Ethics of Information Technology – Definition and Current Situation
The Ethics of Information Technology is a discipline that seeks to open new field in applied ethics and has emerged strongly from a few years ago in the Anglo world. The remote origins of IE are on increasing mass introduction of computers in many areas of our social life increasingly computerized. Many professions claim for themselves in particular ethics, which may be subject to specific moral problems of the profession or occupational activity. The existence of the IE has as its starting point the fact that computers pose special ethical issues and therefore different from other technologies. In the computing profession is to move from the simple application of general ethical criteria to the development of an ethics of the profession itself. Ethical codes of professional associations and software companies are going in that direction.
The discipline and raise EI implies to step out of statements like "ethics has nothing to do with computers" or "there is a special ethics for computer scientists. Make the first statement does not recognize the ethical dilemmas in computing tasks that are powered by the same technological development. Fighting the second statement, however, is demonstrated that there is need for a special ethics for computer scientists. Just as other sciences and professions have had centuries to develop ethical concepts with which to address their problems (including those caused by new technologies), information technologies are only a few decades of existence to create, like other disciplines as have done their own ethical standards.
Definitions of computer ethics
The more restrictive definition of EI is considered as the discipline that examines ethical issues that are created by computer technology and acts that are processed or aggravated by it, ie, people who use advances in information technology. Some of the authors consider whether the changing technological sophistication raises new ethical dilemmas or ethical issues remain constant. Other definitions of EI are much broader. Not reducible to a new field of applied ethics but, for example, Moor, IE is the analysis of the nature and social impact of computer technology and the corresponding formulation and justification of policies for ethical use of such technology. The EI would be related to conceptual problems and gaps in regulations, which has resulted in information technology.
The problem is that there is a lack of regulations on how to use these new technologies that enable new activities for which there is or is not clearly perceive clear principles of action. People with responsibilities in the area of design or management information systems increasingly have to make more decisions on issues not resolved by the legal and quasi-legal (regulations, procedure manuals, business, etc.). But that border on the same ethical. The task of IE is to provide guidelines for action when there is no regulation or where the existing obsolete. Political vacuum is generally added a problem of conceptual vacuum. Therefore, the EI also has to analyze and propose a conceptual framework that is suitable to understand the ethical dilemmas caused by the computer.
Another definition is more encompassing defines EI as the discipline that identifies and analyzes the impacts of information technologies in human and social values. These values covered include health, wealth, work, freedom, democracy, knowledge, privacy, safety or personal self-fulfillment. In this concept of EI are to include terms, theories and methods from disciplines such as applied ethics, sociology of computers, the social evaluation of technologies or computer law. Those who write on this subject are not intended to indoctrinate or proselytize on a concrete way to think about trying to convey a set of specific values. The intention is to incorporate a social conscience concerning information technology and also help to use computer coordinators not only with efficiency but with ethical criteria. The goal is to make decisions on technology topics consistent with the assertion that one's own professed values or human rights in general.
To do this discipline raises several intermediate targets. First, identify and articulate key ethical dilemmas in computing. Determine how much are aggravated, transformed or created by computer technology. Given the ethical dilemmas caused by the computer, analyze and propose a conceptual framework and formulate appropriate action early to determine what to do in new activities caused by the computer on which there are clearly visible lines of action. Finally, always seeks an ethical analysis of realistic and meaningful cases. To do so, IE even pretend to consider two aspects. First, use ethical theory to clarify the ethical dilemmas and errors in ethical reasoning. For another, collaborate with other disciplines in that debate, being conscious of alternative views on issues relating to values and knowledge in different cases discriminate between ethical considerations and techniques. However, EI can go further. Not only propose principles for action and see what values are affected but reconsider values that are actually made. For example, the software is a type of property that does not fit neatly into the concept of traditional ownership. The IA can analyze what kind of property is the software, but there may be a deeper discussion asking why should there be intellectual property and this involves asking the old values in new ways and reconsider its application.
Ethical codes in Information Technology
The association of IT professionals and some computer-related companies have developed codes of professional conduct. These codes have different functions:
- That there are ethical standards for a profession means that a professional, in this case a technician is not only responsible for the technical aspects of the product but also the economic, sociological and cultural aspects of same.
