Professional code of conduct in computer science

The realities of the modern days show that sometimes computer professionals in the sphere of business, industry and other spheres of social life fail to accept that their occupation and in particular case their professional activity has a lot of consequences and outcomes that are connected with ethical and moral norms. That’s why the fundamental of computer ethics should be introduced to any future computer professional (in most cases to the students of computer majors), as their professional that is connected with different spheres man’s activity (public and person) have a lot of moral and social consequences.

The objectives of the research made, may be formulated in the following way. First of all, I wanted to give the exact definition of the term computer ethics and “professional code of conduct” for any occupation and to specify on the important aspects and issues of the “code of conduct” for computer scientists. The discussion of the terms “computer ethics” and “professional code of conduct” were made referring to the basic social moral principles, principles of universal ethics and explanation of philosophical, logical and legislative aspects of this topic.

The second purpose was to make a critical overview of the basic principles of the code of conduct for computer scientists, connecting it to the practical issues and cases that may happen during the professional activity. The particular attention was made to the commentary of the code of Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) as the universal document that regulates the professional relations, referring to computer science, as well as a reference to the code of conduct for students of computer science majors.

After discussing the general aspects of the computer ethics and code of conduct issues, the project analyses the existing work done in the area of computer ethics related issues. It specifically discusses the works of computer specialists that open the questions of privacy, publicity of the computer data, attitude to cyber crimes, as well as state and law regulation of these urgent questions. On the base of the existing legislature, precedents and universal problems of personal data protection the project analyses the professional code of conduct of Great Britain and Italy.

It covers the problems of privacy, their regulations, violations of the existing norms of privacy by government authorities and gives a subjective explanation to the question about no universal code of conduct for computer professional in Europe. Research methodology (theory/practice) For the particular study the analysis of the primary and secondary sources that cover the theme of cyber ethics and professional ethics was used.

First the problem was discussed from the general perspective, concluding the information and knowledge of professional ethics, general ethics norms and concepts that refer to the professional activity. Then the project covers and comments on the fundamentals and main articles of the code of Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) as the accepted primary source for the professional code of conduct in computer science of every country.

Because the project refers to the questions of privacy and availability of different data types and forms that have different importance and security level, the professional codes of conduct have to be composed in accordance and sequence of existing international legislature that covers the questions of privacy issues. The research gives the reference to the principles of establishing codes of conduct as most computer professionals see them and to the computer related cases in the practice of the UK as the object of study and Italy.

The case study of (Italian pcoc vs English pcoc) is made on the analysis of the official documents, suggestion to the problem that are made by computer specialists (those mentioned in the literature review) as well as on the analysis of the existing issues of computer security protection and cyber crime cases that exist in those countries and on the dependence of privacy issues on the events that have the universal meaning especially for state security and international situation of the country.

That’s why in covering the projects problem and in the case research it’s not enough to refer only to the theoretical material and bare principles of professional ethics, but as the problem refers to the particular study of the particular problem the question has to be discussed from different angles and from different points of view. Besides including citations of the official documents of conduct codes, I also included facts from online computer periodicals that deal with the problem of privacy protection, giving a subjective perception of the problem from the perspective of specialists in computer sphere, whose rights are violated.

This gave the opportunity to make the most descriptive picture of the existing differences between the code of conduct in Italy and the UK and to answer the question that makes such differences. So the research was made on the principles of deductive reasoning, using theoretical material, practical cases from the sphere of computer science, as well as the study materials of computer specialists and basic ethic and moral concepts and principles.

Literature review If to refer to the definition of the word ethics to the dictionary we’ll get the definite answer that ethics is “a set of moral principles or values”. Every person observes (or has to observe) moral and social norms of the society he lives in that may be derived from different sources and surroundings he is involved in: his culture, family, religion or beliefs, legal system and state laws. Computer ethics is a set of ethical questions that surround computer science and usage of computers as well as related informational technologies.

As it’s defined in the article Computer Ethics in Computer Science: The term “computer ethics” was coined in the mid 1970s by Walter Maner to refer to that field of applied professional ethics dealing with ethical problems aggravated, transformed or created by computer technology. By analogy with the more developed field of medical ethics, Maner focussed attention upon applications of ethical theories and decision procedures used by philosophers doing applied ethics. He distinguished “computer ethics” from sociology of computing and from technology assessment. For nearly two decades, the term “computer ethics” kept this focussed meaning.

