Introduction

The professional code of ethics is an essential aspect of the computing world when it comes to upholding moral behavior and enhancement of professionalism. They usually serve as the propellers of uprightness in the pursuit of an organization’s objectives (ACM, 2015). The professional ethics in Information Technology (IT) has been described as the code of conduct that governs the IT professionals to behave upright in their day to day operations to avoid conflicts in the society (Tavani, 2011). The computing professionals, in this case, are the hardware and software designers, system analysts, database administrators, and software engineers (Loui & Miller, 2008). In the field of computing, there are established bodies that are in charge of dealing with the application of the code of ethics. The established bodies are the Association for Computing Machinery and the Institute of Electricals and Electronics. The authenticity and responsiveness of ethics in the IT discipline demands a range of abilities. The professionals in this discipline have to be knowledgeable about their professional obligations. They also have an obligation to resolve non-technical ethical issues and develop proactive skills that lower the likelihood of experiencing an ethical problem (ACM, 2015). This essay is in pursuit of the experience-based approach to the application of professional ethics in the case of IT professionals.

A variation between the professional ethics and the morals prevails in the field of IT. The ethics are based on the rules of conduct that trigger a given action in a given organizational culture. On the other hand, the morals relate to the habits of a right or wrong conduct. They are derived from the personal charisma and an individual’s belief regarding a particular action. The most autonomous aspect of the professional ethics in IT is the high level of service that it offers to the public (Tavani, 2011). Computing professionals perform various tasks such as writing the specifications for computer systems, designing instructions, and validating the software systems. They had been expected to perform these tasks considering various ethical aspects since their decisions influence the functionality of the computer systems. These decisions and actions influence the welfare of the system users either directly or indirectly and this aspect makes it distinct from other professional ethics. For instance, a software that is in charge of the automatic transmission of an automobile assumes to reduce the consumption of gasoline (Loui & Miller, 2011). It is expected to ensure the safety of the operator, the passengers, and the pedestrians. The ethical obligations of IT professionals also surpass other disciplines, such as law.

The knowledge of IT is a component of other disciplines such as in business and healthcare service . It involves the aspect of computing, hence making it difficult to avoid its application. Therefore, the nature of decisions made in the discipline of Information Technology influences the operation of other disciplines tremendously. 

 

Reasons for Holding Professionals to Higher Standards of Ethics

The IT professionals uphold high standards in the computing profession because the future of this discipline depends on the technical and ethical prosperity. The professionals are also urged to uphold remarkable standards of ethics for maintenance of professional competence. This aspect makes them strive for achieving the set objectives and uphold organizational culture significantly. High standards of ethics are also necessary for ensuring that integrity and the aspect of responsibility are promoted. Therefore, the IT professionals usually use their knowledge in promotion of human welfare through the application of ethics.

The act of upholding the high standards of ethics is also a strategy to promote the element of moral development. As they perform their tasks in an ethical manner, there is the sense of responsibility that the whole society can emulate. This aspect results in the enhancement of social and moral behavior that is significant for peaceful coexistence. Ethics is also significant in informing the IT professionals against misuse of privileges and information. Misrepresentation of facts is illegal and may lead to the inconveniences between an IT professional and the authority. Therefore, they are usually urged to stick to the highest standards of ethics to avoid such situations. 

Significance of Trust in the Practice of Professional Ethics

Trust has been acknowledged as one of the most significant aspects of the application professional ethics as stipulated in the ACM. A computing organization without trust will not operate effectively. Therefore, there has to be an element of honesty that guarantees efficiency in the system designs. An IT professional should be honest on matters of individual qualification and other circumstances that might result in a conflict of interest (ACM, 2015). Considering professional ethics, Tavani (2011) has argued that the significant defensible ground for IT professional ethics that serves as legitimate aspect is trust. The clients will trust their designated professionals to give them services that best serve their interest regardless the lack of knowledge about the work. Trust is also a central aspect of ensuring a professional-client relationship, hence the IT professionals have to exhibit the elements of trustworthiness to the clients. According to Schultz (2006), IT professionals are expected to earn a client’s trust. Firstly, they should show professional competence and freedom to exercise their discretion. This aspect will make them relate well to the client and eliminate the unnecessary fears. Secondly, they should monitor their behavior. Tavani (2011) identifies trust as a fiduciary model that presents the best ideal for the professional client relationship. It also imposes a significant virtue that allows them to make sound decisions. Therefore, the presence of trust is a relevant aspect in the application of professional ethics (Tavani, 2011).

The IT professionals should also be in a position to earn trust from the colleagues. They should be supportive of their colleagues and act fairly to avoid incidences of internal conflict. This aspect can be achieved by being honest and kind to each other at the workplace. It is also through the trust that respect enhanced among the colleagues providing a significant platform for the practice of professional ethics. 

Questions of Value and Questions of Fact

The questions of value have been described as those that are in pursuit of worthwhileness, ethical and relative significance of a given concept (Lumsden,  Lumsden & Wiethoff, 2010). The questions of value usually encompass the small questions that provide a particular guideline on accomplishing a given task. For instance, in the computer network monitoring system an IT professional might ask a question of value to clarify a given mistake made in the statistical analysis of a traffic data. The best illustration of a question of value is how much effort managers in the IT industry dedicate to data access and privacy of their employees. On the other hand, the questions of facts are the questions usually given in a statement, designed to prove a particular phenomenon in computing. They are relevant to the decision-making process. These questions are frequently asked and the answers are usually relevant. They are usually sociological in nature and use either a “No” or “Yes” answer followed by a brief explanation of the evidence. On the whole, expectations are the primary issues because the IT profession is about generating ideas for the knowledge and behavior of the team members. For example, in the IT industry the most appropriate question of fact is whether the network providers should read the email of the users due to their ability to do so.

