Margaret Anne Pierce, a professor in the Department of Mathematics and Computers at Georgia Southern University has categorized the ethical decisions related to computer technology and usage into three primary influences:
- The individual's own personal code.
- Any informal code of ethical conduct that exists in the work place.
- Exposure to formal codes of ethics.
Computer ethics was first coined by Walter Maner, a professor at Bowling Green State University. Maner noticed ethical concerns that were brought up during his Medical Ethics course at Old Dominion University became more complex and difficult when the use of technology and computers became involved. The conceptual foundations of computer ethics are investigated by information ethics, a branch of philosophical ethics promoted, among others, by Luciano Floridi.
The concept of computer ethics originated in the 1940s with MIT professor Norbert Wiener, the American mathematician and philosopher. While working on anti-aircraft artillery during World War II, Wiener and his fellow engineers developed a system of communication between the part of a cannon that tracked a warplane, the part that performed calculations to estimate a trajectory, and the part responsible for firing. Wiener termed the science of such information feedback systems, "cybernetics," and he discussed this new field with its related ethical concerns in his 1948 book, Cybernetics. In 1950, Wiener's second book, The Human Use of Human Beings, delved deeper into the ethical issues surrounding information technology and laid out the basic foundations of computer ethics.
A bit later during the same year, the world's first computer crime was committed. A programmer was able to use a bit of computer code to stop his banking account from being flagged as overdrawn. However, there were no laws in place at that time to stop him, and as a result he was not charged.[unreliable source?] To make sure another person did not follow suit, an ethics code for computers was needed.
In 1973, the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) adopted its first code of ethics. SRI International's Donn Parker, an author on computer crimes, led the committee that developed the code.
In 1976, medical teacher and researcher Walter Maner noticed that ethical decisions are much harder to make when computers are added. He noticed a need for a different branch of ethics for when it came to dealing with computers. The term "computer ethics" was thus invented.
In 1976 Joseph Weizenbaum made his second significant addition to the field of computer ethics. He published a book titled Computer Power and Human Reason, which talked about how artificial intelligence is good for the world; however it should never be allowed to make the most important decisions as it does not have human qualities such as wisdom. By far the most important point he makes in the book is the distinction between choosing and deciding. He argued that deciding is a computational activity while making choices is not and thus the ability to make choices is what makes us humans.
At a later time during the same year Abbe Mowshowitz, a professor of Computer Science at the City College of New York, published an article titled "On approaches to the study of social issues in computing." This article identified and analyzed technical and non-technical biases in research on social issues present in computing.
During the next year Terrell Ward Bynum, the professor of philosophy at Southern Connecticut State University as well as Director of the Research Center on Computing and Society there, developed curriculum for a university course on computer ethics. Bynum was also editor of the journal Metaphilosophy. In 1983 the journal held an essay contest on the topic of computer ethics and published the winning essays in its best-selling 1985 special issue, “Computers and Ethics.”
In 1984, the United States Congress passed the Small Business Computer Security and Education Act, which created a Small Business Administration advisory council to focus on computer security related to small businesses.
In 1985, James Moor, professor of philosophy at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, published an essay called "What is Computer Ethics?" In this essay Moor states the computer ethics includes the following: "(1) identification of computer-generated policy vacuums, (2) clarification of conceptual muddles, (3) formulation of policies for the use of computer technology, and (4) ethical justification of such policies."
During the same year, Deborah Johnson, professor of Applied Ethics and chair of the Department of Science, Technology, and Society in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences of the University of Virginia, got the first major computer ethics textbook published. Johnson's textbook identified major issues for research in computer ethics for more than 10 years after publication of the first edition.
In 1988, Robert Hauptman, a librarian at St. Cloud University, came up with "information ethics", a term that was used to describe the storage, production, access and dissemination of information. Near the same time, the Computer Matching and Privacy Act was adopted and this act restricted United States government programs identifying debtors.
In the year 1992, ACM adopted a new set of ethical rules called "ACM code of Ethics and Professional Conduct" which consisted of 24 statements of personal responsibility.
Three years later, in 1995, Krystyna Górniak-Kocikowska, a professor of philosophy at Southern Connecticut State University, Coordinator of the Religious Studies Program, as well as a senior research associate in the Research Center on Computing and Society, came up with the idea that computer ethics will eventually become a global ethical system and soon after, computer ethics would replace ethics altogether as it would become the standard ethics of the information age.
In 1999, Deborah Johnson revealed her view, which was quite contrary to Górniak-Kocikowska's belief, and stated that computer ethics will not evolve but rather be our old ethics with a slight twist.
