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CSc 375
SOCIAL ISSUES IN COMPUTING
Department of Computer Science
City College of New York
Spring 2006
Copyright © 2006 by Abbe Mowshowitz
TOPIC 2. ETHICAL
BEHAVIOR
A. Why Computers and Ethics?
1. Protect the public interest
•
•
Insure safe & reliable systems
Promote value for money
2. Minimize company losses
•
•
Combat fraud & property destruction
Reduce indirect costs resulting from
poor morale
ETHICAL BEHAVIOR
B. Evidence of Importance
1. Professional societies’ codes
• ACM
• IEEE
2. Support for research (e.g., EHVIST)
3. Courses in CSc Departments
ETHICAL BEHAVIOR
C. Kinds of Ethical Concerns
1. Normative ethics
2. Metaethics or critical ethics
3. Descriptive ethics
ETHICAL BEHAVIOR
C.1. Normative ethics
a. Questions of how we ought to behave
b. What is right, good, obligatory
c. General principles/philosophies
•
•
Kant’s categorical imperative
Bentham’s principle of utility
ETHICAL BEHAVIOR
“Act only on that maxim which you can at
the same time will to be a universal law.”
- Kant
“All acts should seek the greatest balance of
good over evil.”
- Bentham
ETHICAL BEHAVIOR
C.1. Normative ethics
d. Practical moral issues
• Allocation of scarce medical resources
• Abortion
• Euthanasia
• Capital punishment
• Malicious hacking
ETHICAL BEHAVIOR
C.2. Metaethics
a. Justification of ethical beliefs
b. Meaning of ethical terms and statements
C.3. Descriptive ethics (empirical inquiry)
a. empirical studies of ethical practices and
beliefs
b. motivation for normative theories
ETHICAL BEHAVIOR
D. Normative Studies
1. Pioneering Work
• workshop organized by Donn Parker
• held at SRI 1977
• 30 participants: computer specialists,
lawyers, philosophers, psychologists,
legislative aides, journalists
ETHICAL BEHAVIOR
D. Normative Studies
2. Aim of Workshop
•
•
•
Analyze cases
Identify ethics issues
Reach consensus on norms
ETHICAL BEHAVIOR
D. Normative Studies
3. Method
•
•
•
•
Scenario construction
Identify actors and acts
Divide participants into teams
Vote on analysis of each actor/act:
unethical, not unethical, no ethics
issues
ETHICAL BEHAVIOR
D.4. Classification of Scenarios
a.
b.
c.
Conflict over obligations and implicit
contractual obligations
Disputed rights to products
Confidentiality of sensitive
information and invasion of privacy
ETHICAL BEHAVIOR
D.4. Classification of Scenarios (cont.)
d.
e.
f.
Personal morality and organizational
loyalty
Responsibility for computer
applications with unknown or
controversial consequences
Responsibility for disseminating
complete and accurate information
for decision makers or the public
ETHICAL BEHAVIOR
D. Normative Studies
5. Sample scenarios
a. Conflict over obligations and implicit
contractual obligactions
Programmer: using idle computer time
Actor: programmer
Act: unauthorized use of
idle time
ETHICAL BEHAVIOR
D.5. Sample scenarios
b. Disputed rights to products
Internet user, Company: Selling software
containing program downloaded from
company site
Actor: user of downloaded program
Act: selling package including a proprietary
program
ETHICAL BEHAVIOR
D.5.c. Confidentiality of sensitive data
Clerk, security employee, police dept.:
Providing computer arrest records
Actor
Police file clerk
Security
employee
Act
Using computer to find and
disclose arrest records
Obtaining arrest records
from police file clerk
ETHICAL BEHAVIOR
D.5.d. Personal morality and loyalty
Manager, scientist, company, computer
society: violating code of ethics and
applying sanctions
Actor
Manager
Act
Directing unethical work, firing
Scientist
Refusing task, taking case to society
Company
Refusing to rehire scientist
Comp. society Refusing financial support
ETHICAL BEHAVIOR
D.5.e. Responsibility for applications with