Case Study

Microsoft is one of the most established in the IT industry with a remarkable reputation among the clients. The company has a significant record of the invention and maintenance of the Windows operating system. They have their terms and conditions that govern the work of the company and set standards of the employees. However, recently they have been accused of breaching the privacy of one of their former employees by invading on his personal details using their tracking software. The employee had resigned from the company to concentrate on the promotion of his blog. Microsoft started suspecting the employee for leaking their information that has provoked the controversy over breach of privacy. They accused the employee of leaking the pictures of Windows 8.1 that had not yet been launched. Microsoft began to look for information including the personal email account of the employee who had worked for the company for over a decade. However, most organizations advocate for their employees to sign the nondisclosure agreement that prohibits them from sharing the company’s vital information upon resignations or end of the contract. The agreement also restricts them from sharing the secrets of the company whenever they start working for a different company. It can be argued whether it was ethical for Microsoft to invade illegally the personal information of this employee despite their ability to access his private data. The issue of invading the employee’s private information by accessing his personal mail led to the aspect of the lack of ethics. It discourages other employees from using their emails freely because of the fear that Microsoft can access their information without their consent. It also caused the suspicion among other ordinary and an idea that Microsoft always breaches their privacy by giving their personal information to the scam websites. 

From the above case study, the most dominant question of fact is rather it was ethical for Microsoft to invade the freedom of their former employee to protect their reputation. This aspect can be regarded as a breach of ethics from the Microsoft’s perspective. According to the professional ethics in the IT industry, the IT professionals should only access private information upon authorization (Louis & Miller, 2008). However, in this case, it is evident that Microsoft did not request for authorization before accessing the personal information of the employee. The requirements are also clear that accessing the personal data files of an individual without permission is unethical because it is considered as infringement on personal privacy. It is also indisputable that the application of the code of ethics has not resulted in the solution to the problem of ethics. This aspect can be evident when the employee showed a conflict of interest and benefited from large traffic on his blog. The question of value that can be derived from this case is whether the shared information harmed Microsoft as a company. This aspect can be studied by making a critical analysis of the opinions derived from the users of the websites and analyzing their views. In case the users acknowledge that they stopped using the products from Microsoft as a result of the pictures then the employee should be liable for the damage. However, if the found result is opposite, the company should be held liable for violating the privacy policy.

The most appropriate action to resolve the ethical dilemma in the above scenario is allowing both parties to recognize and resolve their issues while applying ethical policies and guidelines regarding the use of information technology. They should be informed that in information technology, the decision-making process should consider the moral choices. At times, the system designed to guard the personal information at times is the one that provides information to the third parties hence threatening the privacy. There is a possibility that if an individual is given ample security to information then freedom can be violated. Therefore, they should act according to what leads to the achievement of great happiness within the society. 

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Other sophisticated methods of resolving the ethical problems have also been developed. For instance, procedural ethical reasoning whereby a systematic approach to the choice of actions is used. After that, subjective judgments should be given according to the extent of violation that will not result in a conflict of interest for any party. Schultz (2006) has acknowledged that involving a competent professional ethics advisor to the case is significant. The professional will be in a position to analyze the extent of violation from each side and give an authentic solution to the conflict without favoring any side.

Alternatively, the employee should ensure that the blog has some sense of interactivity that caters for feedback mechanism from the users visiting the site. This aspect will allow them to offer comments on the information provided which will be later used for analysis. Therefore, the employee will be accountable for all the users and advice the users accordingly to avoid harming the reputation of Microsoft. On the other hand, Microsoft as a company should monitor the actions of the employees. However, they are supposed to disclose to the employees the extent to which they are monitoring. It should be upon the employees to determine and give consent for access of vital information that entails their private details.

It can also be argued that decision-making is an essential task of an organization and requires the knowledge on code of ethics. The practice of ethics increases the employee’s confidence. To create a balanced atmosphere, the companies should use the available technology resourcefully without abusing the rights of the employees. They should discover other methods in identification of an ethical misconduct. They can achieve this by establishing a significant framework that engages openness and transparency in making a judicious decision. This aspect will provide basis for legitimacy and provide an opportunity for quality to be achieved. It will also show a high level of professionalism that promotes the information age. The challenge usually lies in the attitude of the employee’s towards the application of the code of ethics. Majority usually view it as a personal obligation while the minority view it as a strict and demanding.  

In conclusion, it can indeed be evident that the professional code of ethics in IT is distinctive from other disciplines. The aspect of adherence to the professional code of ethics is a voluntary issue that should be highly considered. An engagement in gross misconduct by professionals and IT industry has a potential of affecting the entire system. This aspect occurs because IT is a component in most of the disciplines, and primary failure at the top can sabotage the whole system. Therefore, it is an obligation for all the IT professionals to focus on upholding the set code of ethics to avoid inconveniences. It can also be deduced that IT professional ethics plays a significant role in the enhancement of moral credibility. Therefore, it would be liberal for the professionals to emphasize on trust to achieve a significant perception from the public about the discipline. The decision-making process in the field of IT also relies on the ability to choose the correct actions that are morally acceptable. Respect and integrity can be achieved when the code of ethics is upheld and protected within a given organization.

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