Brandy L. Spinks
December 20, 2010
Legal and Ethical Issues for IT Practitioners
For ages thinkers have written hundreds of books in an effort to understand, explain, categorize, and label moral, immoral, an amoral human behavior and the rationales behind our actions. Yet, there still is not a universally accepted way of analyzing ethical situations (Hatcher & Aragon, 2000) and ethical issues are not a favored topic for discussion in public arenas or private conversations (McDowell, 2000). However, as a society we do feel that people should be supportive, trustworthy, and fair in their work and dealings with each other. We expect from others and from ourselves behavior, which promotes the welfare of individuals, organizations, and communities. Yet as recent events demonstrate our society faces a crisis in professional responsibility (McDowell, 2000). Professional associations are worried about the image of their professionals, and as a result they have developed and enforced codes of ethics to protect the public and the company’s interest. Ethics refers to principles of human conduct, or morals, and to the systematic study of such human values, often called moral philosophy, the study of theories of conduct and goodness, and of the meanings of moral terms (Hatcher & Aragon, 2000). An act is considered to be ethical if it is in accordance with approved moral behavior or norms. Ethics implies civic responsibility on the part of citizens and responsibility by society's institutions, including governments. Ethics is concerned with questions such as when is an action right or wrong and what standard separates 'good' from 'bad'. We propose to accept one of the basic tenets of modern moral philosophy that the authority invoked for 'good' conduct is the rule of reason and that moral behavior results from rational thought that does not harm the individual and leads ultimately to the greatest good for all individuals in a society. This definition and assumption equates well with the main issue of another debate driven partially by ethics. For example, relating to public domain information, or more specifically public sector information that may not be in the public domain, as stated in recent UNESCO-backed guidelines regarding public sector information. "One of the ultimate goals of any society is the empowerment of all its citizens through access and use of information and knowledge. Every person and every nation must have equal opportunity to benefit from cultural diversity and scientific progress as a basic human right in the current information revolution and the emerging knowledge society” (Gordon & Sork, 2001).
The code of ethics that IT practitioners generally follow consists of general moral imperatives, specific IT practitioner responsibilities, organizational leadership imperatives and compliance/implementation with the code. For general moral imperatives an IT Practitioner is expected to contribute to society and human well-being. This principle concerning the quality of life of all people affirms an obligation to protect fundamental human rights and to respect the diversity of all cultures. An essential aim of IT practitioners is to minimize negative consequences of computing systems, including threats to health and safety. When designing or implementing systems, IT practitioners must attempt to ensure that the products of their efforts will be used in socially responsible ways, will meet social needs, and will avoid harmful effects to health and welfare. In addition to a safe social environment, human well-being includes a safe natural environment. Therefore, IT practitioners who design and develop systems must be alert to, and make others aware of, any potential damage to the local or global environment. As an IT practitioner, harm to others must also be avoided. Harm can mean injury or negative consequences, such as undesirable...