Dear Ethix – Issue 21


The latest Ethix (Issue 20, Nov-Dec 2001) arrived a few days ago. Wow, what a super issue. Informative, provocative, readable. I got engrossed in it cover to cover.
Cliff Christians
Research Professor of Communications,
University of Illinois, Urbana

Technology’s Double Role

I was reading an article in the New York Times regarding the role of technology in preventing such attacks as September 11 and thought of your work on ethics and technology, particularly as Al’s latest article was regarding the role of technology in the Sept. 11 attacks. Your quote is so apt, “Technology is never neutral.”
Billie Ylvisaker
Bellevue WA

Ethics for IT Professionals

I read, with great interest, a recent article about the IBTE. We are very excited about finding others who believe that there should be some level of leadership and promotion of the terms “Ethics (and we add “integrity”) into the way we do business in IT.” These topics have simply been dropped from the current American dictionary of business terms.

Having spent some 30 years in business, I have seen the concepts of ethics diminished to nothing. Our organization, NACSE (National Association of Communication Systems Engineers) has recently added an Ethics requirement to our mid- to senior-level certifications. Historically, most IT Geeks have spent the better part of their careers studying technology and IT-related science-based subjects. However, when these same people are promoted or decide to start a business, they have little or no background in management or inter-personal skills and certainly nothing even closely resembling any sense of ethical business conduct.

Most younger people simply adhere to “Do whatever it takes to win! … only the bottom line counts!” This mentality can be seen in every facet of American business with few company leaders having either the knowledge or the courage, to discuss policies of Ethics within their corporate structure. While most company CEOs will tell you they have an ethics policy, our experience has been that it if asked to produce it, ”It has been lost” or “Ask my Secretary where it is” or “The personnel department is revising it.” and so on … but no one has ever seen it and the subject is certainly never discussed at any business meetings.

In the IT world the ethics issue may be even larger than in many other businesses. Calling in an IT Geek, either as an outsourced contractor, a consultant or an employee is not like hiring a plumber.

The IT guy is probably a competent hacker and will, in short time, be able to gain access to the most sensitive, critical and private information in the company. What if he is honest, but finds out the CEO is stealing? What if the CIO is selling proprietary information? What if a cute young secretary in the marketing group is getting her new card paid for by the company, when no one else is getting that kind of benefit? All questions that face day-to-day business. How do we deal with these issues? Most are not as black and white as we would like. NACSE has recently announced a first in the IT field: a certificate in Ethics.

This program is a short overview of Ethics and we provide an evaluation quiz followed by an analysis and study guide into basic Ethics concepts. Along with technical skills, knowledge and experience, a real IT professional needs to have a sense of ethics and the knowledge of how he or she makes decisions and interacts with others. Most importantly is how they perceive the “Ethics Culture” within their company, their group or team.
Bob Kile
Director, National Association of Communication Systems Engineers