Recently, however, the term “computer ethics” has acquired a broader sense that includes applied ethics, sociology of computing, technology assessment, computer law, and related fields. This broader kind of computer ethics examines the impact of computing and information technology upon human values, using concepts, theories and procedures from philosophy, sociology, law, psychology, and so on. Practitioners of the broader computer ethics – whether they are philosophers, computer scientists, social scientists, public policy makers, or whatever – all have the same goal:

To integrate computing technology and human values in such a way that the technology advances and protects human values, rather than doing damage to them. Donn Parker pursues this goal by gathering example cases and presenting scenarios for discussion. Judith Perrolle does it by applying sociological theories and tools to data about computing; Sherry Turkle does it by applying psychological theories and tools; James Moor, Deborah Johnson and others do it by applying philosophical theories and tools; and so on. All of these thinkers and many others address problems about computing technology and human values, seeking to . Understand the impact of computing technology upon human values 2.

Minimize the damage that such technology can do to human values, and Identify ways to use computer technology to advance human values. ” (available on web : http://www. southernct. edu/organizations/rccs/resources/teaching/teaching_mono/bynum/bynum_computer_ethics. html#top) As most of authors agree the concept of computer ethics can be divided into two levels. The questions of those two “levels” refer to different problems as well as they have different solutions. But at each level the main purpose is to protect and to advance human rights.

In general the main purpose of computer ethics is to convince people that computer technology has a lot of consequences of social and ethical meaning. By the opinion of Terrell Ward Bynum: “This is the overall goal of what some call “pop” computer ethics. Newspapers, magazines and TV news programs have engaged increasingly in computer ethics of this sort. Every week, there are news stories about computer viruses, or software ownership law suits, or computer-aided bank robbery, or harmful computer malfunctions, or computerized weapons, etc.

As the social impact of information technology grows, such articles will proliferate. That’s good! The public at large should be sensitized to the fact that computer technology can threaten human values as well as advance them. The second “level” of computer ethics can be called “para” computer ethics. Someone who takes a special interest in computer ethics cases, collects examples, clarifies them, looks for similarities and differences, reads related works, attends relevant events, and so on, is learning “para” computer ethics. (I’ve borrowed this term from Keith Miller, who is the first person I ever heard use it.

By analogy with a para medic – who is not a physician, but who does have some technical medical knowledge – a “para” computer ethicist is not a professional ethicist, but does have some relevant special knowledge. A para medic, of course, cannot do all that a physician does, but he or she can make preliminary medical assessments, administer first aid and provide rudimentary medical assistance. Similarly, a “para” computer ethicist does not attempt to apply the tools and procedures of a professional philosopher or lawyer or social scientist.

Rather, he or she makes preliminary assessments and identifications of computer ethics cases, compares them with others, suggests possible analyses. The third level of computer ethics I call “theoretical” computer ethics, because it applies scholarly theories to computer ethics cases and concepts. Someone proficient in “theoretical” computer ethics would be able not only to identify, clarify, compare and contrast computer ethics cases; she or he could also apply theories and tools from philosophy, social science or law in order to deepen our understanding of the issues.

Such “theoretical” computer ethics is normally taught in college-level courses with titles like “Computer Ethics,” “Computers and Society,” “Computers and the Law. ” All three “levels of analysis” are important to the goal of advancing and defending human values. Voters and the public at large, for example, should be sensitive to the social and ethical consequences of information technology. Computer professionals and public policy makers should have “para” computer ethics skills and knowledge in order to do their jobs effectively.

And scholars must continue to deepen our understanding of the social and ethical impact of computing by engaging in theoretical analysis and research. In reality, of course, none of these three “Levels” of computer ethics is cleanly separated from the others. One blends gradually into the next. Nevertheless, I think it is useful to distinguish them, and I will continue to do so here. ”

In studying the questions of code of conduct and issues that are related to moral side of the computer science specialists it’s impossible to discuss this problem without reference to the problems of computer ethics. The study of computer ethics problems that are related to everyday events and cases in computerized sphere of human life is essential in the process of understanding and finding the most optimal solutions for the problem that deals with the development of professional rules and regulations for the professional, specialist or simply a user of computer devices and person who has access to computerized data.

The adjustment of the code of conduct for the specific activity and defining the limits for the application of the particular right are often unclear as it’s difficult to establish a legal border of what is privacy and what is not, depending on the external and internal circumstances. That’s why the study of this problem is a subject of serious attention of the computer, law, ethics specialists whose task is to develop the most optimal and effective regulations for the professional life of computer specialists.

There are lots of works that have been written in order to make most ethical questions of computer professionalism clear, but I would like to focus only some of them, as they mostly cover all the essential information that needs to be taken into consideration when speaking about the mortal and legal regulations of computer specialists’ professional activity.