unknown or controversial effects
Consultant, computerization of government
department: disregarding impact on
employees
Actor
Consultant
Act
Accepting client views and refraining
from considering adverse effects on
employees
ETHICAL BEHAVIOR
D.5.e. Responsibility for disseminating
complete and accurate information
Consultant, programmer, projected nuclear
power plant: selecting favorable computer
output in a feasibility study
Actor
Consultant
Programmer
Act
Selecting output to bias study
Revealing proprietary data to his
congressman
ETHICAL BEHAVIOR
D.6. General Observations
a. Ethical issues not peculiar to computing
world
• Contract disputes
• Questions of ownership
• Betrayal of trust
• Irresponsible action
• Conflicting loyalties
• Differing interpretations of obligations
ETHICAL BEHAVIOR
D.6. General Observations
b. Ethical effects mediated by
organizational change
COMPUTER APPLICATIONS
AFFECT THE WAY WORK IS
DONE AND SUPERVISED
ETHICAL BEHAVIOR
E. Computers and Organization
1. Effects of computers
• Direct
– Use of devices or procedures
– Use of machine-based metaphors
• Indirect
– Changes mediated by organizations
ETHICAL BEHAVIOR
E.2. Organizational features
•
•
•
•
•
Structure
Managerial functions and controls
Working arrangements
Formal roles
Informal relations
ETHICAL BEHAVIOR
E.3. Influence of Computers on
structure and control
•
•
•
decision support systems
databases
computer mediated communication
ALLOW FOR CENTRALIZATION
ETHICAL BEHAVIOR
E.4. Centralization
•
•
•
decision authority goes up the ladder
decisions embedded in procedures
(meaning reduced discretion)
centralization is consistent with
distributed processing
ETHICAL BEHAVIOR
E.5. Reinforcement politics
• powerful get more powerful
• weak remain relatively weak
• computers like other resources
serve to reinforce the status quo
ETHICAL BEHAVIOR
E.6. Link between organizational change
and ethics
• discretion is reduced by
centralization
• social relations are weakened by
computer mediation
• discretion and social relations play
central role in ethical practice
ETHICAL BEHAVIOR
F. Ethical Space (arena in which
individuals make ethical
judgments)
• autonomy
• opportunity
• rectitude
ETHICAL BEHAVIOR
F.1. Autonomy
• relative freedom to initiate action
• Example from student experience
–
–
–
–
Student: take or leave course
Instructor: content of course
Dept. Head: teaching assignments
Dean: resource allocation
ETHICAL BEHAVIOR
F.2. Opportunity
• Conditions allowing exercise of
significant ethical judgment
• Example
–
–
student: rating of instructor
instructor: assessment of colleagues
ETHICAL BEHAVIOR
“the virtues are got by first exercising them…
This is confirmed by what happens in states;
for legislators make the citizens good by
forming habits in them.”
- Aristotle, “Nichomachean Ethics”
ETHICAL BEHAVIOR
F.3. Rectitude
• personal moral code
• less conditioned by organization than
autonomy and opportunity
• background, education, affiliations
and allegiances all play a role
ETHICAL BEHAVIOR
F.4. Ethical judgment is a skill
• organizational environment is as
important as personal moral code
• ‘ethical skill’ can atrophy from
disuse
ETHICAL BEHAVIOR
G. Ethics and computer crime
1. Many who commit computer crimes
- are not professional criminals
- apparently reliable, honest, bright,
and highly motivated
- offences committed involve small
deviations from accepted practices
ETHICAL BEHAVIOR
G. Ethics and computer crime
2. Acting in diminished ethical space
-insufficient autonomy and
opportunity
- inadequate guidance and
reinforcement
- reduced ability to make ethical
judgments
ETHICAL BEHAVIOR
G. Ethics and computer crime
3. Security measures and
monitoring are necessary but not
sufficient to deal with ethical
lapses