Professional Practice and Ethics (50% option only)
Lecturer: Dr R.C. Jennings
No. of lectures: 8
This course will develop the ethical foundations of good professional
practice in computing. It will provide a basic survey of ethical theories
and discuss the role of professional organisations in maintaining good
practice, both in general and then specifically in the computing industry.
It will then consider three major areas of ethical concern in computing:
computer cracking, data privacy and software ownership.
The central and growing importance of computers in society.
Examples of ethical problems in the use of computers. Use and
misuse of computing facilities. [0.5 lecture]
Basic questions in ethics. Survey of ethical theories: authoritarian,
intuitionist, egoist, utilitarian, deontologist. Advantages and
disadvantages of the two main theories: utilitarian and deontological.
Professions and professional ethics.
Origin and purpose of professions. Internal regulation versus
external regulation. Dimensions of professional responsibility.
Professional organisations: ethics and codes of conduct. [1.5 lectures]
Computer hacking, computer cracking: when does the fun
become crime? Computer Misuse Act 1990. Difficulties with
traditional legal concepts. [1.5 lectures]
Privacy and data protection.
What is Privacy? Computer data and human dignity. The
problematic status of information stored on computers.
The Data Protection Act 1998. [1.5 lectures]
Theories of property and ownership: Patent, Copyright, and trade
secrets. Ownership of computer software: a new problem in
intellectual property rights. [1.5 lectures]
At the end of the course students should
be able to recognise and distinguish different kinds of ethical
know why professions have codes of conduct, and what is included in
the British Computer Society code of conduct
appreciate the dangers in computer cracking and know the contents of
the Computer Misuse Act of 1990
be able to explain the nature of privacy and how it is protected
by the Data Protection Act of 1998
be able to justify the existence of property laws and explain the
legal mechanisms which protect software as property
know the disadvantages of private ownership of software and the
legal mechanisms by which private ownership can be blocked
Brown, G. (1990). The information game: ethical issues in a
microchip world. Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press.
Forester, T. & Morrison, P. (1990). Computer ethics: cautionary
tales and ethical dilemmas in computing. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Gould, C. (ed.) (1989). The information web: ethical and social
implications of computer networking. Boulder, CO: Westview.
Johnson, D.G. (1985). Computer ethics. Englewood, NJ:
Johnson, D.G. & Snapper, J.W. (1985). Ethical issues in the use of
computers. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.
Kling, R. (1991). Computerization and controversy: value conflicts
and social choices. London: Academic Press (2nd ed.).
Langford, D. Practical computer ethics. Maidenhead,
Traber, M. (1986). The myth of the information revolution: social
and ethical implications of communication technology.
Beverly Hills, CA: Sage.
Centre for Computing and Social Responsibility (CCSR):
Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility (CPSR):