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Acceptable Use of the Internet

The Internet is now more than just an information source or research tool. It provides a great deal of opportunity for us to work, transact, communicate, learn and play. Opportunities range from undertaking and completing online courses to gaining new skills, reading the news, researching and booking holidays, doing online shopping, playing games, sharing files or merely chatting to friends. The Internet has become an invaluable part of our daily lives.

The Internet operates and functions largely on a collaborative basis. Its smooth operation relies heavily on the proper conduct of users. Below we list a set of good practices that make the Internet a better place for all users.


Be a Law-abiding Internet User


In real life, most people are law-abiding. However, some people think that a lower standard of ethics is acceptable in cyberspace because there is no law governing what goes on in cyberspace. In fact, this idea is completely wrong. All Internet users should be aware that their online activities might give rise to criminal or civil liability under legislation in the real world. An example of where this may arise is if a person breaks into another person's computer. As a general rule, the laws governing other forms of communication, both verbal and written, and other acts also apply to the Internet.

Though it is impossible to list here all the possible civil or criminal actions that may arise in relation to Internet activities, the following are fundamental principles that may help you avoid a hearing or trial:

  • Do not perform any activity which is illegal, fraudulent or prohibited under any applicable legislation, such as:

    • Unauthorised access to computers
    • Access to computers with criminal dishonest intent
    • Criminal damage, such as web page defacement or spreading of viruses or malicious codes
    • Obtaining property or services by deception
    • Online theft
    • Online vandalism

    More information on the more common technology crimes encountered today, along with tips of crime prevention can be found at the Cyber Security and Technology Crime Bureau theme page of Hong Kong Police Force.

  • Do not publish, post, distribute, or disseminate defamatory, infringing, obscene, or other unlawful material such as:

    • Child pornography
    • Obscene and indecent content
    • Pirated software
    • Harassment, i.e. the persistent annoyance of another user or the interference in another user's work. This includes, the sending of unsolicited electronic messages.

  • Do not transmit, upload or download material, information, or software in violation of any applicable legislation. This includes, but is not limited to, material protected by privacy and copyright laws.


Be a Responsible Internet User


Irresponsible use of the Internet may endanger the integrity or security of different systems on the net. The recent trend of cyber attacks shows how the growing community of Internet users provides malicious attackers with a large source of potential drones, also known as botnets; unsecured PCs that can be taken over and used for malicious purposes. Computers that are co-opted to serve in a zombie army are often run by users who fail to provide effective firewalls and other safeguards on their PCs. These compromised computers can be leveraged to attack a specific system, such as an online banking website.

As a responsible Internet user, you should protect your system and data with adequate security measures. Good practices in password management, use of software, handling of emails, downloading files, and web surfing will help protect your computer from attack. Useful guidelines and references on information security for Internet users are available on the "Protecting Yourself" section.

In many ways, the Internet resembles the real world, where all kinds of activities take place and all types of people meet, including criminals too. There are real dangers out there in the Internet. To help the younger generation develop a positive experience when using the Internet, proper guidance and supervision are essential. Some useful guidelines and references, designed to help in safeguarding the safety of youngsters preventing them from committing computer related crimes, are available in the "Parents & Teachers" corner.


Be a Good Neighbour in the Internet Community


Keeping the Internet running smoothly requires contribution and corporation from everyone in the community. The following are some ideas on how to be a good Internet citizen:

  • Do not perform any activities which may interfere with other users or restrict or hinder any person from accessing, using or enjoying the Internet;

  • Do not access, monitor or use any data, systems or networks, including another person's private information, without authority or permission;

  • Do not attempt to conduct any network/port scanning or hacking activities on other computers;

  • Do not send or distribute any computer virus, malicious codes or other harmful programs;

  • Do not store, send or disseminate any content or material which is likely to exceed the bounds of generally accepted standards of good taste and ethics;

  • Do not store, send or disseminate any content or material which is likely to be offensive or obscene to a reasonable person;

  • Do not access or transmit information or material via the Internet, including email, in an attempt to impersonate another individual;

  • Do not submit, publish any information which violates or infringes on the rights of any other person, including the right of privacy;

  • Do not aid, abet, encourage or incite any other person to do or attempt to do any of the above acts.

  • Lastly, do treat all other Internet users with respect and do not threaten, harass, stalk, or abuse other users;

If you can bear in mind a simple golden rule "Do unto others as you'd have others do unto you" when you are online, it will certainly make the Internet a more pleasant place to be, both for you and for everyone.

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