people in a considerate, tolerant and appropriate way. This right also includes freedom from threats to life or person-hood.
  • Liberty: Right to basic freedoms. Respect for online freedom should be similar to those enshrined by our constitution, especially the Bill of Rights. We should respect and expect privacy, safety and equal treatment regardless of sex, religion or sexual orientation.  We should also honor other’s property.
  • Pursuit of Happiness: Right to explore personal interests without undue interference.

Cyber Privileges

It is a privilege to have access to the internet. It is a privilege to have the technology that allows us access to the internet and cellular networks.

Cyber Responsibilities

It is a privilege to have access to the internet. It is a privilege to have the technology that allows us access to the internet and cellular networks.

Responsibility is really at the heart of cyber citizenship. To be responsible, we need to be informed about the cyber world. We also need to know about how to remain safe and protect ourselves online. Another area of responsibility is to obey the law and we are responsible for being considerate and well-mannered citizens.

Cyber citizenship is probably more accurately characterized as civil behavior. There are certain ways civilized human beings should behave toward others.


The most important area of respect we should demonstrate as a cyber citizen is for the law. There are several legal issues related to online activity. The first is intellectual property rights. This includes the written word, ideas and products like music. This area is protected by federal copyrights, patent and trademarks laws. If you download music without paying for it, you have violated the property rights of the artist.

Cyber Stalking

Another area that has legal protections is cyber harassment and bullying or cyber stalking. These laws are primarily enacted by state legislatures. Most states have anti cyber harassment laws. Threatening, harassing or intimidating someone through electronic means violates that person’s rights to be free from harassment.

Pornography also is regulated by law. For the most part that means insuring that it is not child pornography. Most other forms of pornography occupy a grey area that is in part protected as free speech and in part whether it violates community standards of decency. This pretty much means it is unregulated. A more recent aspect of pornography is what has been called revenge porn. For people over 18, a slimy former partner or, as likely, someone who has hacked your kid’s account, may provide nude images to sites that solicit this kind of material. It can be done without the consent of the person in the images.

Finally, there are laws about identity theft both at the federal and state level. Making creating a false web sites under another person’s name and otherwise using their personally identifying information is both a federal and state crime.

Cyber Crimes

So, here is a summary of things that are against the law:

  • Copyright infringement
  • Plagiarism
  • Downloading songs you didn’t purchase
  • Profiting from others’ creative efforts or products
  • Bullying and harassment
  • Child pornography (including sexting)
  • Internet stalking
  • Identity theft
Cyber Identity

There are a range of ways we can be identified and recognized online. It starts with the online names we use for various accounts as well as our online addresses (e.g., email, texting number, social media accounts, etc.). Then, there are the more traditional forms of identity such as name, home town, school they attend, home address, or phone number. We may also be identified by their date of birth and social security number. Each computer or device that accesses the internet or cellular network has a unique IP address that can be used to identify that device (and potentially the user of that device). Finally, we can also establish a cyber identity through credit and debit card numbers used to make online purchases.

Cyber Foot-printing

Every time we go online or transmit anything over a cellular network, we leave a trace of that activity. This is known as a cyber footprint. There are generally two kinds of cyber footprints. The first is an intentional footprint; things they have knowingly posted or entered online. Consider this something like putting your shoe prints in wet cement that dries into a permanent trail. Intentional footprints include things like:

  • Photos
  • Videos (e.g., Youtube, Vimeo, Vine, Skype, Facetime)
  • Texting
  • Social media accounts (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Chatroulette, blogs like Tumblr)
  • Comments posted on other sites
  • Emails
  • Tagged photos on other user accounts
  • Apps (e.g., Pinterest, Snapchat, Instagram)
  • Purchases and other transactions

Then, there are unintentional footprints we leave in cyber space. Unintentional footprints include such things as cookies, search engine metrics and social media tracking.

Cyber Property

Anything that is posted online automatically becomes the copyright protected product of the creator. This includes music, photos, videos and written material. The creator of these products doesn’t have to formally register it with the US Office of Copyrights or with the United States Patent and Trademarks Office. Use of these products, particularly for monetary gain, requires permission of the copyright owner.

Relational Aggression

The internet and cellular networks can be used to express frustration, anger and cruelty to other people. The most common form of relational aggression is represented by insensitive comments, crude and awkward remarks or attempts at playful humor. The inability to read the nonverbal social cues when making or receiving playfully insulting or sarcastic remarks can result in misunderstandings about the real intent of the remarks or the reactions of the recipient.

Cyber communication can also be used to intentionally bully, intimidate, harass or threaten other people. Through speaking directly online to another person or by using the social networks to speak about another person, the internet provides another forum for the age old attempts to be mean and cruel to another person. It is also a means through which someone can act to harm another person by sending malicious programs to damage their hardware or software. It is possible to steal content from someone’s computer that can be used to try to embarrass or humiliate them. And, most disturbingly, it is possible to use technology to create false images and information that is then attributed to the target of the aggression.

If you need more information about Cyber Citizenship, please call IT Services.

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