Professional Codes of Ethics Discussion Paper.

Professional Codes of Ethics Discussion Paper.


  1. Compare the ethical responsibilities associated with financial reporting, auditing, and tax functions.
  2. Explain the licensing systems in place to regulate the accounting profession.Professional Codes of Ethics Discussion Paper.

Topic 7 DQ 1


There is much debate and discussion regarding raising the minimum wage. What are some of the ethical issues raising the minimum wage would pose? Should a government protect employees by instituting or increasing the minimum wage? Does the answer depend on the ethical theory to which one subscribes?

Your initial post should include your analysis and evidence from other cases that supports your analysis. Your follow-up discussion should challenge your classmates’ findings and defend your own position. Follow-up discussions to classmates’ initial responses should integrate course theories with a practical application of the subject; offer a personal observation or experience; reference real-world examples, current events; or present current research on the topic that encourages further discussion and ongoing dialogue with other students and the instructor in the class.



Ethics and professional conduct
There is a long tradition of binding members of professions like
medicine and law to a code of professional conduct. Our own profession is in comparison to such classical professions extremely young and immature, and the basic conditions for working as a computer professional are somewhat different from those of doctors and lawyers. Despite these differences, there have been several attempts to
establish codes of ethics and professional conduct within computing.
In the United States, ACM has had its official code of profes-
sional conduct since 1972; IEEE has adopted a code of ethics; and
the Data Processing Management Association also has a code of
ethics. The British Computer society agreed upon codes of practice
and conduct in 1983, while the Australian Computer Society
adopted a code of ethics in 1987. More specific information about
these different codes can be found in Johnson et al. (1985) and Mar-
tin et al. (1990).
There is an ongoing discussion about ethics and professional conduct within IFIP. A special task group is trying to develop a set of guidelines which should be observed by any member society when developing their respective code of ethics. The task group has announced the publication of a reader on the topic, including major national and international codes of ethics relevant to information technology. A draft IFIP Code of Ethics has been developed by Hal
Sackman (1990) and this proposal have created a lot of debate be-
tween individuals and member societies. Professional Codes of Ethics Discussion Paper.
In Scandinavia, ethics (especially when compared to politics)
has played a minor role in our professional discussions. There are,
however, a few examples of codes of ethics formulated by specific organizations. What follows shows such a code agreed upon in 1991 by three Swedish trade unions organizing computing personnel (“Etik
for datafolk” by SIF, SBmf and FTF; our translation). On a more general level, codes of ethics have not played any significant role in the education of computer professionals in Scandinavia, and the na-
tional computing societies have not adopted codes of professional conduct.
Swedish Ethical Rules for Computer Professionals
1. Computer professionals only perform tasks that acknowledge
legitimate integrity claims and are in accordance with common understanding of law.
2. Computer professionals only participate in development
tasks, the objectives and context of which have been made explicit.
3. Computer professionals only take part in projects with the
time and resources assigned that make it possible to do a
good job.
4. Computer professionals only develop systems in close collaboration with the user.
5. Computer professionals show respect for, and contribute to
the development of, the professional competence of the users.
6. Computer professionals develop systems that use technology
such a way as to satisfy the interests of the users.
7. Computer professionals develop systems that bring about
good work environments. Professional Codes of Ethics Discussion Paper.
8. Computer professionals refrain from tasks aiming at control
in ways that can be of harm to individuals.
9. Computer professionals keep themselves informed about
laws and agreements related to their work and they partici-
pate actively in disseminating knowledge about computing
activities violating such laws and agreements.
10. Computer professionals only access data required to perform
their job.
11. Computer professionals feel responsible for ensuring that
computer technology is not used in ways that harm people,
the environment, or society.
3. The two ACM codes
Here, we want to focus on ACM’s recently adopted Code of Ethics
and Professional Conduct, quoted below from Anderson et al. (1993),
and begin by comparing it to the first ACM code from 1972 (we have
used numbers in parentheses after a rule in the new ACM code to
indicate the corresponding canon in the 1972 code).
The New ACM Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct
1. General Moral Imperatives. As an ACM member I will . . .
1.1. Contribute to society and human well-being. (5)
1.2. Avoid harm to others. (5)
1.3. Be honest and trustworthy. (1)
1.4. Be fair and take action not to discriminate.
1.5. Honor property rights including copy rights and patents.
1.6. Give proper credit for intellectual property. (4)
1.7. Respect the privacy of others. (5)
1.8. Honor confidentiality. (1)
2. More Specific Professional Responsibilities. As an ACM
Computing Professional I will . . .
2.1. Strive to achieve the highest quality, effectiveness and
dignity in both the process and products of professional
work. (4)
2.2. Acquire and maintain professional competence. (2)
2.3. Know and respect existing laws pertaining to profes-
sional work.
2.4. Accept and provide appropriate professional review.
2.5. Give comprehensive and thorough evaluations of com-
puter systems and their impacts, including analysis of
possible risks.
2.6. Honor contracts, agreements, and assigned responsibili-
ties. (3)
2.7. Improve public understanding of computing and its con-
2.8. Access computing and communications resources only
when authorized to do so.
3. Organizational Leadership Imperatives. As an ACM member
and an organizational leader, I will . . .
3.1. Articulate social responsibilities of members of an or-
ganizational unit and encourage full acceptance of those
responsibilities. Professional Codes of Ethics Discussion Paper.
3.2. Manage personnel and resources to design and build in-
formation systems that enhance the quality of working
3.3. Acknowledge and support proper and authorized uses of
an organization’s computing and communication re-
3.4. Ensure that users and those who will be affected by a
system have their needs clearly articulated during the
assessment and design of requirements. Later the system
must be validated to meet requirements.
3.5. Articulate and support policies that protect the dignity