Post 20th century, as a result to much debate of ethical guidelines, many organizations such as ABET offer ethical accreditation to University or College applications such as "Applied and Natural Science, Computing, Engineering and Engineering Technology at the associate, bachelor, and master levels" to try and promote quality works that follow sound ethical and moral guidelines.
In 2019 Facebook started a fund to build an ethics center at the Technical University of Munich, located in Germany. This was the first time that Facebook funded an academic institute for matters regarding computer ethics.
Autonomous technology such as self-driving cars forced to make human decisions. There is also concern over how autonomous vehicles would behave in different countries with different culture values.
Security risks have been identified with cloud-based technology with every user interaction being sent and analyzed to central computing hubs. Artificial intelligence devices like the Amazon Alexa and Google Home are collecting personal data from users while at home and uploading it to the cloud. Apple’s Siri and Microsoft’s Cortana smartphone assistants are collecting user information, analyzing the information, and then sending the information back to the user.
Computers and information technology have caused privacy concerns surrounding collection and use of personal data. For example, Google was sued in 2018 for tracking user location without permission.
A whole industry of privacy and ethical tools has grown over time, giving people the choice to not share their data online. These are often open source software, which allows the users to ensure that their data is not saved to be used without their consent.
Various national and international professional societies and organizations have produced code of ethics documents to give basic behavioral guidelines to computing professionals and users. They include:
- Association for Computing Machinery
- ACM Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct
- Australian Computer Society
- ACS Code of Ethics
- ACS Code of Professional Conduct
- British Computer Society
- BCS Code of Conduct
- Code of Good Practice (retired May 2011)
- Computer Ethics Institute
- Ten Commandments of Computer Ethics
- IEEE Code of Ethics
- IEEE Code of Conduct
- League of Professional System Administrators
- The System Administrators' Code of Ethics
- Bynum, Terrell Ward. "A Very Short History of Computer Ethics". Southern Connecticut Wein University. Archived from the original on 2008-04-18. Retrieved 2011-01-05.
- Pierce, Margaret Anne; Henry, John W. (April 1996). "Computer ethics: The role of personal, informal, and formal codes". Journal of Business Ethics. 15 (4): 425–437. doi:10.1007/BF00380363. (subscription required)
- Bynum, Terrell (2018), "Computer and Information Ethics", in Zalta, Edward N. (ed.), The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2018 ed.), Metaphysics Research Lab, Stanford University, retrieved 2019-12-14
- Floridi, Luciano (2010), "Information Ethics", in Floridi, Luciano (ed.), The Cambridge Handbook of Information and Computer Ethics, Cambridge University Press, pp. 77–100, ISBN 9780521717724
- Bynum, Terrell (21 December 2014). "Computer Ethics: Basic Concepts and Historical Overview". Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Center for the Study of Language and Information, Stanford University.
- "A Brief History of Computer Ethics". Learning Computing History. 5 December 2004.
- "Alumni Hall of Fame: Donn Parker". SRI International. Archived from the original on 2013-07-04. Retrieved 2013-06-13.
- "Obituary: Joseph Weizenbaum". The Tech. 128 (12) (Online ed.). Cambridge, MA: MIT News office. 14 March 2008. Retrieved 29 April 2015.
- "The Right to Financial Privacy Act". Electronic Privacy Information Center. Retrieved 29 April 2015.
- "A Very Short History of Computer Ethics ( Text Only) - The Research Center on Computing & Society". www.cs.utexas.edu. Retrieved 2020-02-26.
- Small Business Computer Security and Education Act of 1984 at Congress.gov
- "The Handbook of Information and Computer Ethics | Wiley". Wiley.com. Retrieved 2020-12-06.
- Computer Matching and Privacy Protection Act of 1988 at Congress.gov
- "ACM Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct". ACM. 16 October 1992. Retrieved 2014-08-09.
- "About ABET | ABET". www.abet.org. Retrieved 2018-10-03.
- Meredith, Sam (2018-04-10). "Facebook-Cambridge Analytica: A timeline of the data hijacking scandal". CNBC. Retrieved 2019-12-14.
- Jan 22, Bloomberg News |; 2019 (2019-01-22). "Facebook is reportedly facing a record US fine for privacy violations". Digital Commerce 360. Retrieved 2019-12-14.CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
- Vacura, Miroslav. "The History of Computer Ethics and its Future Challenges". Information Technology and Society Interaction and Interdependence. Proceedings of 23rd Interdisciplinary Information Management Talks (IDIMT 2015).
- Maxmen, Amy (2018-10-24). "Self-driving car dilemmas reveal that moral choices are not universal". Nature. 562 (7728): 469–470. Bibcode:2018Natur.562..469M. doi:10.1038/d41586-018-07135-0. PMID 30356197.
