Ethics in Computer Science

The professional, cultural, legal and ethical issues as related to computer science are codified in today’s modern world by companies and associations by various codes of ethical conduct. The guidelines for ethical behavior are related to law because there are not always legal ramifications for unethical behavior; however, laws are to be meant to be followed because unethical behavior will be punished by law in some cases. A common denominator for ethical behavior is will my product or company cause harm to another person or group of people? If that answer is yes, then there are ethical questions about that product or company that should be resolved by adhering to a code of conduct as spelled out in the company or organization’s corporate governance. An example is human labor conditions in Apple’s supplier chain that provide manufacturing and parts for Apple products. Are the workers being treated fairly and given humane working conditions? Are they adhering to a strict set of hours permissible to work per week? Are they being compensated fairly and being given safe and clean environmental working conditions? According to Apple’s Code of Conduct they audit their supplier companies to make sure that they are in compliance with their ethical working guidelines. See Apple’s Supplier Code of Conduct .

One might ask a question of what are some common characteristics between various codes of ethical conduct? Anti-discrimination, anti-harassment, fair working hours, wages and benefits, whistle-blower protection and fair disclosure of information are some common characteristics between various codes of conduct listed in AlphabetAppleIEEE. and the AITP’s code of conduct. Some of the differences between these companies and organizations are related to the differences between working for a company and upholding their best interests and to organizations which will also request technical proficiency, life-long learning, giving credit to where credit is due, as well as not abusing information or privilege where granted.

So who should determine what type of information should be placed in a code of conduct or ethics? The answer is that the leadership team should determine what type of information should be placed in a code of conduct or ethics. This should be done with input from current employees and users. It can be a generalized ethical codes of conduct, or sometimes it can be more specific to the business at hand, such as anti-bribery provisions in AlphabetAppleIEEE. and the AITP’s code of conduct.

Some common behavioral characteristics that are considered unethical concerning the Internet are DoS (Denial of Service) attacks, Spam (unsolicited emails), Phishing (emails masquerading as official email to get personal information such as user name or passwords), Computer Viruses and Malware, which are also highly unethical software programs designed to maliciously steal information or cause systems to slow down or become part of a bot-net used to attack other computers. There are also people who troll others by bullying, insulting, attacking, or threatening another through social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or through comments sections of various news organizations. Another unethical behavior is leaking private information about a person or organization: whether it takes the form of personal details, emails, and / or trade secrets. The threat of unethical people using private information for their own gain is why we have laws against insider trading on stock trades.

So what types of companies and organizations have to worry about unethical people using the internet? As it turns out all companies and organizations have to worry about unethical people using the internet. Security is everyone’s problem. From unauthorized access to personal information such as passwords, medical history, and personal information such as location and search history. Security breaches and personal information leaks from unethical people using malicious tools and software (viruses, bot-nets, network intrusions) amount to theft of data. This thorny wicket of privacy and security ties into the unethical behavior of bad actors on the internet. While most unethical people on the Internet typically don’t get fined or punished for their misdeeds by the law, their unethical behavior has consequences that could harm or hurt the reputation of a company or organization.

Ethics are a way to conduct business and are an interpersonal way to behave correctly in an age of information where information wants to be free, but only if the person wants it to be free. Ethics are what puts a person, company, or organization on the right side of the law and justice. It enables one to live in good health, good conscience and free from worries of injustice. It is a rational way to conduct oneself in the field of computer science because of the ramifications of what would happen if one conducted themselves in an unethical way.