Information is power. Computers are devices that have some of the most personal information and useful programs in them. The “Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy” states that ethics for computer professionals are a set of standards that ensure good practices within the profession. Issues surrounding ethics for computer professional include workplace computer use, computer-related crimes, privacy, intellectual property and professional responsibility.
Computer professionals are expected to conduct themselves in an ethical manner. Codes of ethics exist in this field to help these professionals make good decisions about the manner of their professional work, according to the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM). Although the meaning of elements within a code of ethics for computer professionals are subject to interpretation, a question regarding an ethical conflict should be answered after considering the fundamental principles surrounding a situation thoughtfully.
General Moral Imperatives
The ACM believes computer professionals should contribute to society and the well-being of others, not harm others through theft or vandalism, discriminate against others, be honest and trustworthy, act fairly, honor property rights, not take credit for other’s ideas and/or work, respect the privacy of others and uphold confidentiality. Computer professionals have the responsibility, according to the Institute for Certification of Computing Professionals (ICCP), to serve the interests of their employers and/or clients with loyalty and diligence. They should not act in a way that discredits their reputation or the integrity of the profession. In addition, computer professionals must never base their competence solely on the professional certifications held.
A computer professional must strive to provide the highest quality of work possible by acquiring and maintaining professional competence. He should be knowledgeable in the laws pertaining to his profession and not violate them. The ACM adds that professionals ought to be open to providing and receiving professional peer reviews and critiques, and maintain objectiveness when evaluating a computer system. Computer professionals have the obligation to uphold contracts and agreements, keep a party informed about the progress towards completing a project and to let his supervisor or client know if he cannot complete an assignment.
The ICCP states that because computer professionals know specialized information relating to their field, they also have the responsibility of sharing technical knowledge with the public in order to encourage a better understanding of computers.
Leaders within the community of computer professionals should encourage acceptance of the social responsibilities outlined in the code of ethics among other professionals. The ACM also states that organizational leaders are also to ensure computer systems enhance the quality of a professional’s work life by taking into consideration personal and professional development, safety and the dignity of the professionals under their supervision. Those in decision-making positions should make sure systems protect personal privacy by clearly defining the appropriate and inappropriate uses of an organization’s resources, according to the ICCP.
The ACM states, “The future of the computing profession depends on both technical and ethical excellence.” As a result, those in the field who do not uphold the code of ethics for computer professionals can have licenses, memberships and certifications revoked. The ICCP suggests the prevention of non-compliance is best exercised when computer professionals encourage and support one another to uphold and adhere to the code of ethics.