Yet again another word with “ethics” tagged on. What exactly is computer ethics? For a start is is about the way people who design computers and software and everyone who uses computers, behave. The Computer Ethics Institute has conveniently prepared a list of “ten commandments (no religious connotation) which tells us how computer users should behave.

  1. Thou shalt not use a computer to harm other people.
  2. Thou shalt not interfere with other people’s computer work.
  3. Thou shalt not snoop around in other people’s computer files.
  4. Thou shalt not use a computer to steal.
  5. Thou shalt not use a computer to bear false witness.
  6. Thou shalt not copy or use proprietary software for which you have not paid.
  7. Thou shalt not use other people’s computer resources without authorization or proper compensation.
  8. Thou shalt not appropriate other people’s intellectual output.
  9. Thou shalt think about the social consequences of the program you are writing or the system you are designing.
  10. Thou shalt always use a computer in ways that ensure consideration and respect for your fellow humans.

This is a very good start, but many of the commandments will need much more explanation, which I guess can only be done in a classroom discussion. For example, what does it mean not to harm other people in a computer context? What does it mean to interfere? If it is company policy that your emails are recorded and can be viewed by a senior manager, is that interfering? Is it not okay to use a computer to steal information from those that intend to bomb us? Perhaps a set of practical real-life scenarios would help us understand better what computer ethics demands of us.


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