The work of Herman T. Tavani Ethics and Technology: Ethical Issues in an Age of Information and Communications Technology describes the variety and complicated nature of the issues that concern moral aspects of the cyber technology and it’s application in human life. The research made by Tavani can not be called a computer or ethic text, but it’s an uniting work that focuses on the exact aspects and issues of the cyber technology which go the difinition by the author as ‘a wide range of computing and communications devices, from stand-alone computers to ‘connected,’ or networked, computing and communications technologies.

The author not only provides the fundamentals of cybernetics and modern computer technology issues but also the concepts of philosophy, ethics and logics that refer to the problem of identifying a case and connecting it to the similar event, by making analogies, and applying critical thinking as well as ethical and philosophical experiences to the identification of the issues meaning and place in the subject discussed.

The education role of the work is very impressive as it gets the reader acquainted with the number of moral and professional aspects of the work of a computer specialist, giving a simple interpretation of the questions that refer to the problems of philosophy and morality. It gives a wide space for the practical thinking about the problems of normative ethics issues as well as other ethical issues and practices that computer specialists face in daily life.

Before starting to discuss specific issues of cyber technology, Tavani gives a piece of information about professional ethics, professional code of conduct and responsibilities of the computer specialist as of a person. For educational purposes it’s very important as the students who study computer science will learn much enough about their future responsibilities as of future specialists.

The understanding of these concepts and rules is important not only for a future professional but for an educated person with a university or college degree that has to distinguish not only by the education and professional skills by also by high standards of decency and moral qualities. The keeping of the norms of code of conduct while work also develops the keeping of the laws and moral norms in everyday life that is very important for a person for the first place.

The main body of the work make the reader acquainted with the examples and case study of different issues that refer to the computer science and cybernetics applications in modern life. It touches the issues of privacy, security, electronic commerce regulations and freedom of speech online, the search of work, employment issues for online jobs, etc.

In the description and explanation of these precedents that are past and nowadays events Tavani gives a unique practical background for a student or a professional who wants to study the moral aspects of computer technology and improve and make more effective his professional activity on the basis of moral and legislative information about the competence of the work.

A unique monograph of the three computer scientists and law specialists Yaman Akdeniz, Clive Walker and David Wall may serve as an excellent example for the case studies of any cyber related issues that refer to past and present days and that are of the great concern as well as may have a specific meaning.

The work made in four volumes and discussing all urgent issues of computer security and cyberspace activity of a person: The Internet, Law and Society Part I, Governance of the Internet Part II, Legal institutions and professions and the Internet Part III Legal controversies in cyberspace may serve as an encyclopedia for anyone interested in a particular case that refers to cyber technology.

The work also covers the legislature and state regulations of the internet activities and internet data exchange processes, arguing on the acceptable level of penetration to the private sector of the cyber activity of government, security services and police. Because these issues had become real contradictive nowadays the problem to identify and analysis every case is real difficult and demands a lot of knowledge in the precedent cases. All this is offered to reader in this exhaustive work done by the real specialists.

The organization of the book with lively description and proof based on the bare facts with unique commentaries makes it essential for those who want to look on the problem of computer moral and limitations of computer privacy and security from the eyes of specialists also learning the position of government authorities about this particular cases. The biggest value of the book is that it gives a clear explanation to the particular case, analysis the position of government and the position of the computer professional, giving arguments for the favor of both and making a clear conclusion that is based on logical analysis of the case.

The book of George Reynolds Ethics in Information Technology (Thomson Learning, 2003) gives vivid examples that refer to IT-related issues and situations, which require logical and critical analysis of the situation. The primary value of the book is that it can be used as a primary source for giving fundamentals of computer professional ethics to the future specialists and to those who want to improve their knowledge in the professional and mortal aspects of their work.

The value of the book for the case study discussed in the project is very important as it covers basic aspects of code of conduct issues and its role in the professional activity of a specialist. As it includes references to the the professional codes for the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), the Association of Information Technology Professionals (AITP), the Software Engineering Code of Ethics and Professional Practice and the Institute of Electrical and Electronic s Engineers (IEEE) it gives an opportunity for reader to imagine better the legal and moral concepts of the code of conduct and job regulations for a specialist.

By the words of Anderson, Johnson, Gotterbarn ; Perrolle (Using the new ACM code of ethics in decision making. Communications of the ACM, 1993 ) the role of professional code of conduct is not important as it gives the clue about moral side of the job but it helps an individual in the process of making decisions. As they also mention in reviewing the book: “.

The case method of teaching practical ethics encourages students to express their ethical opinion, identify the ethical issues within the case and develop a sense of the practical context of ethics. At the end of each chapter, Ethics in Information Technology has two real-world cases. These cases reinforce the ethical principles presented in the chapter and describe how real companies address ethical issues from an IT perspective. ”