Today, IT industry and computer science are the most dynamic branches of economy. While innovations in high technology often receive the greatest publicity, advances have been made in many fields and at many levels of organizations. In computer science, the need of professional associations and strict codes of ethics is driven by social duties, specific responsibilities toward customers, employees, suppliers, and society as a whole.
A professional association can be the source of organizational capabilities that allow firms to learn and capitalize on new opportunities especially in IT industry which operates in rapidly changing environment. While innovations in high technology often receive the greatest publicity, advances have been made in many fields and at many levels of Information Technology. The role of the professional association will be to establish and control a code of ethics which is a statement of industry’s values and priorities, system guide for employees and teams. The professional association is very important in computer science because it is closely connected with confidentiality, privacy and honest decisions.
Using utilitarianism as an ethical basis for making decisions, computer professionals are compelled to specify the costs and benefits for various alternatives; and, such specification clarifies the argument and promotes rational discussion. It means that professional ethics should be based on positive actions in order to reduce harm and increase happiness. Many companies develop a code of ethical conduct which stipulates strict ethical rules aimed to protect interest groups. These issues will have a great impact on the overall being of a business determining ethical standards applied to all areas of operations. Corporate responsibility creates a positive image of the company and ensures social stability and recognition (Jacko, Sears 2003).
The main ethical issues of B.C. Medical Association deal with Life and Death, ethical rules and professional obligations. Rightness of a given medial act should be judged by consequences. For instance, the main ethical obligation of medical staff is to pay attention to fatally ill patients and those who can be killed because of wrong diagnosis. In terms of the ‘act approach’ to utilitarianism, every specific case is discussed separately in accordance with the circumstances and patients’ medical conditions. According to rules of B.C. Medical Association healthcare staff has to follow strong code of medical ethics in order to avoid unethical behavior and intentional harm.
The main policy of B.C. Medical Association is to “consider first the well-being of the patient” (BC Medical Association, 2006). Healthcare professionals are obliged to weight benefits of euthanasia (life and death) in terms of quantity and number of people affected. Another problem is definition of fatally ill and cases when euthanasia can be used as the only possible tool to relieve sufferings and pain. There are numerous cases from medical practice when “terminally ill” patients live for years and do not die from the diagnosed illness. Under ‘wrong act’ they imply physician-assisted suicides and wrong diagnosis. B.C. Medical Association state that only ‘positive actions’ should be applied to medical practice. In this case B.C. Medical Association takes into account the goal of medical service which aims to relieve and safe life. Rule version of utilitarianism cannot help to solve problems of life and death, because general moral rules cannot be equally applied to all cases and situations faced by medical staff. On the one hand, it is unethical to force patients to suffer. If the harm is the same and the victim is the same, and the victim is no less innocent, then surely the deed is just as wrong.
These facts suggest that policy and law makers should attempt to resolve ethical issues in computer science through legislation. Lack of information and analysis prevents computer science from adequate control of labor and employees performance. The professional association will cover all employees in the province. For this reason, the professional association will have a positive influence on the general behavior in business establishing general rules for all staff, ensure high quality and professional competence (Jacko, Sears, 2003). The importance of the professional association is to evaluate and weight ethical and unethical actions and their consequences for potential customers and colleagues. Without the professional association, many computer companies cannot evaluate current state of the problems and ethical standards, their advantages and possible drawbacks. The happiness of every one involved is equally important, but the need for exceptions is essential, and for this reason the professional association would become a crucial part guarding and controlling decision-making process.
