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1 apollock 1.1 <!DOCTYPE HTML PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.01 Transitional//EN"
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3     <HTML>
4    
5     <HEAD>
6     <TITLE>Professional ethics and Information Technology</TITLE>
7     <META name="Author" content="Andrew Pollock">
8     </HEAD>
9    
10     <BODY bgcolor="white">
11     <H1>Professional ethics and Information Technology</H1>
12    
13     <H2>Introduction</H2>
14     <P>
15     This essay discusses the principles of ethics, both in their specific
16     application to the Information Technology profession, and to their
17     more general application to professional disciplines. In particular
18     the Codes of Ethics of the <EM>Australian Computer Society</EM> (ACS),
19     <EM>Association for Computing Machinery</EM> (ACM), and the
20     <EM>Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers</EM> (IEEE) are
21     examined. The <EM>Australian National University</EM> (ANU) code
22     <EM>Academic Honesty in Learning and Teaching</EM> is also examined to
23     highlight similarities between issues raised and those raised by the
24     abovementioned professional societies. Finally, two real-world
25     scenarios will be presented and discussed within the context of
26     professional ethics.
27     </P>
28    
29     <H2>Generic principles</H2>
30     <P>
31     There are a number of generic principles common to the various Codes
32     of Ethics. These principles are not necessarily specific to the field
33     of Information Technology, but may relevant to many professional
34     disciplines.
35     </P>
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37     <P>
38     <DL>
39     <DT><STRONG>Essential moral behavior</STRONG></DT>
40     <DD>
41     The various Codes of Ethics all contain directives regarding
42     what one could consider basic moral behavior. Values such as
43     honesty, integrity, are all specifically referred to. Actions
44     must also be in the public or community interest, which means
45     that members of the various socities should take the wider
46     social implications of their actions into consideration.
47     </DD>
48    
49     <DT><STRONG>Competence</STRONG></DT>
50     <DD>
51     All the Codes of Conduct and Ethics highly value competence.
52     This is important, as incompetent workmanship can have a poor
53     reflection on the profession in general, regardless of what that
54     profession is.
55     </DD>
56    
57     <DT><STRONG>Professional Development</STRONG></DT>
58     <DD>
59     For the same reasons as competence, ongoing profeessional
60     development is of paramount importance. All the societies Codes
61     reviewed specifically mention ongoing personal development, as
62     well as assisting fellow members to further their development.
63     </DD>
64    
65     <DT><STRONG>Fairness, equality and objectivity</STRONG></DT>
66     <DD>
67     All of the societies Codes examined specifically refer to
68     conducting oneself in an indiscriminate manner. The ACS <EM>Code
69     of Professional Conduct and Professional Practice</EM> states:
70     <BLOCKQUOTE>Be objective, impartial and free of conflicts of
71     interest in the performance of your professional
72     duties.</BLOCKQUOTE>
73     The ACM specifically states that equality, tolerance and respect
74     for others are important and that violations of this policy will
75     not be tolerated, in their Code of Ethics. The IEEE's Code of
76     Ethics also states that members agee <BLOCKQUOTE>to treat fairly all
77     persons regardless of such factors as race, religion, gender,
78     disability, age or national origin.</BLOCKQUOTE>
79     </DD>
80     </DL>
81     </P>
82    
83     <H2>Principles specific to Information Technology</H2>
84     <P>
85     There are a number of other principles stated in the various Codes of
86     Conduct that are more specific to the field of Information Technology,
87     because of the technical nature of the profession, or because they
88     relate to technological ethical issues.
89     </P>
90    
91     <P>
92     <DL>
93     <DT><STRONG>Intellectual Property</STRONG></DT>
94     <DD>
95     Whilst not strictly related to Informationl Technology, this is
96     certainly an issue that crops up more often within this field.
97     The ACM Code of Ethics states that property rights including
98     copyrights and patents should be honoured, and proper credit
99     should be given for intellectual property. The IEEE Code of
100     Ethics states that members should credit properly the
101     contributions of others. Interestingly, neither the ACS Code of
102     Ethics or Code of Professional Conduct and Professional Practice
103     makes a reference to "Intellectual Property", but the latter
104     does state that information is the property of the client, and
105     must not be distributed freely.
