ICT Ethics and Professional Practice
Question 1: Summarize and critique the principal aspects of the perspective of cyberethics as a field of professional ethics?
Solution 1: Cyberethics is a term used in computer science and it is the study of legal, moral, and social issues that are related to the cyber field. It is a type of system that evaluates the effect of computers and professionals on cyber technology in the field of legal, social, and moral systems. Cyberethics checks policies framed for social behavior and rules & laws framed in reaction to problems generated by its expansion and use. (Introduction to cyberethics: Concepts, perspectives and methodological frameworks, 2011). Cyber technology is a term that refers to a wide variety of communication devices and computers which ranges from a single computer to connected or connected computers and communication technology.
Cyberethics is branch of computer science, which can be best understood as ethics used in the field of computers. As per views of concerned authors, who have taken cyberethics as a field of professional ethics, cyber ethics is a phenomenon that can be understood as analyzing and identifying problems of ethical responsibilities related to cyber professionals. Issues related to cyber ethics considered on this perspective are related to computer professionals in developing, planning, and keeping computer hardware and computer software systems. It is unfair on the part of the computer professional if he/she releases the computer software for sale purposes in the market that contains any Buggy software or virus function.
In the views of famous author Don Gotterbarn, who had understood cyberethics as a branch of professional principles, the main highlights of the computer ethics must be on problems of professional duties not on the social and moral implications of computer technology. An author called Gotterbarn had viewed that the proper focus of computer ethics research and inquiry must be shared by professionals in the practice of computer science. Some of the practitioners, philosophers, and social scientist believed that conception of Gotterbarn in relation to computer ethics as a field of professional ethics are too narrow (Introduction to cyberethics: Concepts, perspectives and methodological frameworks, 2011). It is good to analyze the use of professional ethics in the field of cyberethics as it will help to solve the issues related to professional responsibility that directly affects cyber professionals. For example, problem-related with the development and implementation of a critical computer program would fit closely with computer professional model. But professional model can’t be extended to include cases that may affect computer professionals indirectly. Gotterbarn and some other advocates have argued that the software codes programmed by the programmers can have the implications that can extend far beyond the computing profession itself. The Internet service provider (ISP) who provides the use same code would also share responsibility for a privacy violation.
Question 2: What does Hellen Nissenbaum mean by “the problem of many hands” in a computing/IT context? Discuss this problem in the context of the Thorac 25 case study.
Answer 2: In today’s context most computers are the products that are meant not only for individual computer programmers working in loneliness but also for the organization. The computer-based organization brings together a team of individuals with having a vast range of degrees of expertise and it includes graphic designers, planners, engineers, computer programmers, designers, computer artists, and salespeople. In the case of a system malfunction, the whole system stop working that gives rises to damage and it is difficult to identify a person who is responsible and who is accountable for the whole act (Nissenbaum, 1996).
The responsibility that is typically understood and analyzed historically in the conditions of an individual person, does not give rise to easily generalize to the collective action. In case when the work is done through “many hands”, it is not good to blame any person as it is immediate and casual antecedents to make decisions that do not converge with its locus. The way to blame anybody is not clearly satisfied when a single individual is held blameworthy for the act not done by him. Team actions that endeavor the actions of many individuals working together, create a product that in turn causally interacts with life of the end-user (Nissenbaum, 1996). The taskforce, Board of Directors issues collective decisions and on the situations when these decisions are not taken by the member in the organization but these are passed with a majority of votes, then in these case decisions is left with a further puzzle on how to attribute the liability.
When the top-level judgments move from the Board of Directors to leaders, from leaders to employees, lastly into consequences and actions, the line that binds the issue to its generation point may be faint and complicated (Nissenbaum, 1996). The vague accountability can be managed in many other ways. In a few cases, it will be consequence of international planning, an important way used by the manager of an enterprise to keep away from responsibility due to negative or harsh results.
Computing in general is susceptible to the obstruction of many hands. Most of the system software that is in use is manufactured as per institutional settings that include large corporations, small and medium-sized corporations, government agencies, contractors, and education institutions. Computer systems are manufactured out of segments or modules. Each module works as a separate individual or team (Nissenbaum, 1996). Some system software includes code is taken for earlier versions, while others take code from an entirely unusual system, even some that were produced by other creators. When system software produced in this method, reaching such a huge and multifaceted extent, there is no individual people that can grasp the whole software codes or keep track of all the persons who have to add their corporation to its various components (Nissenbaum, 1996).
Question3: Describe the key differences between consequence-based and duty-based (deontology) ethical theories?
Answer 3: Kant argued that morality should be understood as the concept of obligation or duty that a person has for another person and it must never be against the consequences of human activities. Ethical theories that are concerned with the idea of responsibility or obligation serve as the base for morality are called deontological theories. Kant gave his views on this theory. According to him, the thing that separates humans from other kind of creatures and what binds the human morally is their rational capacity (Tavani, 2011). Deontological ethics or deontology is a type of normative ethical position that evaluates the morality of an act which is typically based on action’s faithfulness to an act or acts. This theory describes the duty or obligation as rule-based ethics as rules are the only phenomenon that binds individuals to its duty. Deontological ethics is commonly related to consequentialism and virtue ethics. It is also related to pragmatic ethics.