- They also serve as a flexible tool to supplement the legal and political measures, as they generally are very slow compared to the rate of development of information technologies. The codes are a supplement to the law and in helping to legislative bodies, administrative and judicial.
- Serve as public awareness, and to create standards and make the public aware of the problems and stimulate a debate to designate responsibilities.
- These standards have a sociological function as they give an identity to the computer as a group that thinks a certain way, is a symbol of their professional status and part of its definition as professionals.
- These rules serve as a source of public evaluation of a profession and are a call to responsibility that allow society to know what's happening in the profession, increasing professional reputation and public confidence.
- In international organizations to harmonize these standards or criteria divergent laws existing (or absent, if any) in individual countries.
However, the criticism made to the clubs that have done little to enforce them by imposing penalties if not met, or by check if they apply or are relevant or irrelevant. In fact there are codes that are not known to members of their professions and less for their customers. Parker also claims that are reinterpreted, that is, except the most obvious situations, which are those that refer these codes, no one knows almost nothing about the morality of most actions in moving the computer. In general, too often missing disciplinary measures are necessary when a member's activities are in conflict with the letter or spirit of the code.
Also criticized that many codes are the result of technological thinking of the developed countries that do not take into account differences in social and cultural values. There are even feminist associations who believe that ethical codes of computer associations reflect values called "masculine" are codes for "created by professional technical men to men." In general the codes do not address the great moral issues of justice that we face in our time: economic inequality, unemployment, poverty, racism, oppression of the third world ... The relationship of these problems with information technology is not straightforward, nor unambiguous nor a form in which there is an overall consensus but at least it is acknowledged that computers and telecommunications, longer part of our collective life, can and should contribute something on these issues.
The associations that seek computer professional’s codes of ethics require them to have a way of doing something positive. It means that in this technocratic society technicians are becoming aware of the consequences of their work. Computer are those who know in depth the nature of computer systems, the truth about security systems, damage from misuse of the system and the true intent of their users. To avoid confusion about the relationship between the profession and society must respond appropriately to what order or serves a computer? How is the process of decision making in the relationship between your profession and aim to serve you say?. The codes are a step in the awareness of companies and organization who want to improve situations in which the social impacts of technological development are not taken into account.
Not have to duplicate what already exists in law. The law is the law of social practices, is by definition rules and imposing sanctions. The codes, however, addressed the behavior according to ethical principles, their rules are no more show a letter of intent on the "mission" of an institution and the real constraint imposed is small, although in some cases include expulsions the association concerned. The law is an approach to policy and allocates more clearly the rights, responsibilities and duties of each.
Contents of computer ethics
Not being a discipline IE still seated and contrasts with a tradition shared by many authors, there is no unanimity on the contents of this area. In the following paragraphs indicate a compilation of issues and problems that appear in different authors. Professional Ethics general. A first strand of EI problems we can cover under the "general professional ethics" as it refers to problems that are common to other occupational activities. On one side are the criteria of personal morality, understood as the criteria, obligations and personal responsibilities of professionals.
Then there are internal problems to the company: employer-employee relations, organizational loyalty, public interest (whistle blowing), the marketing of products similar to those of your employer, etc. In this block, there are new issues that have been created or exacerbated by new technologies: increased surveillance in the automated office through email monitoring within the company or information on computer making use of every employee, investigate personal records to detect drug use in the employees, etc. Finally, there are also ethical issues that relate to business practices including contracts, agreements and conflicts of interest, for example, suggesting inferior software, software marketing knows that he has faults (bugs), etc.
The use of information: Chapter of problems that appear in this area is that relating to the unauthorized use of computer services or information contained therein. The problems of invasion of privacy lack of confidentiality in the information, especially sensitive data. Efforts to protect the integrity and confidentiality of information collide with the need for information from public and private entities and academic or research environments, namely their right to freedom of information. With regard to the very fact that there is information in different computer systems with concrete issues such as the use of personal data without permission of the subject, browse personal records, the development of smart credit cards that store information not has to do directly with the credit without the knowledge of the cardholder, the definition of censorship appropriate content or content information (apologies for terrorism, racism, pornography.). There may also be situations of injustice or inequity in the same access to information networks.
