Professionals in the Information Technology sector are usually expected to adhere to a particular code of ethics. These (I.T.) workers often process sensitive information aided by methods and equipment with high sophistication. They are therefore expected to adhere to a given ethical code. Information technology workers usually play a significant role in making the relevant information available to the right people at the right time and in the right format.
They are therefore expected to observe the appropriate code of ethics. This means that these professionals are obliged to ethically and professionally use their systems. They must also use it in a manner that is legally acceptable. All the computing resources are supposed to be used in a manner that is authorized by the person’s job functions. Irresponsible, illegal and dishonest use of the computing resources is strictly prohibited (Reynolds 2007).
Information Technology Ethics
Information Technology ethics investigates ethical issues that arises from the development as well as the Information Technology application. This usually provides a framework from which several aspects of information technology are benchmarked, for example, the issues of privacy of information, moral agency, new environmental issues, problems that arise from the information life-cycle which include creating, collecting, recording, distributing and processing of the information.
The issues of ownership and copyright are also put into consideration. Information Technology Ethics act as a guideline that helps information technology professionals not only with making ethical decisions but also apply solutions that could be deemed as ethical to the situations that involve the provision and use of information. This usually reflects the commitment of an organization to ensuring responsible information services. Information formats as well as needs keep changing. This necessitates a continuous reconsidering of ethical principles as well as how the codes apply. These reconsiderations usually influence public policy, professional practice as well as personal decisions.
Information Technology Standards
Information systems are usually protected by passwords and other user identification methods. The I.T. professionals are therefore expected to take precaution in preventing unauthorized access to the system by keeping such information as secrete. Unauthorized people are therefore prevented from accessing such information. Confidential information must be treated with the appropriate confidentiality and needs not to be leaked to the unauthorized parties. The professional is usually expected to consult his/her supervisor in the event where he/she is not very sure about the confidentiality of particular information or its access before taking any step to handle the matter at hand (Schultz 2006).
The professional is also prohibited from recording, transmitting, altering, or deleting the information in the system unless it is prescribed in his/her duties. The worker is also expected to offer professional support to other I.T. employees whenever he/she is required to do so. The professional is expected to exhibit honesty and use the technology in an acceptable way. He/she is usually expected to report irregularity incidences to the supervisor or the relevant authority. Just like academic and intellectual materials, electronic materials also have standards and principles that govern them.
Unethical information Technology Practice
An Information Technology worker is not supposed to use the I.T. resources or his/her skills in a manner that is unlawful or in a way that is not provided for by the license, the contract or the set rules and regulations. They are usually held responsible for any misconduct that takes place within the accounts for which they are responsible (Huysman 2004). They are responsible for any abuses, civil or criminal offenses that occur in their area of jurisdiction and they are likely to be prosecuted in the cases where such offences are grave. Some of the misconducts include:
- Using the I.T. resources without having been granted the permission.
- Informing other people of passwords that belong to their personal accounts that are non-transferable. If the password gives away the information concerning his/her password, then such a person is breaching this code of ethics. One is also not supposed to use another person’s personal account. If there is a great need to access a password protected account, the relevant I.T. staff is supposed to be consulted so as to ensure that password security is not compromised (Brennan & Johnson 2004). Accessing and attempting to access other people’s network communications, files or disks without getting the appropriate permission.
- Interfering with the I.T. systems or interfering with other people’s use of the system. This may encompass among others; utilizing a lot of storage space, using so much processor time or even utilizing large network capacity at the detriment of other users. One is prohibited from deliberately causing the system failure for instance by overloading it with mail, crashing the system deliberately or corrupting a shared computer’s drive.
- Using the Information Technology resources to unlawfully stage attacks, to crack or hark into other systems.
- Sending harassing or threatening messages to other people or systems.
- Theft, which generally has to do with duplicating copyrighted material, propagating, using or possessing software or data that has been illegally copied.
- Causing damages to the I.T. equipment, software, files or the networks.
- Performing forgery, plagiarism as well as violating trade secret, patent or copyright laws.
- Intentionally creating, distributing or using software (letter bombs, worms or viruses all geared towards destroying data or disrupting services maliciously.
The worker is usually prohibited from using an organizations I.T. facilities for personal financial gain which is by no means relevant to the organization. This could for instance be in the form of commercial contracts among others. Breaching of Information Technology ethics is usually followed by the appropriate disciplinary measures against the employee as outlined in the rules and regulations of that organization. Immediate action is usually taken so as to protect the integrity of the system, its security as well as ensuring operational continuity.
Implications of the I.T. code of Ethics
In today’s information age, information is power and is perceived to be the key to prosperity. Information Technology advancements usually involve social as well as political relationships. This simply implies that there must be ethical considerations on the information use. Information technology is today greatly affecting people’s lives be it in governance, at work or in peoples’ private lives. There is therefore a great need for legal as well as ethical decisions aimed at balancing the needs as well as the rights of each one.
The I.T. code of ethics is very important as it ensures that an I.T. professional acts responsibly and takes good care of the equipment and other I.T. resources put under his/her charge. They provide a reference point and hence create order in the Information Technology profession. The workers are encouraged to carry out their activities in an ethical manner by the help a particular code of conduct or ethics (Hongladarom 2007).
