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5 I declare that, except where appropriately attributed, the content of the file
6 I have submitted for this assignment is entirely my own work. It has not been
7 produced, in whole or in part, by another person. (signed) Andrew Pollock
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9 <HTML>
10
11 <HEAD>
12 <TITLE>Professional ethics and Information Technology</TITLE>
13 <META name="Author" content="Andrew Pollock">
14 <META name="Student Number" content="4137129">
15 <META name="Lab Group" content="">
16 </HEAD>
17
18 <BODY bgcolor="white">
19 <H1>Professional ethics and Information Technology</H1>
20
21 <H2>Introduction</H2>
22 <P>
23 This essay discusses the principles of ethics, both in their specific
24 application to the Information Technology profession, and to their
25 more general application to professional disciplines. In particular
26 the Codes of Ethics of the <EM>Australian Computer Society</EM> (ACS),
27 <EM>Association for Computing Machinery</EM> (ACM), and the
28 <EM>Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers</EM> (IEEE) are
29 examined. The <EM>Australian National University</EM> (ANU) code
30 <EM>Academic Honesty in Learning and Teaching</EM> is also examined to
31 highlight similarities between issues raised and those raised by the
32 above-mentioned professional societies. Finally, two real-world
33 scenarios will be presented and discussed within the context of
34 professional ethics.
35 </P>
36
37 <H2>Generic principles</H2>
38 <P>
39 There are a number of generic principles common to the various Codes
40 of Ethics of the professional societies examined. These principles are
41 not necessarily specific to the field of Information Technology, but
42 may relevant to many professional disciplines.
43 </P>
44
45 <P>
46 <DL>
47 <DT><STRONG>Essential moral behaviour</STRONG></DT>
48 <DD>
49 <P>
50 The various Codes of Ethics all contain directives regarding
51 what one could consider basic moral behaviour. Values such as
52 honesty, integrity, are all specifically referred to. Actions
53 must also be in the public or community interest, which means
54 that members of the various societies should take the wider
55 social implications of their actions into consideration.
56 </P>
57
58 <P>
59 This is the core of what makes the Code of Ethics a Code of
60 Ethics. Basic ethical behaviour is defined in ACS Code of
61 Ethics in section 4.1. This section specifically mentions the
62 profession of Information Technology, however there is
63 nothing IT specific in the rest of this item, so it could be
64 interchangeable with the medical profession, for example.
65 </P>
66
67 <P>
68 Similarly, the ACM breaks it's Code of Ethics down into three
69 broad categories. The first, General Moral Imperatives, could
70 equally apply to most other professions. The sections
71 relating to intellectual property are vaguely more
72 IT-centric, however are still relevant to other professions
73 that might involve either personal or contracted creativity.
74 </P>
75 </DD>
76
77 <DT><STRONG>Competence</STRONG></DT>
78 <DD>
79 <P>
80 All the Codes of Conduct and Ethics highly value competence.
81 This is important, as incompetent workmanship can have a poor
82 reflection on the profession in general, regardless of what
83 that profession is.
84 </P>
85
86 <P>
87 This is closely related to ongoing professional development,
88 which is discussed next. Competence is an intangible, and as
89 such difficult to gauge in an individual. It is really up to
90 the individual to have some sense of self-assessment when it
91 comes to particular work.
92 </P>
93 </DD>
94
95 <DT><STRONG>Professional Development</STRONG></DT>
96 <DD>
97 <P>
98 For the same reasons as competence, ongoing professional
99 development is of paramount importance. All the societies
100 Codes reviewed specifically mention ongoing personal
101 development, as well as assisting fellow members to further
102 their development.
103 </P>
104
105 <P>
106 This is a significant point of all the Codes of Ethics. There
107 is little value in being a member of such a professional
108 society if it does not encourage it's members to further
109 themselves, as professional development is something that
110 should never cease. It is also important to note that the
111 Codes state that members should encourage and support each
112 other in their personal development.
113 </P>
114 </DD>
115
116 <DT><STRONG>Fairness, equality and objectivity</STRONG></DT>
117 <DD>
118 <P>
119 All of the societies Codes examined specifically refer to
120 conducting oneself in an indiscriminate manner. The ACS
121 <EM>Code of Professional Conduct and Professional
122 Practice</EM> states: <BLOCKQUOTE>Be objective, impartial and
123 free of conflicts of interest in the performance of your
124 professional duties.</BLOCKQUOTE> The ACM specifically states
125 that equality, tolerance and respect for others are important
126 and that violations of this policy will not be tolerated, in
127 their Code of Ethics. The IEEE's Code of Ethics also states
128 that members agree to <BLOCKQUOTE>treat fairly all persons
129 regardless of such factors as race, religion, gender,
130 disability, age or national origin.</BLOCKQUOTE>
131 </P>
132 </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 </DD>
151 </DL>
152 </P>
153
154 <H2>Principles specific to Information Technology</H2>
155 <P>
156 There are a number of other principles stated in the various Codes of
157 Conduct that are more specific to the field of Information Technology,
158 because of the technical nature of the profession, or because they
159 relate to technological ethical issues.
160 </P>
161
162 <P>
163 <DL>
164 <DT><STRONG>Intellectual Property</STRONG></DT>
165 <DD>
166 <P>
167 Whilst not strictly related to Information Technology, this
168 is certainly an issue that crops up more often within this
169 field. The ACM Code of Ethics states that property rights
170 including copyrights and patents should be honoured, and
171 proper credit should be given for intellectual property. The
172 IEEE Code of Ethics states that members should credit
173 properly the contributions of others.