The computer as a new form of property. Another chapter of problems they want to attend the IA refers to the software as an asset that has specific characteristics. Computer programs is a good type of property that does not fit easily into the concepts of ownership of other assets. At first it seems that the problem could be subsumed and reduced to intellectual property protection. However, the question arises when considering the protection of software is what is actually a program. Is it an algorithm or an idea that can not be possessed by anyone because it belongs to the cultural heritage of humanity? Is intellectual property can be owned and protected? This situation creates new problems of property ownership, attribution, piracy, plagiarism, copyright, trade secrets, rights to products, etc..
Coupled with this are the problems of transfer of commercial software, new software production from an existing program, improving products using copyrighted materials of competition, the claim of ownership of software made by one in college or enterprise, and so on. The computer acts as an instrument of potentially harmful. A chapter that in some cases included as specific to IE and not in others is that the facts on which the computer is the medium or instrument through which they commit actions that cause damage to third parties. Those who provide computer services and using computers, data and programs must be responsible for the integrity and convenciencia the results of their actions. Here one can mention the consequences of errors in data and algorithms, the problems can be caused by the failure to protect the security of sensitive data or systems that involve risks to the health of clients, acts of terrorism of course, the actions of fanatics, intelligence data, the introduction of viruses and worms. Basically it is fighting not only explicitly harmful actions but to encourage responsibility on software applications that may be controversial or even consequences may be unknown.
Fears and threats of computing: In some cases, IE is included in a consideration of anthropomorphic visions of computers as thinking machines or as producers of absolute truths and infallible. This involves analyzing the implications of the so-called artificial intelligence, neural networks or the role they have to play the expert systems of one kind or another. A particular case in this chapter is that posed by the computerized decision systems (SDI), which are already part of the decision-making in many private and public organizations. The SDI benefits are clear: they allow treating and managing complexity and uncertainty in a rational, efficient and acting according to consistent criteria. However, they also pose ethical problems. On the one hand, values relating to internal systems (for example, how to manage risks to human health or doing equivalents, if that's fair, between human life and certain amounts of money), on the other side , potential hidden biases in the decision making process and finally, to what extent are the designers of these systems accountable for the results thereof. Social dimensions of information technology: Information technology has contributed to the positive development of social media.
The information technologies have made possible the COMMUNICATION instant, the collect and disseminate information and facts as mass tourism. However, to raise ethical question, amend the authors pay more attention to problematic aspects of the implementation of information technology in their achievements. This is not technophobe or by a desire to seek only the negative in the art, but to seek, from a positive perspective toward technology, how to make the negative consequences of new technologies and transform them into positive out of technological determinism in which technique is the end and not the environment and humans serves this technique and not to human needs. Accessibility, equitable distribution, social justice, work auto retaliate, sustained growth, and so on. are values at stake in implementing new technologies.
As problematic contributions of information technology is the role they play in economic globalization, corporate mergers or continuous increase of the gap between the developed and developing countries. Within companies there are also things that are very affected by the introduction of information technologies: process reengineering, streamlining the management, which leads to job losses, increased inequality, inhumanity and other impacts in working conditions, the ultra, the distribution of power, changes in the processes of decision making, the problem of centralization and decentralization.
Another problematic aspect is the more specific issue of privatization of telecommunications systems and alliances of multinational communications call into question what should be called to be a "universal service". Here problems arise access, control, participation, the struggle between private interests of profit or service to the majority, and so on. You can also mention that computer scientists have been some key workers in the research, development and production of military technology. Since the EI could raise awareness about the ethical computer scientists to develop ways "super intelligent" to develop human suffering and destruction of feed and military markets in developing countries by holding technology.
Some issues are the macro and the unequal distribution of information (rich and poor in information), unequal access to technical resources (including information networks), the way that information technology enhances the current distribution power, participation in decisions that affect our lives at home or at work, control of information networks, the access restriction groups or individuals who have no resources to participate in a system increasingly dominated by the market, the problem of poor cultural diversity of systems and communication media and invade us. There are also other effects analysis for democracy, privacy and civil liberties, impacts on health, education, culture, families, the predominant paradigm of instrumental reason, etc.
