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Ethics by example April 13, 2015

Posted by mtv in Security.
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The ACM Code of Ethics is a set of guidelines designed to serve as the basis for ethical decision making for computing professionals [1].  The code applies to just about every role & responsibility in modern IT, from customer service objectives to legal responsibilities.  I found this to be a very rewarding experience as I got to perform a personal inventory of how I stack up with these ethical imperatives, and although satisfied I admit I didn’t form these ethical standards overnight.  The example that comes to mind is property rights, particularly based on my college years aligning with the rise and fall of the Napster days, when the world as a whole seemed unprepared for what was coming down the IT pipeline.  Being part of the “cusp generation,” as I call it, the last to have had the possibility of a computer-less childhood, a lot of ethical decisions had to be made with very little information or precedent.  I question when it was that I began to form a better sense of ethics–or one more aligned with ACM’s code–and for me it really began with entering the IT field and being put in a position of responsibility for software licensing and compliance.  To me, responsibility is the greatest teacher–if you don’t learn it with your neck on the line, you’ll probably never learn.

We see a new generation growing up today, one in which children barely a year old can figure out how to operate a smart phone or laptop–even if just to play a game or favorite song, this is a significant change.  A question I often raise in friendly discussion is: there seem to be those with a good work ethic, and those without–where does a good work ethic come from?  Everyone has their own experience in how theirs was formed, but by-and-large this is a matter of upbringing and learning by example.  Teaching children to honor property rights in technology was not/could not have been an objective for parents when I was growing up, but for anyone raising a child today, guess what you can add to your already hefty lesson plan?

[1] http://www.acm.org/about/code-of-ethics

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