Bnote5 -- Version: Tue Mar 30 13:24:03 EDT 2010

Bnote 5a
pp. 9-30    A PROLOGUE 

** Are Cyberethics issues unique ethical issues? 


a) the same problems as before? 

b) exacerbated by cybertechnology?

c) new forms of behavior enabled?
           e.g., cyberstalking

Are special ethical issues raised? 

Wrt "enabled": 

 - clearly scope and scale is larger
 - wider reach, more people


Cybertechnology - logically malleable
                - general purpose
                - new human action possibilities

May need new/revised policies 

What's a policy?

policy - "rules of conduct"
       - from guidelines to laws
       - justified exemptions (rules are not absolute)
       - level of obligation  (within contexts)

conceptual muddle - conceptual confusions caused by new technology

policy vacuum - no explicit policy or law to guide behavior



     muddle - is software a set of ideas, writing or a thing?
              i.e., IP, copyright, or patent law?  or just plain theft?

     vacuum - when can you copy/share software?
            - there are already laws about "stealing" physical property.

Muddles tend to indicate vacuum

Muddles tend to confuse us: "copying software isn't stealing
                             as the owner still has their copy"

Resolution of muddles obviously affect policy. 

Another example:

          is a blog like a newspaper or a periodical?  (expected to be truthful)

          is a blog like a tabloid?  (expected to be fictional & entertainment)

          is a blog like a conversation?  (could be either) 

          i.e., does it publish things claimed to be facts or just opinions

          does a blog have a publisher? 

          do libel laws apply?  

Here's a relevant blog

** Cyberethics as a branch of Applied Ethics

1) Cyberethics as a field of Professional Ethics
2) Cyberethics as a field of Philosophical Ethics
3) Cyberethics as a field of Sociological/Descriptive Ethics

Professional Ethics - for professions such as for Medicine, Law

                    - works if CS/IT workers are in a profession
                    - codes of conduct: moral responsibility & obligation
                           e.g., for system reliability/safety

                    - impacts many situations but not all
                           -- blogger code of ethics?
                           -- developing software that can have bad uses? 
                                      e.g., file sharing
                           -- ISP code of ethics?

                           i.e, wider scope:  information professional? 

Philosophical Ethics - broader context - social and individual

                     - e.g., privacy, IP, free speech
                     - will need to be "sharpened" in response to 
                         conceptual muddles & policy vacuums.

   Methodology - 1. identify a controversial practice as a moral problem
                 2. analyze: describe/clarify concepts, examine facts
                     (may also handle conceptual muddles & policy vacuums)
                 3. apply moral theories & principles 
                     (a deliberative process to reach a position about the practice)

Sociological/Descriptive Ethics 

                 - discover what the facts are in real life
                 - it describes moral systems that are in place

                 - i.e., identify an issue/problem/situation 
                         what is social impact?
                         changes in behavior?
                         increased risks? 
                         new crimes? 
    e.g., Facebook

          Social Impact?
          How has Facebook affected concept of "friend", "community"? 
          Changes in behavior?  why?
          Increased risks?   what kinds?  for who? 
          New crimes occurred? 


Is cybertechnology "neutral"?

i.e.,  Does cybertechnology have built in values and biases? 

e.g., Guns are "biased towards" violence.

      Cybertechnology is biased towards ...?

Some issues associated with computers are known moral issues - "transparent"

Some not transparent 

   - features known but problems not yet recognized 

           i.e., users are not yet aware of moral implications  
                (e.g., searching)

   - features not yet discovered     

           i.e., users not aware of technology that has moral implications
                (e.g., data mining)

A "comprehensive strategy" for approaching ethical issues

       see text section 1.6 

pp. 102-127


What are the professions?

What characteristics do they share? 

             i.e., what makes them professions? 

Characteristics for Professions 

            - expert knowledge
            - autonomy
            - potential for significant impact (good or harm)
            - code of ethics 


Is a Computer/IT professional a member of a "Profession"? 

Who is included as an computer/IT professional? 

            - just programmers?

When do software engineers & programmers have special responsibilities ? 

e.g., can they do good, cause harm?

      can they enable others to do good, cause harm?

      can they influence others to do good, cause harm?

Note safety critical software -- examples? 


In software development, what's normally done wrt risk assessment? 

