Ethical Computing

Ethical Computing

Wanbil W. Lee (The Computer Ethics Society & Wanbil and Associates, China)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-5888-2.ch292
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Misinterpretation of Risk

Risk is in fact a managerial concern and should be evaluated in social as well as technical terms. Hence, it is a mistake to treat risk as a technical entity and measured in economic terms only. The technical, economic and social aspects should be recognized in order to give a holistic view, and all aspects should be given equal priority and evaluated holistically.

Flawed Science/Technology Education

It is a flaw that teaching/training concentrates only on hard specialized knowledge and skills, and instills the aim to strive for technical excellence and short-term, egoistic financial gains but neglect to cultivate a spirit of care for moral justifications. Soft knowledge and skills are needed along with a sense to pursue altruistic consequences.

Need for New Anti-Risk Mechanisms

The extant countermeasures are being rendered impotent by the emerging complex and sophisticated applications, for example, the Internet and information superhighway, and by the ever lurking perpetrators who are always ready to crack any new countermeasures soon after they are developed and released (Lee, 2010). Specifically,

  • The technical access control software such as firewalls, intrusion prevention systems, secure web and email gateways, and AVs (anti-virus software) can handle only the physical, tangible errors or risks but cannot handle the risks of a socio-technical nature;

  • Computer law is useful as a reference framework for remedy and can be a forceful deterrent to prevent abusive acts by virtue of its power to punish. However, the law is by nature too slow to combat the rapidly developed acts of wrongdoings because creating a new law is complex and time-consuming and because people are in general reluctant to proceed with legal action or opt for legal action only as a last resort.

  • Computer Audit is empowered to detect deviation from set policies of performance and to check and verify that compliance is properly enforced and that the results are consistent with the set standards – in physical, cost-benefit terms only. The audit-based mechanism is limited as a deterrent.

Anti-risk is becoming more difficult. Hence, new anti-risk mechanisms are called for in order to strengthen the weakened existing mechanisms.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Dual Mission: (of Computer Ethics): Computer Ethics sets out to establish basic standards for tackling the problems associated with the ethical dilemmas encountered in cyberspace and promote observation of these standards based on which tools and methods for analysis of ethical concerns (as an applied field of practice called Ethical Computing), and to explore the mutual impact between the ethical theories and the information and communications technologies, to develop new theories/principles, and to contribute to maintain and back up ethical standards (as a pure, specialized area of study).

Do the Right Thing Right: Not doing the right thing right in cyberspace means using the computer in contradiction to ethical principles or unprofessional conduct. How do ICT practitioners defend themselves and their organizations when being accused of being unprofessional? The ICT workers need in the first instance to recognize, evaluate, and react sensibly and responsively to the ethical dilemmas created in the work place. How to do so, and ultimately how to behave professionally, require all – the ICT professionals themselves, their employing organizations and ICT community at large, to be attuned to good ethical practice. People may be talking about doing the right thing right. But they may have problems when being asked to explain what the right thing to do is, how to do it right, how they know it is done right, what might happen if the right thing is done in the wrong way, what might happen if the wrong thing is done. The answer is that the ICT practitioners must have a good understanding of the underpinning ethical theories and the relationship of, or the mutual impact, between ethics and ICT, and be equipped with a feasible ethical decision-making process. In sum, do-the-right-thing-right means to bear in mind and to accomplish any task in cyberspace not only to meet the technical requirements but also satisfy the ethically and socially acceptable standards.

Dual Function: (of Computer Ethics): Computer Ethics is a risk (due to the adverse consequences of unethical use of the computer) as well as an anti-risk mechanism (in the form of ethical analysis to check and balance a decision or conclusion based on profit-loss and risk arguments).

Ethical Computing: Ethical Computing is about “do the right thing right” in cyberspace, that of the dual mission of Computer ethics which aims to establish ethical standards, to promote and advance ethical practice, and to foster exchange and share knowledge and problems of common interest among practitioners, scholars and the general public. It a relatively new branch of Computing, somewhat akin to Green Computing, Mobile Computing, and Cloud Computing but unique and differs from the others as it focuses on techno-socio issues and the others on technical issues only.

Dual Role (of Ethics): Ethics plays a change agent role in influencing people’s attitude or behavior and an incubator role in building and cultivating trust.

Computer Ethics: Means ethics in cyberspace concerned with the ethical consequences arising out of using the computer and its peripherals.

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