Computer Ethics and Ethical Decision


Ethics by definition is a moral values or principles. Individual may derive its own ethics from many resources such as family’s cultures, faith or religion or from the legal systems belong to the country where an individual lives. On the other hand, computing ethics represent other important range of questions surrounding the use of computers and computer science.   

Computer ethics deals with the issues that relate to the moral implications of the way decisions are being made in regarding to the computer domain. It also refers to the morality of the computer professionals, and their usage to computers (, 2010).

Computer Ethics

Just as criminals stealing cars and money from others, there’re criminals who are stealing by electronic means, and they made such behaviour as a career for them to enjoy and to score points that they can brag about it. Such small group who we call them black hackers represent a large problem for modern societies.

Harvey (n.d.) explained that it’s important as a society to differentiate between an incent behaviour of an innocent exercise of intellectual curiosity from a young person and a hardened criminals with deliberate behaviours to commit computer crimes. A young person who created a computer device used to place long distance calls to his girlfriend who moved to Australia without paying for it, is not intellectual curiosity it’s a criminal act.

Harvey (n.d.) also argued that putting the computer ethics problems in the same category as other ethical problems doesn’t solve them; the right approach to the ethical problem in computer world should be established to find the right solutions for such problems. Two approaches can achieve the solutions to such problems:


  • Technology control – Such approach can be achieved through tightening the security implemented within the technology to make it uneasy for hackers to break into the technology, and web sites to gain access to sensitive information, and destroy businesses, and expose hidden information.  
  • Moral training – Teaching young computer enthusiasts to be a responsible, and be part of the computer communities without defining them as computer criminals is a vital step toward the correction of the computer ethical problems.

Kuruvill (2005) explained that the policy vacuum is usually faces with problem when dealing with computer ethics. With the impact of computer technology on the social behaviours, the creation of rules that can justify the policies for the ethical use of technology is imperative.

It is also important to point out that computer ethics is a dynamic field of study where factors such as values, policies, and ever changing computer technology has to be considered to establish such ethical rules for computer professionals. In creating such ethics a mix of rules of ethics and science has to be combined to create these rules.     

Ethics of Computer Professional 

Association for Computer Machinery (ACM) is a good place for computer professionals to learn about the profession conduct and the code of ethics of the computer professionals. (2011) explained that the code of ethics represented through the association that reflects a set of guidelines that provide explanation for various issues that members of the association may deal with though their careers in computer world. The code will serve the computer professionals as a basis for ethical decision making. Some of the guidelines or principles for such code are:


  • Contribute to human well-being and society – People have obligation toward the protection of human rights and respect the diversity of different cultures within the society. That principle encourages the computer professionals to minimize the negative consequences of computer systems where health and safety and threats can be avoided.
  • Avoid harm to others – Computer professionals should avoid any cause of undesirable loss of property or information.
  • Be trustworthy and honest – The honest computer professional will avoid making any deliberate deceptive of false claims about a system design or a system. Computer professionals have a responsibility to be honest about any circumstances that might lead to conflict of interest and their qualifications.
  • Take action not to discriminate and be fair – The computer professionals should represent the values of quality and avoid to discriminate on the basis of religion, race, sex, age, national origin or disability.
  • Honour property rights including patent and copyrights – Computer professionals should honour trade secrets, copyrights, and the terms of license agreements.
  • Give proper credit for intellectual property – Computer professional should honour and protect the integrity of intellectual property.
  • Respect the privacy of others – Computer professionals should avoid any violation of the individuals or groups privacy, and maintain the integrity, and the privacy of the data describing individuals.
  • Honour confidentiality – Computer professionals have to honour the confidentiality of the information belongs to individuals, and such principle is an extent of the honesty principle where a promise was made to honour the confidentiality of such information or such promise was implicitly made when such private information becomes available.

That said, organizations also has a big role in constructing a professional code of ethics for their employees where set of policy are defined for interpreting values that are not clear. Hunt (2011) explained that defining business ethics within any organization play an important role in business’s success or failure. Such rules allow choices for business’s employees to have choices when ethical decision is to be made. 


I don’t have my own story where I had to make an ethical decision through my career in information technology as a computer professional, however there a lot of stories out there where the code; and the moral ethics were violated or honoured. It is out there for us to learn from it, and follow the lessons learned from it.

Finally, Boone (2011) argued that computer ethic laws are aimed to regulate and address problems such as online privacy, identity theft, plagiarism, piracy, cyberstalking and cyberbullying. Computer professionals are obligated to avoid violating such laws. It is important for computer professional to follow the moral ethics that can help them make the right decisions, and also understand the differences between right and wrong where information technology ethics are required to be applied.

References (2011) ACM Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct [Online]. Available from: (Accessed: 22 September 2011).

Boone, K. (2011) Importance of Computer Ethics and Software Piracy [Online]. Available from: (Accessed: 22 September 2011). (2010) Computer Ethics [Online]. Available from: (Accessed: 22 September 2011).

Harvey, B. (n.d.) Computer Hacking and Ethics [Online]. Available from: (Accessed: 22 September 2011).

Hunt, J. (2011) Business Ethics: Ethical Decision Making [Online]. Available from: (Accessed: 22 September 2011).

Kuruvill, A. (2005) Computer Ethics Article – A clean Impact [Online]. Available from: (Accessed: 22 September 2011).


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