The initiative of "national information infrastructure" American (National Information Infrastructure, NII) is symptomatic of what we're saying now. In its initial planning had eight principles that wanted to promote: universal access, freedom of expression, vital civic sector, diverse and competitive market, equality in the workplace, privacy, democratic politics. However, there are allegations that this is not being promoted. The NII does not provide universal access, a small number of firms dominate the network and undue influence in its use and design, there is danger of carriers or suppliers that also control the content of the network, you may end up encouraging more trade than communication and access to public information may end up being restricted. The NII terms used to eliminate other vital public services can not adequately protect individual privacy and may restrict global communication. To avoid this there must be new policies and guidelines that would serve the public interest.
Current Situation - Ethics of Information Technology
The proliferation of studies on the EI is having an impact on computer training. For almost two decades, the ACM North American Association recommends that a course on the type of discipline we are discussing in these pages is part of the curricula of computer science career. Only U.S. academic institutions were given more than 400 courses of IE in 1996 on a total of 300 a year earlier. In the Spanish case, in a few centers are beginning to teach this discipline. In the journal Computers and Society has carried out several numbers during the year 1996 a bibliographic compilation of articles and other publications related to EI. After reading some of the more than thousand references that are cited and supported here in the comments of Kenneth can say the following about the current situation of IE: No one can say that the emerging literature on EI is generally sufficiently grounded in ethical theories, whether classical or contemporary. The classical terms used in the analysis of ethical behavior (eg, rules, consequences, collective, individual, positivism, phenomenology, etc.).
Does not sufficiently take into account in this discussion of IE. However, some authors are the exception and it discusses the various ethical theories according to specific situations: Many existing literature is an individualistic orientation. It focuses more on what they have to employees, directors and designers as individuals involved in information technology. It speaks less of it is good or ethical as to organizations, institutions or corporations. It devotes more time to discuss the moral choice of the election worker organizations and their managers. Nor is devoted much space to the political uses of information technology or ethical considerations on an information-intensive society. Missing a systematization of IE, indicating problems, levels of analysis, recommended paths.
At this point is an exception Impact initiative, in which a group of experts on social and ethical impact of informatics want to systematically respond to different levels of reflection with regard to this discipline. The existing literature is more sociological than ethics or regulation is less prescriptive than descriptive. It is not generally offer early action or answers to questions "must" (what should I do as a person, you should do as I and my organization, what social norms should promote, that we must have laws). The goal of IE is not only proposing analysis about "sociology of computing" or on the social evaluation of technologies (technology assessment) but go somewhat further in the sense of providing rational means to make decisions on issues where there involved human values and ethical dilemmas.
We analyzed the situation precedent pages of this new discipline called Computer Ethics. So we've started this study with a title, "What is computer ethics?" Which is not original, but is the same as leading a James Moor article written in 1985, What is Computer Ethics?, Which has become a classic of IE and has been published in nearly a dozen sites.
Following the introduction of this new discipline, Computer Ethics, we conclude that this is a serious attempt to propose a systematic reflection on the ethical aspects of one of the most important characteristics of our world: the informational dimension of society. IE is part of a "return to ethics" that is taking place in philosophical thought and in other fields of social activity, which results in technical areas to avoid the absolutism of instrumental rationality and technical pragmatism. The progress of science and technology offer ever-better solutions to practical problems is not to say that ethical issues or questions with regard be satisfactorily resolved or no longer there.
The ethical, social or sense of a society is not solved simply with technological progress, in this case progress in information technology. From the above, we can also conclude that we are before new challenges both in the professional world as in the educational world. The computer codes of conduct intended to respond to ethical issues that arise in professional life. However, there are a sufficient answer to the problems of increasing the technical professions, although half of the problems arise and awareness of the relevance of them.
On the other hand, IE is a challenge for the educational life, in the sense that education in ethical awareness must also be part of the curriculum of schools and research computing? As mentioned earlier, the Latin American educational system is at this very late compared to American and European. The challenge of proposing an ethical reflection is significant for computer scientists are still carried out. Moreover, this reflection should be nuances that do not involve monitoring Anglo literal patterns, for example, pecan and utilitarian individualism.
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