The code of ethics for Information Technology is vital in creating standards by which all the employees are supposed to comply with. A given standard of whatever is expected of the Information Technology employee is determined. The code makes it clear on whatever is considered acceptable or unacceptable and right or wrong. The clarity is reinforced by use of terms like ‘always’ and ‘never’.
This code of ethics acts as a reminder to the Information Technology professionals. With such a code in place, the professionals are reminded of the fact that they are not allowed to impede or even manipulate the information and hardware that is entrusted to them.
The code of ethics plays a very significant role in preventing the professionals from maliciously handling not only the information but also the I.T. equipment. This reduces the harm to the organizations operations, security and image. Without such a code, the company would be prone to malice and other forms of harm.
The code gives motivation to the I.T. professional to stay updated on the most current developments in his/her set of skills hence ensuring effectiveness in job performance. With such motivation, the professionals are able to accept learning new set of skills as technological advancements are witnessed (Stamatellos 2007).
The code of ethics can be made precise and specific targeting only given types of professionals like programmers, networkers and cyber experts.
Ethical Issues in the Information Technology Today
With the advent of computers, the way people carry out their businesses has significantly been transformed. Today’s office is very different from that of the past years as most of the office work and filing system is computerized. The computers have also changed the way activities like purchasing, marketing and management are done. The ethical issues are now more complicated. They are not just based on the computer and the way they are used in the information technology but the focus is also on the way business activities are carried out in this age of information.
There are several ethical problems that are associated with information technology. They include ethical issues in technology use in the business, Ethical issues in I.T. business, issues with internet use, e-business, the ethical issues that result in from I.T. and computer use in society not only at the local level but at the international level as well. All these are interrelated. There has been a widespread believe that computers and the Information Technology infrastructure are by no means associated with ethics. People tend to have a perception that computers are basically machines and not necessarily social beings. The truth remains that computers are made and used by humans and there is a great need to find the best and ethical way of using this machines (Raynolds 2009).
New technology has therefore tended to create new ethical dilemmas. The standards of conduct and the issue of tackling ethical problems within an organization have greatly changed. The new technology has been widely accepted and embraced due to its efficiency and speed. People rarely put into consideration the threats that come with the technology. The advancement in the Information Technology seems to be subversive and even threatening.
There have been cases of network anarchy attributed to the advancements. Ordinary people with very few resources are now in a position to communicate information or ideas that may be uncommon, unpopular or sensitive. Such information can now be availed to many people across the globe within a short time. There are hardly any rules, no hierarchical systems. This is one of the reasons that have made it necessary for the appropriate code of ethics to be established so as to control information sharing.
Online communication allows for anonymity hence communication is done with no commitment as it is in the case of face-to-face communication. There is no shared responsibility as it is in the case of the real community. There is a need to redefine and put internet communication to new and appropriate use particularly when it comes to the issue of social networking. There needs to be some form of control and some level of privacy guaranteed on the online communications and that is where the I.T. code of ethics comes in.
There is a great need for information, network and online protection. Most people have tended to misuse the idea of the freedom of expression and there is so much abuse that is going on online. In fact cultural and moral degradation seems to be fueled by the Information Technology advancements. With the emergence of online communities, people from different cultural backgrounds are able to interact and emulate each other’s cultures. Some aspects that were earlier on perceived as taboos are slowly being emulated and adapted. Individuality, freedom of expression, anarchy, free information exchange and nonconformity seem to be embraced by these online communities.
There seems to be almost no etiquette on the internet. People may tend to be rude all in the name of the freedom of expression. Obscenities and pornography are all availed at the click of a button. People have tended to misuse the aspect of online services being fast, efficient and less expensive. People may decide to send rambling messages to uninterested parties. There may also be some disturbing advertisements targeting people that are absolutely not interested and they may be nuisance to the receivers.
Acceptable Use of Policies
Different networks usually have different policies. The internet has different networks with different purposes. Various traffic kinds are therefore allowed to go through such networks. People who use these networks are usually forced to learn whatever is acceptable on such networks and what is not. Research and academic networks for instance restrict most commercial activities. The restrictions are mainly due to the fact that most of these networks are supported from public funds. (Anderson, & Goodman 2002). Some networks have written outlines and statements concerning the kind of traffic that they allow among other restrictions like the use of abusive language and pornography
The only way to control the use, transmission and reproduction of information aided by Information Technology is by adapting an I.T. code of ethics. This is because such a code ensures that the I.T. professionals adhere to the set rules, regulations and standard. It guarantees privacy and effectiveness in the use of the information system without so much interference. Absolute control of information across computers may not be possible although the I.T. code of ethics act as a regulator.
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Brennan, L. L., & Johnson, V. E., 2004, Social, ethical and policy implications of information technology. New York: Idea Group Inc.
Hongladarom, S., 2007, Information technology ethics:cultural perspectives. New York: Idea Group Inc.
Huysman, V. W., 2004, Social capital and information technology. New York: MIT Press.
Raynolds, G., 2009, Information Technology for Managers. New York: Cengage.
Reynolds, G. W., 2007, Ethics in information technology. Carlifonia: The University of California.
Schultz, R. A., 2006, Contemporary issues in ethics and information technology. Cambridge: Idea Group Inc (IGI).
Stamatellos, G., 2007, Computer ethics: a global perspective. Oxford: Jones & Bartlett.