A view of Immanuel Kant on this theory has considered it as a totally different theory. He argued that to behave morally, the right way is that people must perform his duty with full responsibility and as per the code of ethics. He also said that it was not the cost of actions that make actions of individuals right or wrong but the purpose of the person who carries out the whole action (Tavani, 2011).
Utilitarianism is a theory based on consequence ethics. This ethical theory is a theory in normative ethics that holds the proper course of actions that maximizes utility, defined usually as maximizing happiness and reducing suffering. In the views of Bentham and Mill, Utilitarianism is defined as hedonistic only when the impact of actions has no negative impact on others. In this ethical theory, the moral worth of an action is found only by its results outcome, even though there is debate over how much importance is given to the actual performance, intended performance, and foreseen performance Utilitarianism is differentiated as a quantitative and reductionist approach that is related to ethics. Utilitarianism can be distinguished using deontological ethics. Utilitarianism does not regard the performance of action as a determinant of its ethical value whereas deontological ethics primarily focuses on acts and habits that lead to happiness.
Question 4: What are the professional codes of ethics (CoE) and what functions do they serve? Compare the ACS and IEEE computer society CoE?
Answer 4: Professional has adopted the code of ethics developed by professional societies. For example, the medical people have recognized the AMA (American Medical Association), the lawful professionals have established the ABA (American Bar Association). Both these bodies have codes of ethics for their members and it must be followed by their members. A professional code of ethics is designed to encourage the members in the associations to behave in a manner as provided to them. These codes of ethics help the association to inspire, guide, educate, and discipline the members. These codes also provide needful guidance and advice to the members of the association when they come across the situations that re mutually complex. Codes guide the members in association to follow the ethical responsibilities. In addition to these functions, codes of ethics have certain roles. They can alert the potential clients and managers for what they may or may not anticipate by way of service from a member of occupation.
Computing professionals have established numerous amount of professional societies. The two main bodies are the Association of Computing Machinery (ACM) and the Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers Computer Society (IEEE-CS). Both of these bodies have adopted professional codes of ethics. Both Association of Computing Machinery (ACM) and the Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers Computer Society contain general laws on what is anticipated, in a few cases what is necessary from the member in good standing (IEEE Code of Ethics, 2009). Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers Computer Society (IEEE-CS) contains ten general directives from which four are listed below:
- To accept the responsibility in making engineering decisions and these decisions must be taken with to health, safety, and welfare of the public.
- To stay away from real or apparent conflicts of interest wherever possible
- To remain honest
- To reject bribery in all the forms
The Code of ethics given by the Association of Computing Machinery (ACM) is more composite. It has 24 imperatives, prepared as statements of personal liability (Association of Computing Machinery, 2013). The list of general moral imperatives contained by ACM is given below:
To be a member of ACM one should
- add to the society and human well-being
- Be truthful and reliable
- Avoid injury to others
- Be reasonable and take actions not to categorize others
- Respect and honor property copyrights and patents
- Respect the isolation of others
- respect confidentiality
- Respect and give proper credit for intellectual property.
Question 5: Can professional codes guide I.T professionals in determining when it would be appropriate to blow the whistle? Explain with two contrasting examples?
Answer 5: Whistleblowing is an act of an employee to inform the public or authorized authority on the immoral or illegal behavior of an employee or manager. Another author defines it as an act in which individuals do to make revelations meant to call attention to negligence, abuses, or dangers that intimidate the common public. The situation of whistleblowing can arise in cases of an unlawful act (an act that involves specific acts that re either illegal or immortal). A professional code of ethics guides or tells what is right or what is wrong. In this way, it helps the employees or professionals to determine when to blow the whistle or when not to. As per the professional ethics, professionals are obliged to express worry to the people involved in the action, when important violations of these codes are noticed (Professional Ethics, Code of Conduct, and moral responsibility, 2011).
It can be better understood with help of examples. A case had occurred in the USA, where an FBI employee, Colleen Rowley came forward to describe how critical messages had failed to be sent up the federal bureau chain of commands in the days immediately before the most tragic event of September 11, 2001. This makes her blow the whistle against her supervisor. Another case is seen in the United States military proposal known as the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI). David Parnas, a consultant in the SDI project was paid $1000 every day for his knowledge (Professional Ethics, Code of Conduct, and moral responsibility, 2011). The three main reasons to blow the whistle were specifications for the software could not be known with any confidence, the software is not based on real-time debugging (there would be no sufficient time during the war to repair and reinstall failing software) and the software does go under real-time testing.
Association of Computing Machinery. (2013). Retrieved December 17, 2013, from http://www.acm.org/about
IEEE Code of Ethics. (2009). Retrieved December 17, 2013, from http://dusk.geo.orst.edu/ethics/codes/IEEE_code.pdf
Introduction to cyberethics: Concepts, perspectives, and methodological frameworks. (2011). Retrieved December 17, 2013, from http://www.dlc-ubc.ca/wordpress_dlc_mu/edcp473/files/2011/12/4339_001.pdf
Nissenbaum, H. (1996). Accountability in a computerized society. Science and engineering ethics, 2, 25-42.
Professional Ethics, Code of Conduct, and moral responsibility. (2011). Retrieved December 17, 2013, from http://www.dlc-ubc.ca/wordpress_dlc_mu/edcp473/files/2011/12/4341_001.pdf.
Tavani, H.T. (2011). Ethics and Technology: Controversies, Questions, and Strategies for Ethical Computing. US: John Wiley & Sons.