- Hashizume, Keiko; Rosado, David G.; Fernández-Medina, Eduardo; Fernandez, Eduardo B. (2013-02-27). "An analysis of security issues for cloud computing". Journal of Internet Services and Applications. 4 (1): 5. doi:10.1186/1869-0238-4-5. ISSN 1869-0238.
- van den Hoven, Jeroen; Blaauw, Martijn; Pieters, Wolter; Warnier, Martijn (2020), Zalta, Edward N. (ed.), "Privacy and Information Technology", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2020 ed.), Metaphysics Research Lab, Stanford University, retrieved 2020-10-31
- "Google sued over tracking user location amid privacy concerns".
- "Ethical Alternatives and Resources".
- ACS Code of Ethics (PDF), Australian Computer Society, 12 June 2012, archived from the original (PDF) on 14 May 2013
- Graham, Ruth, ed. (July 2012), ACS Code of Professional Conduct (PDF), Australian Computer Society, archived from the original (PDF) on 6 April 2014
- Code of Conduct for BCS Members (PDF), BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT, 8 June 2011, archived from the original (PDF) on 12 October 2016, retrieved 10 October 2016
- "BCS Trustee Board agrees revised Code of Conduct". BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT. 3 May 2011.
- "7.8 IEEE Code of Ethics", IEEE Policies, Section 7 - Professional Activities, IEEE
- IEEE Code of Conduct (PDF), IEEE, June 2014
- "The System Administrators' Code of Ethics". League of Professional System Administrators. USENIX Association. 2006.
- Bynum, Terrell Ward (June 2000). "The foundation of computer ethics". ACM SIGCAS Computers and Society. 30 (2): 6–13. doi:10.1145/572230.572231. (subscription required)
- Floridi, Luciano (1999). "Information Ethics: On the Theoretical Foundations of Computer Ethics" (PDF). Ethics and Information Technology. 1 (1): 37–56. Archived from the original (PDF) on 9 November 2005.
- Floridi, Luciano; Sanders, J.W. (2002). "Computer Ethics: Mapping the Foundationalist Debate" (PDF). Ethics and Information Technology. 4 (1): 1–9. doi:10.1023/A:1015209807065. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-04-28. Retrieved 2011-04-18.
- Haag, Stephen; Cummings, Maeve; McCubbrey, Donald J. (2003). Management Information Systems: For the Information Age (4th ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill. ISBN 978-0-07-281947-2.
- Johnson, Deborah G. (2001). Computer Ethics (3rd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall. ISBN 978-0-13-083699-1.
- Martin, C. Dianne; Weltz, Elaine Yale (June 1999). "From awareness to action: integrating ethics and social responsibility into the computer science curriculum". ACM SIGCAS Computers and Society. 29 (2): 6–14. doi:10.1145/382018.382028. (subscription required)
- MacKinnon, Barbara (2011). Ethics: Theory and Contemporary Issues (7th ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth. ISBN 978-0-538-45283-0.
- Quinn, Michael J. (2011). Ethics for the Information Age (4th ed.). Boston, MA: Addison-Wesley. ISBN 978-0-13-213387-6.
- Moor, James H. (1985). "What is Computer Ethics?". In Bynum, Terrell Ward (ed.). Computers & Ethics. Metaphilosophy - Oxford. http://rccs.southernct.edu/what-is-computer-ethics/#what-is-computer-ethics: Blackwell. pp. 266–75. ISSN 0026-1068. Archived from the original on 2017-04-04.
- Mowshowitz, Abbe (March 1981). "On approaches to the study of social issues in computing". Communications of the ACM. 24 (3): 146–155. doi:10.1145/358568.358592. (subscription required)
- Stamatellos, Giannis (2007). Computer Ethics: A Global Perspective. Jones and Bartlett. ISBN 978-0-7637-4084-9.
- Tavani, Herman T. (2004). Ethics & Technology: Ethical Issues in an Age of Information and Communication Technology. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley and Sons. ISBN 978-0-471-24966-5.
- American Philosophical Association's Newsletter on Philosophy and Computers.
- Ethics in Computing - a list of links to ethical discussions in Computer Science courtesy of North Carolina State University Undergraduates with guidance from Dr. Edward F. Gehringer
- IEG, the Information Ethics research Group at Oxford University
- Bynum, Terrell. "Computer Ethics: Basic Concepts and Historical Overview". In Zalta, Edward N. (ed.). Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
- Coleman, Kari Gwen. "Computing and Moral Responsibility". In Zalta, Edward N. (ed.). Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
- The Research Center on Computing & Society
- The International Journal of Cyber Ethics in Education (IJCEE)
- An ELIZA emulator