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5     I declare that, except where appropriately attributed, the content of the file
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10    
11     <HEAD>
12     <TITLE>Professional ethics and Information Technology</TITLE>
13     <META name="Author" content="Andrew Pollock">
14 apollock 1.5 <META name="Student_Number" content="4137129">
15     <META name="Lab_Group" content="">
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19     <BODY bgcolor="white">
20     <H1>Professional ethics and Information Technology</H1>
21    
22     <H2>Introduction</H2>
23     <P>
24     This essay discusses the principles of ethics, both in their specific
25     application to the Information Technology profession, and to their
26     more general application to professional disciplines. In particular
27     the Codes of Ethics of the <EM>Australian Computer Society</EM> (ACS),
28     <EM>Association for Computing Machinery</EM> (ACM), and the
29     <EM>Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers</EM> (IEEE) are
30 apollock 1.3 examined. The <EM>Australian National University</EM> (ANU) code
31 apollock 1.1 <EM>Academic Honesty in Learning and Teaching</EM> is also examined to
32     highlight similarities between issues raised and those raised by the
33 apollock 1.3 above-mentioned professional societies. Finally, two real-world
34 apollock 1.1 scenarios will be presented and discussed within the context of
35     professional ethics.
36     </P>
37    
38     <H2>Generic principles</H2>
39     <P>
40     There are a number of generic principles common to the various Codes
41 apollock 1.3 of Ethics of the professional societies examined. These principles are
42     not necessarily specific to the field of Information Technology, but
43     may relevant to many professional disciplines.
44 apollock 1.1 </P>
45 apollock 1.2
46     <P>
47     <DL>
48 apollock 1.3 <DT><STRONG>Essential moral behaviour</STRONG></DT>
49 apollock 1.2 <DD>
50 apollock 1.3 <P>
51     The various Codes of Ethics all contain directives regarding
52     what one could consider basic moral behaviour. Values such as
53     honesty, integrity, are all specifically referred to. Actions
54     must also be in the public or community interest, which means
55     that members of the various societies should take the wider
56     social implications of their actions into consideration.
57     </P>
58    
59     <P>
60     This is the core of what makes the Code of Ethics a Code of
61     Ethics. Basic ethical behaviour is defined in ACS Code of
62     Ethics in section 4.1. This section specifically mentions the
63     profession of Information Technology, however there is
64     nothing IT specific in the rest of this item, so it could be
65     interchangeable with the medical profession, for example.
66     </P>
67    
68     <P>
69 apollock 1.6 Similarly, the ACM breaks its Code of Ethics down into three
70 apollock 1.3 broad categories. The first, General Moral Imperatives, could
71     equally apply to most other professions. The sections
72 apollock 1.4 relating to intellectual property are vaguely more
73     IT-centric, however are still relevant to other professions
74     that might involve either personal or contracted creativity.
75 apollock 1.3 </P>
76 apollock 1.2 </DD>
77    
78     <DT><STRONG>Competence</STRONG></DT>
79     <DD>
80 apollock 1.3 <P>
81     All the Codes of Conduct and Ethics highly value competence.
82     This is important, as incompetent workmanship can have a poor
83     reflection on the profession in general, regardless of what
84     that profession is.
85     </P>
86    
87     <P>
88     This is closely related to ongoing professional development,
89     which is discussed next. Competence is an intangible, and as
90 apollock 1.4 such difficult to gauge in an individual. It is really up to
91 apollock 1.3 the individual to have some sense of self-assessment when it
92     comes to particular work.
93     </P>
94 apollock 1.2 </DD>
95    
96     <DT><STRONG>Professional Development</STRONG></DT>
97     <DD>
98 apollock 1.3 <P>
99     For the same reasons as competence, ongoing professional
100     development is of paramount importance. All the societies
101     Codes reviewed specifically mention ongoing personal
102     development, as well as assisting fellow members to further
103     their development.
104     </P>
105    
106     <P>
107     This is a significant point of all the Codes of Ethics. There
108     is little value in being a member of such a professional
109 apollock 1.6 society if it does not encourage its members to further
110 apollock 1.3 themselves, as professional development is something that
111     should never cease. It is also important to note that the
112     Codes state that members should encourage and support each
113     other in their personal development.
114     </P>
115 apollock 1.2 </DD>
116    
117     <DT><STRONG>Fairness, equality and objectivity</STRONG></DT>
118     <DD>
119 apollock 1.3 <P>
120     All of the societies Codes examined specifically refer to
121     conducting oneself in an indiscriminate manner. The ACS
122     <EM>Code of Professional Conduct and Professional
123 apollock 1.6 Practice</EM> states: "Be objective, impartial and free of
124     conflicts of interest in the performance of your professional
125     duties" (ACS: 2003). The ACM specifically states that
126     "equality, tolerance and respect for others are important and
127     that violations of this policy will not be tolerated" (ACM:
128     1992), in their Code of Ethics. The IEEE's Code of Ethics
129     also states that members agree to "treat fairly
130     all persons regardless of such factors as race, religion,
131     gender, disability, age or national origin" (IEEE: 1990).
