Individual Legal and Ethical Assignment

Abstract

            Identity theft has already turned into criminal epidemic that threatens the stability of all national, regional, and local software systems - Individual Legal and Ethical Assignment introduction. Ethics and confidentiality are the two major issues within the area of online therapy services. Attentiveness, awareness, and responsibility are the three indispensable elements of successful online interactions that do not threaten one’s security.

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Individual Legal and Ethical Assignment

            Identity Theft IQ tests

            Identity theft has already turned into criminal epidemic that threatens the stability of all national, regional, and local software systems. Identity theft threatens reliability and security of personal financial operations; it requires attentiveness, double check and control of all operations that involve the use of personal data. Having sufficient knowledge and being aware of dangerous consequences identity theft causes, I was surprised to see the results of several identity theft IQ quizzes (Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, 2008). These tests have revealed the hidden facets of identity theft and have identified the most problematic areas which I need to address, in order to decrease the risk of being victimized.

            According to the results of my IQ identity test, my chances to become the victim of identity theft are about average, and there are several reasons to that. First, I have not ordered a copy of my credit reports for at least two years. I have a full set of credit records, and I personally record all credit operations I have performed; however, I never thought that checking my personal credit records was so important to prevent my identity theft.

Second, the company with which I regularly work does not possess any crisis management plan for preventing and minimizing the consequences of possible identity theft. Sometimes, the company tends to ask for more information than absolutely necessary, and does not notify customers about the facts of security breaches that involve sensitive information. As a result, the company puts my personal information under risk. Although I am unable to control the company’s actions and to guarantee that the company cares for my security, I can prevent other types of online crimes that threaten my security, including phishing. Phishing is a widely spread means of identity theft; one should possess sound skills to distinguish authentic websites from those which hunt for others’ personal information. The test has provided me with the invaluable information: authentic companies never email their customers asking for their personal information (SSN, passwords, etc.). That is why any mail containing similar requests should be immediately deleted.

            Online therapy

            Online therapy is a successful instrument of online business, where medical professionals have a chance to earn good money, and online users have an opportunity to consult medical professionals without leaving their house or workplace. “Online counseling is simply communicating with a qualified, professional counselor / therapist by email or chat through your computer” (Sunrise Counseling, 2008). The majority of online therapy websites offer several types of counseling services and offer a variety of possible solutions for users’ psychological problems.

            Online therapy websites are characterized by similar content, have similar professionals involved, and offer similar types of therapeutic (counseling) procedures. Traditionally, such websites provide more or less detailed information about online therapy, its advantages and disadvantages, and the types of counseling interactions they offer (chat, email, or both). All websites provide a system of fees and services, discuss the means of payment, and briefly refer to issues of confidentiality and ethics. It should be noted, that confidentiality information is the indispensable element of a credible online therapy website, and the issues of ethics and confidentiality should be resolved before online therapy session takes place.

            Online therapy websites involve professional counselors, social workers, psychologists, and other types of counseling professionals. Specialists provide full detailed information regarding their credentials and qualifications. For example, Sunrise Counseling (2008) refers to educational and professional background of reverend Dawn Gallon, who represents the online company and provides all possible types of online counseling services. The ETherapy Center (2008) involves the two specialists who claim having bachelors and masters degrees in social work, and run their own private practices offline. Traditionally, online therapy websites are held by professionals who work in offline social and counseling areas. Interactive community offers unlimited opportunities to those who run their businesses online; counseling professionals design their own websites to guarantee stable additional income which does not require significant investment. The interaction takes place through chat (MSN, Yahoo, and ICQ) or email. Some professionals offer telephone conversations and group online counseling sessions. Psychologists use online therapy as the means to advertise themselves; such websites rarely offer more than one (or two) counseling professionals’ services.

            Ethics and confidentiality are the two major issues within the area of online therapy services. Online users should be confident that the therapist acts legally, responsibly, and ethically. The majority of online therapy websites refer to the importance of confidentiality and ethics in counseling (Serenity Online Therapy, 2008; Sunrise Counseling, 2008; The Etherapy Center, 2008). Professionals have already realized the punitive measures that can be applied to them if they fail to follow ethical and legal guidelines in their practice. Online therapy is still a pioneer of the online business community, but it displays promising business trends and should operate according to the principles of ethical and legal professional conduct. “The purpose of ethical guidelines is not to set rigid codes of conduct, but to inform the professional as to the parameters of behavior that are acceptable to one’s peers” (King & Poulos, 1999). Ethics sets the limitations and conditions for professional delivery of counseling services in volatile Internet environment.

