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First 1000 odd words

1 <!DOCTYPE HTML PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.01 Transitional//EN"
2 "http://www.w3.org/TR/html4/loose.dtd">
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>
36
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>
212 </BODY>
213
214 </HTML>

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