106     </DD>
107    
108     <DT><STRONG>Promotion of the profession</STRONG></DT>
109     <DD>
110     Again, one could substitute the name of the profession for any
111     other, however, the ACS Code of Ethics and Code of Professional
112     Conduct specifically mention promoting and protecting the image,
113     and professionalism of Information Technology and the society in
114     general.
115     </DD>
116    
117     <DT><STRONG>Authorised access to computing resources</STRONG></DT>
118     <DD>
119     The ACM Code of Conduct specifically mentions "trespassing and
120     unauthorised use of a computer or communication system". It goes
121     on to say that individuals have the right to restrict access
122     insofar as it does not discriminate unethically (as discussed
123     earlier).
124     </DD>
125     </DL>
126     </P>
127    
128     <H2>Similarities to ANU code</H2>
129    
130     <P>
131     Whilst having nothing specifically to do with Information Technology,
132     The ANU code on <EM>Academic Honesty in Learning and Teaching</EM> has
133     a some common points to those raised in the Codes of Conduct for
134     the various professional societies examined.
135     </P>
136    
137     <P>
138     The most significant common point is of course the moral value of
139     being honest. The code of practice defines academic honesty, and also
140     goes on to discuss originality and plargiarism. This is identical in
141     spirit to the intellectual properties clauses of Codes of Ethics for
142     the ACS and ACM.
143     </P>
144    
145     <P>
146     The ANU code also defines the roles and responsibilities of various
147     levels of academics within the University, similar to how the various
148     socities Codes state that members should assist other members to
149     further themselves to be better members. Similarly, University
150     academics should guide students in matters of academic honesty.
151     </P>
152    
153     <H2>Case studies</H2>
154    
155     <P>
156     In conclusion two case studies will be discussed. The first, one is a
157     hypothetical ANU student who attained an IT degree with a lot of
158     assistance from his/her friends, doing a lot of collaboration on
159     assignment work, and getting good marks for them, but average marks
160     for examinations. This student then attains employment somewhere in
161     Canberra.
162     </P>
163    
164     <P>
165     The second example is an employee working on a application project. He
166     gets a brilliant idea outside of the scope of the existing project
167     that he believes will make an improvement to this application, and
168     other related applications. The contract he has signed states that the
169     work carried out on the project belongs to this organisation he is
170     working for.
171     </P>
172    
173     <H3>The average student who had a lot of help from his friends</H3>
174    
175     <P>
176     The negative consequence of this scenario is that this student has
177     attained an IT degree that isn't necessarily indicative of his/her own
178     abilities. This is most likely going to become evident when the
179     employee is unable to conduct themselves competently in their field of
180     employment. The possible victims of this negative scenario are both
181     the student/employee and the organization employing him/her.
182     </P>
183    
184     <P>
185     Eventually it is going to come to the point where the employee has to
186     gain sufficient competence to carry out his/her employment, or the
187     employer has to cease employing the student, due to their
188     incompetence. This ultimately boils down to misrepresentation, in that
189     the student didn't accurately represent their competence to the
190     employer in the first place.
191     </P>
192    
193     <P>
194     The negative repercussions could be more significant depending on the
195     nature of the employment of the student. If the student was engaged in
196     a role that may have a direct impact on the public, this incompetence
197     could, in the worst case, directly impact on other peoples lives.
198     </P>
199    
200     <H3>The employee with the work-related brilliant idea</H3>
201    
202     <P>
203     In the case of the employee with the brilliant idea, if it is just an
204     idea, the organisation he works for cannot readily claim ownership of
205     it. If the employee develops anything on company time or resources,
206     based on that idea, then it rightly becomes property of the
207     organisation. If this is the case, and the employee wishes to take the
208     idea outside of the organisation, the only ethical thing to do would
209     be to seek permission from the employer to do so. Anything less would
210     constitute theft of the organisation's intellectual property.
211     </P>
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