of users and others affected by a computing system.
3.6. Create opportunities for members of the organization to
learn the principles and limitations of computer systems.
4. Compliance with the Code. As an ACM member I will . . .
4.1. Uphold and promote the principles of this code. (4)
4.2. Treat violations of this code as inconsistent with membership in the ACM. (4)
According to Anderson et al. (1993) the 1972 ACM code was estab-
lished together with a review board as instruments to deter ACM
members from unethical behavior. The aim was to introduce means
to regulate membership and thereby convince the public that the
profession deserved to be self regulating. The code emphasized pos-
sible violations and threatened sanctions for such violations. More
specifically, the code of 1972 is given in the form of five canons (e.g. canon 1: An ACM member shall act at all times with integrity), each
followed by a number of ethical considerations (e.g. EC 1.3: An ACM
member shall act faithfully on behalf of his employers or clients)
and a number of disciplinary rules (e.g. DR 1.3.3: An ACM member
shall not use any confidential information from any employer or cli-
ent, past or present, without prior permission). Professional Codes of Ethics Discussion Paper.
Like many other organizations, ACM has had difficulties im-
plementing an effective ethical review system. And the new ACM
code is an expression of the principle that self regulation in a ma-
ture professional organization depends mostly on the consensus and
commitment of its members to ethical behavior (Anderson et al.
1993). This shift in paradigm makes it rather difficult to compare
the two versions of the code. But we can make the following rough
(1) Most of the general moral imperatives of the new code were
part of the 1972 code as well. Exceptions are rules 1.4 and
(2) There is an increased emphasis on specific professional re-
sponsibilities in the new code. Specifically, rules 2.3, 2.4,
2.5, 2.7, and 2.8 state new ethical rules.
(3) The organizational leadership imperatives of the new code
adds a whole new dimension missing in the 1972 code.
(4) The rules of compliance with the code are covered in a much
more elaborate form in the 1972 code.
In addition to the codes, ACM has published two self assessment
procedures related to ethics and professional conduct, see Weiss
(1982) and Weiss (1990). Both these procedures are based on the
1972 code. They offer a number of scenarios to be considered and
evaluated by the reader. They also include a number of proposed
opinions on the scenarios. These procedures are affective means to
challenge one’s own professional perceptions and attitudes, and they
can easily be included in the education of computer professionals.
4. Professionalization, philosophy, and
Having acquainted ourselves a bit with the contents of the ACM
codes of ethics, we may go on to discuss the nature of such codes.
What are they? What motivates people to formulate them? What are the effects of such codes on the profession? The answers to these
questions are complex. Codes of ethics and professional conduct
serve many purposes: as professionalization strategies, as stating
ethical positions, and as methodological frameworks for computing.
4.1. Professionalization strategy
As noted by Anderson et al. (1993) in presenting the ACM code, the
most important purpose is professionalization: “Historically, professional associations have viewed codes of ethics as mechanisms to establish their status as a profession or as a means to regulate their
membership and thereby convince the public that they deserve to be
self regulating” (Anderson et al. 1993, p. 98). Professional Codes of Ethics Discussion Paper.
Our understanding of the strategies used by doctors, lawyers,
engineers, nurses, librarians, and so on, in trying to establish them-
selves as professions can help us see the role played by the ACM
codes of ethics. Viewed in this light, we will ask how the codes man-
age to demarcate computer professionals from the rest of society, including clients and employers. The ACM 1972 code pays a great deal of attention to regulating the internal relations between computer professionals, and in this respect resembles the internal stat-
utes of a social club or association. To the extent that the code comments on relations to people outside the club they seem to promote
the independence of the profession. Rather than reaching out to-
wards society, encouraging discussion and debate, the code attempts
to close the border, saying something like “we are the experts and
we will take care of computerizing society without any advice from
you, so don’t worry.”
Viewed in this way, as a professionalization strategy, a code of
ethics seems to be technocratic by definition, and thus abhorrent to
major trends in the Scandinavian information systems community.
In the US, some would argue that computer professionals fail to
make a profession in the traditional sense because they work as
employees in teams rather than in their own right, i.e. because they
are not independent in the same way as doctors and lawyers
(Johnson 1985). In Scandinavia, we have argued for dependence, we
have argued that computer professionals need to collaborate with
users and clients to develop quality systems. From a traditional professionalization point of view, there is a surprising paradox at the heart of the Scandinavian approach: Trying to define a profession ideal based on giving up your authority to the user, thus losing your independence as a professional.
This paradox will be resolved, we think, by questioning traditional ways of thinking about professions and professionalization.
Reducing the question of professionalization to formal criteria like independence, self regulation, and status, one misses the chance to examine codes of ethics as expressions of ideas about the nature and content of the profession, its goals and means, its long term ideals and strategies. In Computers in Context (Dahlbom et al. 1993, chapter 9) we distinguish three different ideas about the computer profession, called engineering, facilitation, and emancipation, the last two being our attempt to formulate Scandinavian alternatives to mainstream software engineering.
Engineers want to increase the efficiency of computing and computer use. Facilitators strive to increase the understanding of how technology could be made to serve people rather than the other way around. Emancipators worry about injustice, blaming almost everything on an unequal distribution of power, often supported by advanced technology. None of these positions need to be less moral than the others, less socially concerned. The difference between them lies rather in what they consider to be the most important factor to attend to if we want to improve the world: wealth, understanding, or equality. We see no difficulties in developing a profession on the basis of each of these, but the nature of these professions will be very different and so will, of course, their positions in ethics. Professional Codes of Ethics Discussion Paper.

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