174 </P>
175
176 <P>
177 Interestingly, neither the ACS Code of Ethics or Code of
178 Professional Conduct and Professional Practice makes a
179 reference to "Intellectual Property", but the latter does
180 state that information is the property of the client, and
181 must not be distributed freely. One could argue that this
182 covered under the section 4.7 of the ACS Code of Ethics
183 (Honesty), whereby section 4.7.6 states <BLOCKQUOTE>I must
184 give credit for work done by others where credit is
185 due</BLOCKQUOTE> however, it could be argued successfully
186 that this is not specific enough to the area of intellectual
187 property and copyright, not prescriptive enough about when
188 "credit is due".
189 </P>
190 </DD>
191
192 <DT><STRONG>Authorised access to computing resources</STRONG></DT>
193 <DD>
194 <P>
195 The ACM Code of Conduct specifically mentions "trespassing
196 and unauthorised use of a computer or communication system".
197 It goes on to say that individuals have the right to restrict
198 access insofar as it does not discriminate unethically (as
199 discussed earlier).
200 </P>
201 </DD>
202
203 <DT><STRONG>Evaluating computer systems</STRONG></DT>
204 <DD>
205 <P>
206 The ACM Code of Ethics has section 2.5 of their More Specific
207 Professional Responsibilities, which states members must
208 <BLOCKQUOTE>give comprehensive and thorough evaluations of
209 computer systems and their impacts, including analysis of
210 possible risks</BLOCKQUOTE> and goes on to state that
211 computer professionals must be perceptive, thorough and
212 objective when making evaluations, recommendations and
213 presentations of system descriptions and alternatives. This
214 is relevant to the profession of IT, because IT professionals
215 tend to have their technical opinions viewed highly, as they
216 are considered subject-matter experts.
217 </P>
218 </DD>
219 </DL>
220 </P>
221
222 <H2>Similarities to ANU code</H2>
223
224 <P>
225 Whilst having nothing specifically to do with Information Technology,
226 The ANU code on <EM>Academic Honesty in Learning and Teaching</EM> has
227 a some common points to those raised in the Codes of Conduct for the
228 various professional societies examined.
229 </P>
230
231 <P>
232 The most significant common point is of course the moral value of
233 being honest. This ANU code of practice defines academic honesty, and
234 also goes on to discuss originality and plagiarism. This is identical
235 in spirit to the intellectual property clause of the Codes of Ethics
236 for the ACM, and the statement of "giving credit where credit is
237 due" by the ACS, and properly crediting the contributions of others
238 in the IEEE's Code of Ethics.
239 </P>
240
241 <P>
242 The ANU code also defines the roles and responsibilities of various
243 levels of academics within the University, similar to how the various
244 societies Codes state that members should assist other members to
245 further themselves to be better members. Similarly, University
246 academics should provide guidance to students in matters of academic
247 honesty.
248 </P>
249
250 <H2>Case studies</H2>
251
252 <P>
253 In conclusion two case studies will be discussed. The first, one is a
254 hypothetical ANU student who attained an IT degree with a lot of
255 assistance from his/her friends, doing a lot of collaboration on
256 assignment work, and getting good marks for them, but average marks
257 for examinations. This student then attains employment somewhere in
258 Canberra.
259 </P>
260
261 <P>
262 The second example is an employee working on a application project. He
263 gets a brilliant idea outside of the scope of the existing project
264 that he believes will make an improvement to this application, and
265 other related applications. The contract he has signed states that the
266 work carried out on the project belongs to this organisation he is
267 working for.
268 </P>
269
270 <H3>Case study 1: The average student who had a lot of help from his friends</H3>
271
272 <P>
273 The negative consequence of this scenario is that this student has
274 attained an IT degree that isn't necessarily indicative of his/her own
275 abilities. This is most likely going to become evident when the
276 employee is unable to conduct themselves competently in their field of
277 employment. The possible victims of this negative scenario are both
278 the student/employee and the organisation employing him/her.
279 </P>
280
281 <P>
282 Eventually it is going to come to the point where the employee has to
283 gain sufficient competence to carry out his/her employment, or the
284 employer has to cease employing the student, due to their
285 incompetence. This ultimately boils down to misrepresentation, in that
286 the student didn't accurately represent their competence to the
287 employer in the first place.
288 </P>
289
290 <P>
291 The negative repercussions could be more significant depending on the
292 nature of the employment of the student. If the student was engaged in
293 a role that may have a direct impact on the public, this incompetence
294 could, in the worst case, directly impact on other peoples lives.
295 </P>
296
297 <H3>Case study 2: The employee with the work-related brilliant idea</H3>
298
299 <P>
300 In the case of the employee with the brilliant idea, if it is just an
301 idea, the organisation he works for cannot readily claim ownership of
302 it. If the employee develops anything on company time or resources,
303 based on that idea, then it rightly becomes property of the
304 organisation. If this is the case, and the employee wishes to take the
305 idea outside of the organisation, the only ethical thing to do would
306 be to seek permission from the employer to do so. Anything less would
307 constitute theft of the organisation's intellectual property.
308 </P>
309
310 <H2>Bibliography</H2>
311 </BODY>
312
313 </HTML>

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