L06: Many Codes, Same Concepts.

This unit has explored a few professional ethics codes but I decided to see if one exists for someone in my situation: an engineer who works in the information security field within information technology. And I found quite a few of them that seem to be related to IT professionals! These include: Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE), Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), Information Systems Security Association, Inc. (ISSA), etc. I will focus on only these organizations for this post.

Reviewing the ethics code for each of these turned up a lot of information and since choosing one in an ethical scenario could be complicated for someone like me, I decided to go with the method of code overlap (PSY 533, 2016). This approach proved to be quite simple because the fundamentals of all the codes were similar and can be filed under:

  • Public Welfare
  • Competence
  • Fairness
  • Confidentiality and Privacy
  • Integrity
  • Respect for the Law

Public Welfare

Engineers and IT professionals are expected to prioritize the safety and welfare of the public in their decision-making processes. They must ensure that no harm is caused to others as a result of their actions and/or decisions.

Examples:

“to accept responsibility in making decisions consistent with the safety, health, and welfare of the public, and to disclose promptly factors that might endanger the public or the environment” (IEEE)

Engineers, in the fulfillment of their professional duties, shall: 1) Hold paramount the safety, health, and welfare of the public.” (NSPE)

Competence

IT professionals must only undertake tasks for which they are trained or qualified for and must advise of any limitations. This can also be seen as a sign of integrity (another major fundamental). Also, they must also maintain their skills and keep up with new technologies relevant to their roles.

Examples:

Perform services only in areas of their competence.” (NSPE)

“to maintain and improve our technical competence and to undertake technological tasks for others only if qualified by training or experience, or after full disclosure of pertinent limitations;” (IEEE)

“Excellence depends on individuals who take responsibility for acquiring and maintaining professional competence. A professional must participate in setting standards for appropriate levels of competence, and strive to achieve those standards. Upgrading technical knowledge and competence can be achieved in several ways:doing independent study; attending seminars, conferences, or courses; and being involved in professional organizations.” (ACM)

Fairness

Fairness here covers a lot of ground under these codes like treating others equally, and acting professionally with no bias. see below for wordings.

Examples:

“to treat fairly all persons and to not engage in acts of discrimination based on race, religion, gender, disability, age, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression;” (IEEE)

“The values of equality, tolerance, respect for others, and the principles of equal justice govern this imperative. Discrimination on the basis of race, sex, religion, age, disability, national origin, or other such factors is an explicit violation of ACM policy and will not be tolerated.

Inequities between different groups of people may result from the use or misuse of information and technology. In a fair society,all individuals would have equal opportunity to participate in, or benefit from, the use of computer resources regardless of race, sex, religion, age, disability, national origin or other such similar factors. However, these ideals do not justify unauthorized use of computer resources nor do they provide an adequate basis for violation of any other ethical imperatives of this code.” (ACM)

 Confidentiality and Privacy

The expert or advanced use of technologies comes with a great deal of power due to the sheer amount of information at one’s fingertips. Hence, these codes all make a point of maintaining the confidentiality and privacy of others in the course of carrying out professional tasks. It also covers accessing data only if necessary, and the disposal of data.

Examples:

“Engineers shall not disclose, without consent, confidential information concerning the business affairs or technical processes of any present or former client or employer, or public body on which they serve.” (NSPE)

“Trespassing and unauthorized use of a computer or communication system is addressed by this imperative. Trespassing includes accessing communication networks and computer systems, or accounts and/or files associated with those systems, without explicit authorization to do so. Individuals and organizations have the right to restrict access to their systems so long as they do not violate the discrimination principle. No one should enter or use another’s computer system, software, or data files without permission. One must always have appropriate approval before using system resources, including communication ports, file space, other system peripherals, and computer time.

The principle of honesty extends to issues of confidentiality of information whenever one has made an explicit promise to honor confidentiality or, implicitly, when private information not directly related to the performance of one’s duties becomes available. The ethical concern is to respect all obligations of confidentiality to employers, clients, and users unless discharged from such obligations by requirements of the law or other principles of this Code.” (ACM)

“Maintain appropriate confidentiality of proprietary or otherwise sensitive information encountered in the course of professional activities;” (ISSA)

Integrity

Integrity is a major component of these codes. It covers making honest claims, giving credit for others’ works, avoiding deception, etc.

Examples:

“Honesty is an essential component of trust. Without trust an organization cannot function effectively. The honest computing professional will not make deliberately false or deceptive claims about a system or system design, but will instead provide full disclosure of all pertinent system limitations and problems. A computer professional has a duty to be honest about his or her own qualifications, and about any circumstances that might lead to conflicts of interest.” (ACE)

“Engineers shall be guided in all their relations by the highest standards of honesty and integrity.” (NSPE)

Respect for the Law

Last but not least, most of the codes emphasize the importance of adhering to the laws in pprofessional duties.

Examples:

“Perform all professional activities and duties in accordance with all applicable laws and the highest ethical principles;” (ISSA)

“ACM members must obey existing local, state,province, national, and international laws unless there is a compelling ethical basis not to do so. Policies and procedures of the organizations in which one participates must also be obeyed. But compliance must be balanced with the recognition that sometimes existing laws and rules may be immoral or inappropriate and, therefore, must be challenged. Violation of a law or regulation may be ethical when that law or rule has inadequate moral basis or when it conflicts with another law judged to be more important. If one decides to violate a law or rule because it is viewed as unethical, or for any other reason, one must fully accept responsibility for one’s actions and for the consequences.” (ACM)

 

Conclusion

Within these technology-related codes, one can see the similarities between them and that of the American Psychologists Association (APA). Their fundamentals certainly align with the five principles of the APA ethics code: i) Beneficence and Nonmaleficence (ii) Fidelity and Responsibility (iii) Integrity (iv) Justice (v) Respect for People’s Rights and Dignity. (APA, 2010)

All in all, this was an enlightening research that provided an insight into what the ethics codes of other professions look like, and how finding overlaps will help someone like me to be more rounded in making ethical decisions as a leader.

 

References

  • American Psychological Association. (2010, June 1). Ethical principles of psychologists and code of conduct: Including 2010 amendments. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/ethics/code
  • Association for Computing Machinery (1992, October 16). ACM Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct. Retrieved from http://www.acm.org/about-acm/acm-code-of-ethics-and-professional-conduct
  • Information Systems Security Association, Inc. (n.d.). ISSA Code of Ethics. Retrieved from http://www.issa.org/?page=codeofethics
  • Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (n.d.).  IEEE Code of Ethics. Retrieved from http://www.ieee.org/about/corporate/governance/p7-8.html
  • National Society of Professional Engineers (2007). NSPE Code of Ethics for Engineers. Retrieved from http://www.nspe.org/resources/ethics/code-ethics
  • Penn State University (2016). PSY 533. Lesson 6. Choosing Codes of Ethics. Retreived from https://psu.instructure.com/courses/1775390/pages/l06-choosing-codes-of-ethics?module_item_id=20678716
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