132 apollock 1.3 </DD>
133    
134     <DT><STRONG>Promotion of the profession</STRONG></DT>
135     <DD>
136     <P>
137     Again, one could substitute the name of the profession for
138     any other, however, the ACS Code of Ethics and Code of
139     Professional Conduct specifically mention promoting and
140     protecting the image, and professionalism of Information
141     Technology and the society in general.
142     </P>
143    
144     <P>
145     Naturally, any professional society is going to be an
146     advocacy body for that profession. One would expect to find
147     such promotion clauses in any professional society's Code of
148     Ethics.
149     </P>
150 apollock 1.2 </DD>
151     </DL>
152    
153     <H2>Principles specific to Information Technology</H2>
154     <P>
155     There are a number of other principles stated in the various Codes of
156     Conduct that are more specific to the field of Information Technology,
157     because of the technical nature of the profession, or because they
158     relate to technological ethical issues.
159     </P>
160    
161     <P>
162     <DL>
163     <DT><STRONG>Intellectual Property</STRONG></DT>
164     <DD>
165 apollock 1.3 <P>
166     Whilst not strictly related to Information Technology, this
167     is certainly an issue that crops up more often within this
168     field. The ACM Code of Ethics states that property rights
169     including copyrights and patents should be honoured, and
170     proper credit should be given for intellectual property. The
171     IEEE Code of Ethics states that members should credit
172     properly the contributions of others.
173     </P>
174    
175     <P>
176     Interestingly, neither the ACS Code of Ethics or Code of
177     Professional Conduct and Professional Practice makes a
178     reference to "Intellectual Property", but the latter does
179     state that information is the property of the client, and
180 apollock 1.6 must not be distributed freely. One could argue that this is
181 apollock 1.3 covered under the section 4.7 of the ACS Code of Ethics
182 apollock 1.6 (Honesty), whereby section 4.7.6 states "I must give credit
183     for work done by others where credit is
184     due" (ACS: 2003) however, it could be argued successfully
185 apollock 1.3 that this is not specific enough to the area of intellectual
186     property and copyright, not prescriptive enough about when
187     "credit is due".
188 apollock 1.2 </DD>
189    
190 apollock 1.3 <DT><STRONG>Authorised access to computing resources</STRONG></DT>
191 apollock 1.2 <DD>
192 apollock 1.3 <P>
193     The ACM Code of Conduct specifically mentions "trespassing
194 apollock 1.6 and unauthorised use of a computer or communication system"
195     (ACM: 1992). It goes on to say that individuals have the
196     right to restrict access insofar as it does not discriminate
197     unethically (as discussed earlier).
198 apollock 1.3 </P>
199 apollock 1.2 </DD>
200    
201 apollock 1.3 <DT><STRONG>Evaluating computer systems</STRONG></DT>
202 apollock 1.2 <DD>
203 apollock 1.3 <P>
204     The ACM Code of Ethics has section 2.5 of their More Specific
205     Professional Responsibilities, which states members must
206 apollock 1.6 "give comprehensive and thorough evaluations of
207 apollock 1.3 computer systems and their impacts, including analysis of
208 apollock 1.6 possible risks" (ACM: 1992) and goes on to state that
209 apollock 1.3 computer professionals must be perceptive, thorough and
210     objective when making evaluations, recommendations and
211     presentations of system descriptions and alternatives. This
212     is relevant to the profession of IT, because IT professionals
213     tend to have their technical opinions viewed highly, as they
214     are considered subject-matter experts.
215 apollock 1.2 </DD>
216     </DL>
217    
218     <H2>Similarities to ANU code</H2>
219    
220     <P>
221     Whilst having nothing specifically to do with Information Technology,
222 apollock 1.6 the ANU code on <EM>Academic Honesty in Learning and Teaching</EM> has
223     a common point with those raised in the Codes of Conduct for the
224 apollock 1.3 various professional societies examined.
225 apollock 1.2 </P>
226    
227     <P>
228     The most significant common point is of course the moral value of
229 apollock 1.3 being honest. This ANU code of practice defines academic honesty, and
230     also goes on to discuss originality and plagiarism. This is identical
231     in spirit to the intellectual property clause of the Codes of Ethics
232     for the ACM, and the statement of "giving credit where credit is
233     due" by the ACS, and properly crediting the contributions of others
234     in the IEEE's Code of Ethics.
