Professional Duties

Professional Duties

Robert A. Schultz (Woodbury University, USA)
Copyright: © 2006 |Pages: 16
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59140-779-9.ch004
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Abstract

It is perhaps easiest to begin the application of ethics to information technology with the ethical responsibilities of IT professionals. Several ethical codes have been developed, and in this chapter we will see how the concepts of Part I apply to these codes. My aim is to establish the ethical basis of these codes. The underlying ethical concepts are Rawlsian, but not his Principles of Justice (Rawls, 1999). Rather, they are distinctions developed as part of the theory of right action. The distinction between duty and obligation is particularly relevant. In addition, something needs to be said about the concept of a profession. Most IT professionals have a very strong sense of their responsibilities as IT professionals. In a way, it is astonishing that such a young profession has developed such a strong sense of its own ethical identity so quickly. Older professions such as Medicine or Law have traditions going back over two thousand years, and their standards have been incorporated into law in most areas. Although IT has its professional organizations, such as the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and the Association of Information Technology Professionals (AITP), those organizations do not currently perform a widely recognized credentialing function. Although these organizations promulgate model curricula, they have nothing like the force of the American Medical Association (AMA) certification for medical schools, or the American Bar Association (ABA) certification of law schools. Since IT is a profession without benefit of the formal apparatus of the older professions, it follows that the credentialing and legal sanctions of the older professions are not what makes them professions. Credentialing and legal sanctions safeguard what was already there, namely a calling shared by individuals. Professions differ from mere jobs because those in professions commit themselves indefinitely toward serving a goal beyond their own self-interest, which is their primary focus. Thus, those in the medical profession commit themselves to healing people, and those in the law commit themselves to interpreting and applying the law and preserving the integrity of the legal process. Professional athletes similarly commit themselves to practicing their sport as well as they can. All professionals are prepared to set aside their individual interests when their profession requires it. The basis of a profession—an individually adopted goal beyond self-interest—is also the essential basis for professional ethics.1 What then is this goal for IT professionals? What do IT professionals feel called to do? I think their calling is to provide the best functioning IT systems (infrastructure and applications) possible in the organizational context in which they are dealing. In terms of this calling, IT professionals know what they need to take responsibility for in the technical area, even when managers or clients have other ideas. These responsibilities are often not mandated by management. Indeed, management may not even be aware that IT professionals have assumed and carried out these responsibilities. Yet the well-being of the organization may very well depend on these responsibilities being carried out. A good example is data integrity; nonprofessionals usually have only a vague idea of what is involved in insuring data integrity, and yet failures in insuring data integrity will almost certainly compromise the usability of a system. Even without formal, generally accepted credentialing for IT professionals, there is still a distinct calling recognized by IT professionals with duties attached to it. The absence of generally accepted credentialing does, however, create possibilities for conflicts with management and others, which we will discuss later in this chapter.

Complete Chapter List

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Table of Contents
Foreword
Douglas J. Cremer
Acknowledgments
Chapter 1
Robert A. Schultz
Most discussions of ethics and information technology focus on issues of professional ethics and issues of privacy and security.1 Certainly these... Sample PDF
Ethical Issues in Information Technology
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Chapter 2
Robert A. Schultz
In this book, “ethics” is a general term for concerns about what people should do. The term “ethics” comes from the Greek word ethike, which means... Sample PDF
A Backgroun in Ethical Theory
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Chapter 3
Robert A. Schultz
A few other background issues deserve clarification before I examine specific ethical problems of information technology. IT always appears in the... Sample PDF
The Context of IT Ethical Issues
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Chapter 4
Professional Duties  (pages 44-59)
Robert A. Schultz
It is perhaps easiest to begin the application of ethics to information technology with the ethical responsibilities of IT professionals. Several... Sample PDF
Professional Duties
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Chapter 5
Robert A. Schultz
As we saw from the last two chapters, the ethical IT professional is embedded in contexts of management, organization, and society. Ethical behavior... Sample PDF
Justice in a Market Economy
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Chapter 6
Robert A. Schultz
In a competitive market economy, one is required to serve the interests of one’s employer or corporation. As we saw in Chapter IV, Professional... Sample PDF
Trust Issues in a Market Economy
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Chapter 7
Robert A. Schultz
Removal of jobs from one country to another to exploit lower paid workers tends to raise objections from those whose jobs are removed. However... Sample PDF
Offshoring as an Ethical Issue
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Chapter 8
Privacy and Security  (pages 107-118)
Robert A. Schultz
Privacy and security are the first topics involving the interface of the individual with information technology. The two topics of privacy and... Sample PDF
Privacy and Security
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Chapter 9
Copyright and Piracy  (pages 119-132)
Robert A. Schultz
As I noted in Chapter II, information technology’s basic feature of easy reproduction of digital information gives rise both to new benefits and to... Sample PDF
Copyright and Piracy
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Chapter 10
E-Problems  (pages 133-143)
Robert A. Schultz
In Chapter I, I observed that new uses of IT will be built on four basic features of information technology: • Speed of information processing •... Sample PDF
E-Problems
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Chapter 11
Robert A. Schultz
Besides being of interest in its own right, the question of the value of information technology (IT) has ethical implications, primarily for... Sample PDF
Valuing Information Technology
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Chapter 12
Robert A. Schultz
In the previous chapter, we saw how difficult it was to determine the value of information technology, even with a clearly defined point of view... Sample PDF
The Ultimate Value of Technology
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Chapter 13
Robert A. Schultz
In order to conclude our discussion of the value of information technology, we need to answer these questions: What characteristics does IT share... Sample PDF
The Ultimate Value of Information Technology
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Chapter 14
Conclusion  (pages 196-200)
Robert A. Schultz
Writing this book was very much a learning process for me. I began with the idea that the theories of John Rawls might be able to illuminate ethical... Sample PDF
Conclusion
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