LITERATURE REVIEW: THE USE OF PROFESSIONAL ETHICS IN IT INDUSTRY Life is full of challenges. Among the challenges in the life, one of the biggest challenges is leading a good life. One can live a good life if he or she has an ethical sense. Ethics is a branch of philosophy. It is a normative science which deals with the norms of human conduct. It is also like other sciences for maths, logic, physics and empirical science for psychology and economy which follows logical reasons. (What is ethics? , 2006). Ethics is placed at the heart of a discipline (Hugman & Smith, 1995, p. 14).
During the past 30 years, much more information has become available about ethics and is considered as standards devised for humans so that they can decide to choose between right and wrong (Velasquez, Andre, Shanks & Meyer, 1987). These standards are defined by society. Rawls (1999), cited by Quinn (2005, p. 48), defines that society is group of people organized under a system of rules for the betterment of its members. Recent study shows that ethics examines moral beliefs and behaviour of people (Quinn, 2005, p. 48). So, ethics can be said that saving the human from harm by choosing right and avoiding wrong decision.
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Ethics play a very important role in our daily lives. Ethics is implied in our life by making ethical decisions. Ethical decision is to choose between right and wrong using ethical principles. Ethical principles are defined as solving the problem logically by decided good based on well-reasons which are accepted by the society (Kallman & Grillo, 1996, p. 3). We often face ethical dilemmas, where we have to make ethical decision i-e we have to choose between right and wrong by treating issue ethically. Schultz (2006, p. 2) has pointed out, “Why is it important that we treat an issue as an ethical issue?.
The basic idea is that issues arise because they involve conflicts between different interests that cannot be resolved on the level of interests alone”. Hence, when an ethical issue arises in any matter of our daily life whether it is personal or related to business, one must tackle the situation by making ethical decision. One should make decision by keeping the ethical standards designed by there society in mind. Kallman and Grillo (1996, p. 4) have reported in respect of ethical issue, that “Knowing the principles of ethical decision making is a cultural survival skill”.
This means if a person will not solve the issue with ethical decision for his or her personal or business matter will encounter series of problems. In order to avoid such ethical dilemmas in our life, ethics is divided into many categories which relates to good and bad for every part of our life. One of category of ethics is professional ethics which is related to professions. Professional ethics means the behaviour and practice adopted by the professional when carrying out professional work. Such works include consulting, researching, teaching, writing and etc.
Professional bodies are organizations which are responsible for developing professional ethics for each profession by designation of Codes of Conduct and Codes of Practice in order to observe their member’s behaviour in professional work (Professional Ethics, 2004). To make more explicit, professional codes of conduct are the codes of ethics which professional bodies create and require their members to perform to make good decisions without harming others in their field (A Critical Guide to Corporate Codes of Conduct, 2004).
This shows that for each profession, there are ethical codes which governs how services will be provided to the public. Hugman and Smith (1995, p. 3) states that ethical code has been updated from time to time and is developed in such a way for almost every profession so that it is clearly followed by every profession. Spier (2002, p. 2) and Koehn (1994, p. ix) also agrees that as world has been undergoing revolutionary changes since past 200 years, the enormous amount of technological advancement brought in information technology, engineering and medicine field which has considerably changed our lives.
Various professional bodies such as ethicist and philosophers spend incredible amount of energy to explore various aspects of ethical dilemmas emerging from everyday practice in these professions. Although, there are tremendous changes in social, political and technology life, one can easily follow updated ethical codes for making good ethical decision in these professions. Ethical issues are different for every profession like for controlled professions which includes medicine, law, civil engineering where if ethics are not considered then it may result in loss of membership and right for practice (Professional Ethics, 2004).
This means fields like medicine, law and engineering cannot afford non ethical decision in any case. On the contrary, Koehn (1994, p. 3) argues that “most philosophers, then, accept that professions are not ideological monopolies. There quarrel with professionalism lies rather with what they take to be the normative claims made by the professionals. They charge that professionals understand themselves as ruled by the ethical norms or standard which permit, and may be even oblige professionals, to perform actions not permitted by the ”ordinary” norms applicable to the rest of us.
