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I. Ethical Use of the Computer

There are several ways of identifying and deciding ethical issues. One of the most common ways of categorizing these approaches is the rules vs. consequences criteria. The first argues that our actions should be guided by general rules or principles: do not harm; tell the truth; do not steal; respect for persons. The second argues that we should assess the “rightness” of an action or decision by the consequences that will likely result. Most commonly the second approach identifies some “value” or values and measures the actions by the extent to which these values are or are not enhanced or progress made toward certain goals, such as a better life for all.

On reflection, it should be clear that there is no consensus about which of these is the more appropriate. In the ensuing discussion, arguments and positions will be presented using both of these approaches.

The magnitude of computer use in our society dictates that ethical standards or guidelines be developed.

Any code of computer ethics should stipulate who monitors what is put into personal computers. Ethical guidelines are required for decisions of what data are allowable and legitimate for personal computers.

Students should understand that distributing unauthorized copies of a computer program is theft. It is also wrong to break a security code to a bank, a school’s grading system, or the telephone company.

Ethics relate to those who sell computer hardware and software, as well. Not all computer vendors deal adequately with the responsibilities associated with a sale. Very few, if any, supply sufficient training, service, education, and proper use of the computer.

The groups that need to be concerned about the development and teaching of ethics include users, suppliers, and trainers in personal computers.