Risk assessment based on cost effectiveness


Models of risk that include social, ethical and political issues

       company risk  - e.g., scheduling, budgeting
       external risk - risk to public 

Value Sensitive Design (VSD)
     - potential impact of software on human values

VSD Conceptual Investigations:
     - what values affected?
     - how to trade off?  e.g., anonymity vs. security
     - how to weight moral values? e.g., privacy
     - how to weight other values? e.g., aesthetics


Purpose of Professional Codes:
   - inspiration 
   - education   
   - guidance
   - accountability
   - enforcement

Do professional codes have "teeth"?  

Are professional codes complete?

Are professional codes for individuals or groups? 

Do professional codes encourage lack of deliberation & reasoning? 

ACM Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct

1.General Moral Imperatives.
1.1 Contribute to society and human well-being.
1.2 Avoid harm to others.
1.3 Be honest and trustworthy.
1.4 Be fair and take action not to discriminate.
1.5 Honor property rights including copyrights and patent.
       "Copies of software should be made only with proper authorization."
1.6 Give proper credit for intellectual property.
1.7 Respect the privacy of others.
1.8 Honor confidentiality.

2. More Specific Professional Responsibilities.
2.1 Strive to achieve the highest quality, effectiveness and dignity
    in both the process and products of professional work.
2.2 Acquire and maintain professional competence.
2.3 Know and respect existing laws pertaining to professional work.
2.4 Accept and provide appropriate professional review.
2.5 Give comprehensive and thorough evaluations of computer systems
    and their impacts, including analysis of possible risks.
2.6 Honor contracts, agreements, and assigned responsibilities.
2.7 Improve public understanding of computing and its consequences.
2.8 Access computing and communication resources only when authorized
    to do so.

3.Organizational Leadership Imperatives.


4. Compliance with the Code. 

        "Adherence of professionals to a code of ethics is largely a
         voluntary matter. However, if a member does not follow this
         code by engaging in gross misconduct, membership in ACM may
         be terminated. "

Does it do a good job of making your Moral Responsibility clear? 

IEEE-CS/ACM Software Engineering Code of Ethics and Professional Practice

1 PUBLIC     - Software engineers shall act consistently with the public interest.

2 CLIENT AND EMPLOYER - Software engineers shall act in a manner that
               is in the best interests of their client and employer,
               consistent with the public interest.

3 PRODUCT    - Software engineers shall ensure that their products and
               related modifications meet the highest professional
               standards possible.

4 JUDGMENT   - Software engineers shall maintain integrity and
               independence in their professional judgment. 

5 MANAGEMENT - Software engineering managers and leaders shall
               subscribe to and promote an ethical approach to the
               management of software development and maintenance.

6 PROFESSION - Software engineers shall advance the integrity and
               reputation of the profession consistent with the public

7 COLLEAGUES - Software engineers shall be fair to and supportive of their colleagues.

8 SELF       - Software engineers shall participate in lifelong learning
               regarding the practice of their profession and shall
               promote an ethical approach to the practice of the

Education - ACM core curriculum & ABET both require Soc. Imps! 

** Employee Loyalty & Whistle-Blowing 

Moral responsibility...

  An employee should be loyal to his/her employer?
  An employer should be loyal to his/her employee?

  contrast USA vs Japan

When does loyalty to employer conflict with other obligations?  

whistle-blower - "an individual who makes revelations meant to call
                    attention to negligence, abuses, or dangers that
                    threaten the public interest"

                 - usually from within a company

how to decide when to do it?
what are consequences? 
how to protect them? 

Moral responsibility...

morally permitted - serious harm to public likely
                  - threat reported to supervisor
                  - all company procedures already tried

morally obligated - documented evidence
                  - believe that going public will prevent harm 

Even if it doesnt concern serious harm...

"A handful of bloggers have recently discovered that their labors of
 love may lead to unemployment. By some estimates, dozens of people
 have been fired for blogging, and the numbers are growing every day."

The Electronic Frontier Foundation suggests to blog anonymously about
work, and to make sure that you "morally permitted" if it is whistle blowing.


Responsibility - X morally responsible for Y if X caused Y
                - X morally responsible for Y if X intends Y

Legal Liability - liable for compensation
                 - no blame assigned

Accountability - broader concept
                - individual, group or corporation (where the buck stops)
                - problem of "many hands" - many people contributed 

       "the software is sold as is"!