Some doctors, for example, claim that they are entitled to lie to a patient if doing so protect the patient health. This claim qualifies as an instance of appeal to special norms because we are not ordinarily entitled to lie to others. ” Therefore, as a result, there are some ethical issues for which there are special norms which seems to be precise but are specified for good of human being. Like medicine, law and engineering fields, professional ethics in information technology (IT) is very vast as it covers many branches like computing, multimedia, games, telecommunication, internet etc. ut unlike these fields, following professional ethics i-e codes of conduct in information technology are voluntary (Professional Ethics, 2004). Although IT is a fast growing field like other fields but the question is that are professional bodies regularly creating and updating professional codes of conduct in order to generate professional ethics for Information technology (IT) industry parallel to its advancement? and what are the impacts of IT fields on society due to the voluntary status of professional ethics?.
To get the answers to these questions, it can be analyzed from previous study that when IT was a very young field, Parker, Swope and Baker (1990), cited by Kallman and Grillo (1996, p. 22), predicted that it will be difficult to apply of ethics in information science and technology rather than in other discipline. For instance, unethical actions can be performed faster using computer than performing manually. Like, some people access personal files although they are not authorized to do so.
In other case an incompetent IT professional might develop a piece software which affects overall performance and computer functional of the users computer at organization level, or a software engineer of a company A which is surviving in software market because of a software XYZ, release a source code to competitors, will lead to a disaster in the market and reputation A network engineer might leak the security codes of their secured network, or distribute/sell the software application by breaching copyright law, thus all resulting in unethical, piracy and privacy issues harming both individuals and organizations (Kallman & Grillo,1996, p. ). But later, Hongladarom and Ess (2006, p. 153) cite Gorniak-Kocikowska (1996) prediction in this regard that as the computer revolution is fast, it will give rise to a revolution of ethics and that ethical issues will become a global ethics relevant to all areas of human life. Similar judgments were made by Bynum and Rogerson (1996) and Moor (1998) cited by (Hongladarom & Ess, 2006, p. 153). Still, ethicists foresee that as information technology increasingly pervade more and more aspects of life, ethical issues are increasing day by day (Hongladarom and Ess, 2006, p. 53). This shows that as the IT revolution is fast, there should be fast change in professional ethics related to IT, which are recognized universally and strictly abide within the IT industry. Now days, in IT industry, there are some ethical organizations which are constantly working to develop standards and code of conduct in order to deal with ethical dilemmas rising due to technology advancement.
These standards and codes define how computer users will act as well as define how computer professional will perform their duties (Kallman & Grillo, 1996, p. 109). Most IT professionals have taken this responsibility to deal with ethical dilemmas at individual as well as organization level. Although IT has recently stepped in the list of professions as compared to other professions like medicine, law etc.. ut it has its own IT professional organizations such as the Association of Computer Machinery (ACM) Code of Ethics (1992), the Association of Information Technology Professionals (AITP) Code of Ethics (2002) and the Software Engineers Code of Ethics and Professional Practice (SEC) developed jointly by the ACM and the Computer Society of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE CS) (1998) and British Computer Society (BCS).
These organizations monitor ethical codes and build standards in computing (Schultz, 2006, p. 46). However, these professional bodies function to resolve ethical issues rising by updating ethical codes and standards due to technology advancement. Among all above professional bodies in IT industry, one of the leading professional organization for IT is British Computer Society (BCS) which is based in United Kingdom. BCS was established in 1957 and has now over 60,000 member’s world-wide membership in over 100 countries.
Since from the day of its foundation it has made remarkable effort in standardizing IT industry. “The vision of BCS is to see the IT profession recognized as being a profession of the highest integrity and competence. BCS will lead the development and implementation of standards for the IT profession through innovative and valued products and services and by being the respected voice informing and influencing individuals, organizations and society as a whole” (About BCS, 2007).