            The problem is in that despite the growing number of legal norms and procedures which apply to online businesses, Internet remains one of the most anarchic business environments in the world. I do not imply the need for prohibiting Virtual therapy as such, but I emphasize the importance of putting virtual therapy in more rigid and more regulated legal framework. The growing number of online therapy websites indicates that customers are satisfied with the quality of online counseling services; however, the customers should also be guaranteed that their records and conversations with the counselor will never become public. Credible websites inform their customers and users about their confidentiality policies, including the limits to confidentiality and privacy under the law: “state law requires that I report to the local Department of Social Services any evidence I have of a child being abused or neglected” (Serenity Online Therapy, 2008). In this way, online counselors guarantee security of private information and inform about the instances when they will have the right (and even the legal obligation) to break confidentiality.

            Professional associations and regulatory bodies constantly address the need to develop a comprehensible set of ethical guidelines for those who provide counseling services online. For example, National Board for Certified Counselors (2008) provides basic standards for ethical conduct in Internet counseling. The purpose of these standards is to guarantee that professional counselors follow the basic ethical principles in online therapy. With the rapid development of Internet technologies, “Internet counseling ethics cases should be reviewed in light of delivery systems existing at the moment rather than at the time the standards were adopted” (National Board for Certified Counselors, 2008). In the light of the constant need to make online counseling services safe and confidential, online therapy websites have not been able to eliminate all confidentiality risks. All types of online services remain inherently insecure and vulnerable towards various types of privacy violations. Communication and Internet have forever changed the “traditional face” of counseling procedures, and as online users tend to believe information they receive from online sources, online counselors are not always able or willing to guarantee the validity of professional information. Online therapy is a relatively new type of transformative relationships between counselors and patients, but technology has not yet achieved the desired level of confidentiality and security in online business. People will continue seeking easy and readily available types of online counseling services, but professional therapists will need to ensure that they keep to the principles of ethical and legal conduct, and guarantee confidentiality of email and chat relationships.

            Objectively, online therapy possesses a set of advantages and disadvantages. Anonymity determines the critical success of online counseling as compared to face-to-face therapy; thousands of people find it more comfortable to share their personal information online. Online therapy helps concentrate on seeking effective resolutions, without thinking too much about shame and other related feelings that characterize face-to-face conversations. Hectic life makes people seek rapid resolutions to their psychological problems, and online therapy is the fastest and the most effective means to communicate one’s concerns to a professional. However, confidentiality and security remain the two cornerstones which slow down the development of safe online counseling services. Even the most reliable technological solutions do not guarantee 100% confidentiality to Internet users.

            Conclusion

            Confidentiality is the critical element that determines the success of any type of online business. Confidentiality determines the reliability of online services and guarantees security of all types of online transactions. Identity theft is just one out of many types of online criminal acts. Identity Theft IQ tests show that simple measures can easily prevent one’s identity theft or similar types of online victimization. Attentiveness, awareness, and responsibility are the three indispensable elements of successful online interactions that do not threaten one’s security but provide the basis for the development of effective and safe connections within the constantly growing online business community. Internet is the future of business, but Internet business will never succeed unless online service providers are able to resolve the existing confidentiality and privacy issues.

References

King, S. & Poulos, S.T. (1999). Ethical guidelines for on-line therapy. In J. Fink, How to use

computers and cyberspace in the clinical practice of psychotherapy, Jason Aronson, Inc., pp. 121-132.

National Board of Certified Counselors. (2008). The practice of internet counseling.

Retrieved July 30, 2008 from http://www.nbcc.org/webethics2

Privacy Rights Clearinghouse. (2008). Identity theft. Retrieved July 30, 2008 from

http://www.privacyrights.org/identity.htm

Serenity Online Therapy. (2008). Online counseling confidentiality and security. Retrieved

July 30, 2008 from http://serenityonlinetherapy.com/confidentiality.htm

Sunrise Counseling. (2008). What is online therapy? Retrieved July 30, 2008 from

http://www.sunrisecounselling.com/what_is.html

The Etherapy Center. (2008). Online therapy. Retrieved July 30, 2008 from

http://www.etherapycenter.com/confidentiality.htm

 

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