Ethics in Information Technology

Topics: Ethics, Business ethics, Morality Pages: 5 (1416 words) Published: May 29, 2014

Many Professional groups have explicit rules governing ethical behavior in the workplace. For example, doctors and lawyers who commit egregious violations of their professions’ canons of conduct can be removed from practice. Unlike the medical and legal fields, however, the Information Technology field in general, and the information security field in particular, do not have a binding code of ethics. Instead, professional associations—such as the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and the Information Systems Security Association—and certification agencies—such as the International Information Systems Security Certification Consortium, Inc., or (ISC)—work to establish the profession’s ethical codes of conduct. While these professional organizations can prescribe ethical conduct, they do not always have the authority to banish violators from practicing their trade. We begin exploring some of the ethical issues particular to information security by looking at the Ten Commandments of Computer Ethics.

From The Computer Ethics Institute

1. Thou shalt not use a computer to harm other people.

2. Thou shalt not interfere with other people’s computer work.

3. Thou shalt not snoop around in other people’s computer files.

4. Thou shalt not use a computer to steal.

5. Thou shalt not use a computer to bear false witness.

6. Thou shalt not copy or use proprietary software for which you have not paid.

7. Thou shalt not use other people’s computer resources without authorization or proper compensation.

8. Thou shalt not appropriate other people’s intellectual output.

9. Thou shalt think about the social consequences of the program you are writing or the system you are designing.

10. Thou shalt always use a computer in ways that ensure consideration and respect for your fellow human of
A study published in 1999 examined computer use ethics of eight nations: Singapore, Hong Kong, the United States, England, Australia, Sweden, Wales, and the Netherlands.15 This study selected a number of computer-use vignettes (see the Offline titled The Use of Scenarios in Computer Ethics Studies) and presented them to students in universities in these eight nations. This study did not categorize or classify the responses as ethical or unethical. Instead, the responses only indicated a degree of ethical sensitivity or knowledge about the performance of the individuals in the short case studies. The scenarios were grouped into three categories of ethical computer use: software license infringement, illicit use, and misuse of corporate resources. These were the findings:

Software License Infringement The topic of software license infringement, or piracy, is routinely covered by the popular press. Among study participants, attitudes toward piracy were generally similar; however, participants from the United States and the Netherlands showed statistically significant differences in attitudes from the overall group. Participants from the United States were significantly less tolerant of piracy, while those from the Netherlands were significantly more permissive. Although other studies have reported that the Pacific Rim countries of Singapore and Hong Kong are hotbeds of software piracy, this study found tolerance for copyright infringement in those countries to be moderate, as were attitudes in England, Wales, Australia, and Sweden. This could mean that the individuals surveyed understood what software license infringement was, but felt either that their use was not piracy, or that their society permitted this piracy in some way. Peer pressure, the lack of legal disincentives, the lack of punitive measures, and number of other reasons could a explain why users in these alleged piracy centers disregarded intellectual property laws despite their professed attitudes toward them. Even though participants from...

References: 1. Whitman, Michael E., Townsend, Anthony M., and Hendrickson, Anthony R. “Cross-
National Differences in Computer-Use Ethics: A Nine Country Study.” The Journal of
International Business Studies 30, no. 4 (1999): 673–687.
2. Legal, Ethical, and Professional Issues in Information Security-PDF
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