Like BCS, other professional bodies are also working continuously on resources and updating professional “codes of conduct” and “certification and accreditation”. Professional bodies such as Association of Computer Machinery (ACM), the Association of Information Technology Professionals (AITP), the Software Engineers Code of Ethics and Professional Practice (SEC) developed jointly by the ACM and the Computer Society of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE CS), codes of conduct are similar to BCS codes of conduct (Kallam and Grillo, 1996, p. 10). But the question arises that though professional bodies are continuously engaged in updating codes of conduct in IT profession, why these bodies are not making these codes of conduct mandatory for IT professionals at organization and individual level, if “adherence of professionals to code of ethics is a voluntary matter” (Code of Ethics, 2007). As professionals in the fields of medicine and law loose their membership if they commit a life threatening acts by not following codes of conduct of their profession.
Like wise, IT professional should also loose their membership permanently rather than only with a particular organization like ACM (Code of Ethics, 2007), when they commit a life threatening act e-g changing surgery or medicine information of any patient in the computer system of Surgeons or General Practitioner by unauthorised access, leakage of security codes of defence system of any country by cracking etc.
Therefore, it can be concluded that although BCS and other similar professional bodies are working continuously to fulfil the requirement of professional ethics i-e to standardize the IT industry by introducing and updating their code of conducts, professional development programmes and professional accreditation/certification, hence, due to the rapid growth in IT industry and voluntary status to follow these codes, society is still facing ethical dilemmas in IT industry like unauthorised access of information, leakage of source security codes, piracy etc.
Schultz (2006, p. 6) states in this regard that “as new and unpredictable uses of information technology arise with some regularity, so do new and unpredictable ethical problems. Information Technology is embedded in a human world of actions, relations, and institutions, and it is to be expected that its interaction with that world would not yield predictable ethical problems??? or predictable solutions either”.
As professional bodies are making full efforts to develop and update codes of conduct in IT industry parallel to its advancement, if they make following codes of conduct mandatory for IT professionals then ethical dilemmas in IT industry can be controlled to a maximum extent. In the end, after making research on professional ethics related to IT industry, I can say that yes, I am ready to become IT professional in computer industry as I have analysed draw backs in IT profession due to voluntary status of following professional ethics i-e codes of conduct and rapid growth in industry.
So, being an IT professional I will contribute my maximum efforts to follow professional ethics principles in order to deal with ethical dilemmas in IT industry. Bibliography: A Critical Guide to Corporate Codes of Conduct. (2004). Retrieved December 09, 2007, from http://amrc. org. hk/Critical%20Guide%20to%20Codeof%20Conduct%20with%20front%20cover. pdf About BCS. (2007). BCS. Retrieved November 16, 2007, from BCS, About Home website: http://www. bcs. org/server. php? show=nav. 5651 Code of Ethics. 2007. Retrieved December 09, 2007, from Association for Computing Machinery, About ACM website http://www. acm. rg/about/code-of-ethics Hongladarom, S. , & Ess, C. (2006). Information Technology Ethics: Cultural Perspectives [Electronic version]. Hershey, PA : Idea Group Publishing Hugman, R. , & Smith, D. (1995). Ethical Issues in Social work. London; New York : Routledge Kallman, E. A. , & Grillo, J. P. (1996). Ethical Decision Making and Information Technology (2nd ed. ). Dublin ; Boston, Mass. : Irwin/McGraw-Hill Koehn, D. (1994). The Ground of Professional Ethics. London ; New York : Routlege Professional Ethics, (2004). Retrieved December 12, 2007, from City University of Hong Kong, Resources website : http://www. fb. cityu. edu. k/is/research/ISWorld/ethics/index. htm Quinn, M. J. (2005). Ethics for the Information Age. Boston : Pearson Addison Wesley Schultz, R. A. (2006). Contemporary Issues in Ethics and Information Technology [Electronic version]. Hershey, PA : IRM Press Spier, R. (Ed. ). (2002). Science and Technology Ethics [Electronic Version]. London ; New York : Routledge. Velasquez, M. , Andre, C. , Shanks, T. , & Meyer, M. (1987). What is Ethics?. Retrieved November 16, 2007, from http://www. scu. edu/ethics/practicing/decision/whatisethics. html What is ethics?. (2006). Retrieved November 16, 2007, from http://www. ethicsquality. com/about. htm