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 legislation that applies in the computing industry,
including three major areas of ethical concern in computing: computer
cracking, data privacy and software ownership.
Ethical theory. Basic questions in ethics. Survey of
ethical theories: authoritarian, intuitionist, egoist, utilitarian,
deontologist. Advantages and disadvantages of the two main theories:
utilitarian and deontological. [1.5 lectures]
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]
Relevant legislation: Health and Safety. Potential
problems in the use of VDUs, keyboards and workspaces.
Relevant legislation: Computer misuse. Computer hacking,
computer cracking: when does the fun become crime? Computer Misuse
Act 1990. Difficulties with traditional legal concepts.
Relevant legislation: 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]
Relevant legislation: Property ownership. 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
recognize potential health and safety issues in computing
understand the need for making webpages accessible
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
* Kling, R. (1991). Computerization and controversy: value conflicts and social choices. London: Academic Press (2nd ed.).
Forester, T. & Morrison, P. (1990). Computer ethics: cautionary tales and ethical dilemmas in computing. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Johnson, D.G. (1985). Computer ethics. Englewood, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
Johnson, D.G. & Snapper, J.W. (1985). Ethical issues in the use of computers. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.
Centre for Computing and Social Responsibility (CCSR):
Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility (CPSR):