According to ACM Code, the professional association will ensure that actions of computer professionals contribute to society and human well-being, avoid harm to others, honest and trustworthy, fair and follow property rights, gibe proper credit to intellectual property, respect privacy and confidentiality (Baase, 2002). Computer professionals should be well aware of consequences of the wrong actions and possible risks of information disclosure which can affect people around them. Following ‘act version’ of utilitarism, computer professionals should ignore unique identities for the agents and third parties affected. Imperative information technologies can directly affect particular economic interests; they may be a source of risk, and for some, they are a threat. “Consumer privacy focuses on the commercial relationship. Expanding this concept to client privacy includes consideration of non-commercial relationships where privacy is equally important” (Spier 2002, 162). The most important is to control actions in such areas as the encryption and interception of communications, privacy protection and copyright (Baase 2002). A special attention should be paid to ethical judgments and responsibilities stipulated for all computer professionals. Also, it will help to identify areas for improvement and further development. It is impossible to use general moral rules.
It is important to note that clients will not trust a computer professional who disclose private information or behave unethically. Ethics should be used as a guide and a part of the conscious decisions a professional makes about the directions and consequences of his decisions. Following Spier (2002) once having obtained information about a project or software computer professionals and other workers have an established duty not to disclose this information learnt in the course of their practice. The obligation arises out of the relationship, although it may be reinforced by the nature of the information. In this case, it is crucial to consider rationally foreseeable consequences. Following Baase: “Software engineering managers and leaders shall subscribe to and promote ethical approach to the management of software development and maintainance” (Baase, 2002 443). The professional association will have the legal authority to certify and disqualify computer professionals in order to ensure overall success of the industry and control ethical duties of its employees. The ‘rule version’ also stipulates that actions can be evaluated as wrong or rights according to general rules of the computer science. In addition, all rules have to be justified.
Similar to questions of life and death in medical practice (BC Medical Association 2006), the further question arises of whether a computer professional may be entitled to or become obliged to reveal knowledge to the third party of a primary client where that discloses information whose absence would be harmful to those other individuals. And, they may have an obligation to do this despite the objections of the primary client about or from whom they have gathered the initial data. According to Jacko and Sears (2003) once a duty to pass on information becomes established, the computer science becomes implicated through having that knowledge. The professional association should establish guideline stipulating when information may have to be disclosed to a third party. The first is where, in the course of legal proceedings, a breach of confidence is required by a competent court or where disclosure is otherwise authorized by statute. Similar to medical ethics, there may be circumstances in which the disclosure is expressly or impliedly authorized by the person to whom it relates – in a way, this is an example of the information having lost its necessary clement of confidence. Finally, there may be circumstances in which, through the behavior or some other act or omission of the relevant party, it is in the public interest that otherwise confidential information be disclosed (Baase, 2002).
In spite of limitations of Utilitarian theories, by its nature the practice of computer science is driven by a range of human. The professional association is very important for computer professionals because it will bind all employees by the Code in order to keep high standards and reputation of the industry in general. Following Baase (2002): “it is not intended that separate parts of the Code be used in isolation to justify errors of omissions or commissions” (440). Decisions accepted by computer professionals will be based on the Code, its principles and requirements, and controlled by the monitoring group.
Employees concentrating for the moment on the delivery of the service, a values-driven approach to specification will consider issues of humanity, whether in a transient encounter or a long-term relationship. Information discloser or unethical behavior of one employee can damage the reputation of the whole industry or organizations. The actions should be a prime consideration during the development process and in any subsequent service reviews. Problem solving process will be based on ethical code closely connected with computer industry concepts (moral rules). All employees of computer science should be honest and that claims about a product or service is accurate. The reality of the situation is that there may in fact be many more factors unknown to them that they should have considered. In this situation, the professional association can be a core of decision making process aimed to protect employees and potential consumers from unfavorable behavior of employees and information disclosure.
1. Baase, S. (2002). A Gift of Fire. Prentice Hall; 2 ed.
2. BC Medical Association (2006) Retrieved from ttp://www.bcma.org/public/about_bcma/who_are_we/code_of_ethics.htm [accessed 21 Nov 2006]
3. Jacko, J.A., Sears, A. (2003). The Human-Computer Interaction Handbook: Fundamentals, Evolving Technologies, and Emerging Applications. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
4. Spier, R.E. (2002). Science and Technology Ethics. Routledge.