235 apollock 1.2 </P>
236    
237     <P>
238     The ANU code also defines the roles and responsibilities of various
239     levels of academics within the University, similar to how the various
240 apollock 1.3 societies Codes state that members should assist other members to
241 apollock 1.2 further themselves to be better members. Similarly, University
242 apollock 1.3 academics should provide guidance to students in matters of academic
243     honesty.
244 apollock 1.2 </P>
245    
246     <H2>Case studies</H2>
247    
248     <P>
249 apollock 1.6 In conclusion, two case studies will be discussed. The first one is a
250 apollock 1.2 hypothetical ANU student who attained an IT degree with a lot of
251     assistance from his/her friends, doing a lot of collaboration on
252     assignment work, and getting good marks for them, but average marks
253     for examinations. This student then attains employment somewhere in
254     Canberra.
255     </P>
256    
257     <P>
258 apollock 1.6 The second example is an employee working on an application project. He
259     gets a brilliant idea, outside of the scope of the existing project,
260 apollock 1.2 that he believes will make an improvement to this application, and
261     other related applications. The contract he has signed states that the
262     work carried out on the project belongs to this organisation he is
263     working for.
264     </P>
265    
266 apollock 1.3 <H3>Case study 1: The average student who had a lot of help from his friends</H3>
267 apollock 1.2
268     <P>
269 apollock 1.6 This situation is difficult to monitor, and can potentially cause a
270     lot of problems. The negative consequence of this scenario is that
271     this student has attained an IT degree that isn't necessarily
272     indicative of his/her own abilities. This is most likely going to
273     become evident when the employee is unable to conduct themselves
274     competently in their field of employment. The possible victims of
275     this negative scenario are both the student/employee and the
276     organisation employing him/her.
277 apollock 1.2 </P>
278    
279     <P>
280     Eventually it is going to come to the point where the employee has to
281     gain sufficient competence to carry out his/her employment, or the
282     employer has to cease employing the student, due to their
283     incompetence. This ultimately boils down to misrepresentation, in that
284     the student didn't accurately represent their competence to the
285     employer in the first place.
286     </P>
287    
288     <P>
289     The negative repercussions could be more significant depending on the
290     nature of the employment of the student. If the student was engaged in
291     a role that may have a direct impact on the public, this incompetence
292     could, in the worst case, directly impact on other peoples lives.
293     </P>
294    
295 apollock 1.6 <P>
296     The other victim is the ANU, as whilst the student is seen to have
297     exited successfully from one of its degree programs, the student's
298     actual competency is probably lower than the employer would expect for
299     a degree-holder. This then lowers the value of a degree in the
300     employer's view, and gives the potential for employers to hold ANU
301     graduates in lower regard than perhaps they should me.
302     </P>
303    
304 apollock 1.3 <H3>Case study 2: The employee with the work-related brilliant idea</H3>
305 apollock 1.2
306     <P>
307     In the case of the employee with the brilliant idea, if it is just an
308     idea, the organisation he works for cannot readily claim ownership of
309     it. If the employee develops anything on company time or resources,
310     based on that idea, then it rightly becomes property of the
311     organisation. If this is the case, and the employee wishes to take the
312     idea outside of the organisation, the only ethical thing to do would
313 apollock 1.3 be to seek permission from the employer to do so. Anything less would
314 apollock 1.2 constitute theft of the organisation's intellectual property.
315     </P>
316 apollock 1.3
317 apollock 1.6 <P>
318     There is nothing stopping the employee from using the idea for
319     improvement within the company he is working for, though. If the idea
320     he has had can be applied to other projects within his organisation,
321     then he is only being dilligent by raising the idea as an enhancement
322     to existing processes.
323     </P>
324    
325 apollock 1.3 <H2>Bibliography</H2>
326 apollock 1.6
327     <P>
328     ACS Code of Ethics, Australian Computing Society, 2003,
329     http://www.acs.org.au/static/national/pospaper/acs131.htm
330     </P>
331    
332     <P>
333     ACS Code of Professional Conduct And Professional Ethics, Australian
334     Computing Society, 2003,
335     http://www.acs.org.au/static/national/pospaper/codeprof.htm
336     </P>
337    
338     <P>
339     ACM Code of Ethics, Association for Computing Machinery, 1992,
340     http://www.acm.org/serving/se/code.htm
341     </P>
342    
343     <P>
344     IEEE Code of Ethics, Institute of Electrical and Electronic
345     Engineers, 1990,
346     http://www.ieee.org/portal/index.jsp?pageID=corp_level1&path=about/whatis&file=code.xml&xsl=generic.xsl
347     </P>
348    
349     <P>
350     Academic Honesty in Learning and Teaching, The Australian National
351     University, 2003,
352     http://info.anu.edu.au/policies/Codes_Of_Practice/Education/Other/Academic_Honesty.asp
353     </P>
354 apollock 1.1 </BODY>
355    
356     </HTML>

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