Many people use computers every day, but not everyone uses them ethically. Ethical computing is the practice of using computers in a way that avoids harming others. The field of computer ethics encompasses issues including intellectual property rights, the right to privacy, data protection practices, and inclusive design. Using computers and software ethically also means acting professionally and respectfully, avoiding spreading misinformation, and being mindful of the impact of technology use on society.
The concept of computer ethics has been around almost as long as computers have, but this field took on a new level of importance with the rise of the Internet and its increasing incorporation into every facet of our lives. The Internet makes it easy for people to spread lies about others, hack into someone else’s computer or an entire network, steal intellectual property and pass it off as their own, or fool the masses using AI-generated deepfakes. Some of these actions are merely things that a respectable, ethical person should not do, but others can rise to the level of criminal acts. By learning about and adhering to the principles of ethical computer use, you can avoid landing yourself in legal, social, or professional trouble.
The Ten Commandments of Computer Ethics
In 1992, the Computer Ethics Institute created what it called the Ten Commandments of Computer Ethics, leaning on the biblical commandments for inspiration. These rules form the foundation of ethical computing.
1. Do not use computers to cause harm to people.
2. Do not interfere with other people’s ability to do work with computers.
3. Do not snoop through other people’s files.
4. Do not use computers to commit any type of theft.
5. Do not use computers to spread lies about people or organizations.
6. Do not make unauthorized copies of software.
7. Do not use someone else’s computer without their permission.
8. Do not steal someone else’s intellectual property.
9. Always think about the potential consequences of the software you create.
10. Always be respectful and considerate toward others while you use a computer.
Modern Guidelines for Respectful Computer Use
Respect Other People’s Privacy: Do not try to view or change someone else’s passwords, and don’t go digging through their folders or files.
Respect the Integrity of the Network: Do not create or use malware or harass other people.
Identify Yourself Accurately: Never use anyone else’s accounts or set up new accounts pretending to be someone else.
Respect Copyrights: Do not illegally copy software.
Respect Intellectual Property: Do not steal someone else’s work and try to pass it off as your own.
Be Sensible and Responsible: Remember that your actions always have consequences, and work to ensure that you cause no harm.
Additional Reading on Computer Ethics Issues
- How Can I Be Responsible Online?
- What Is Computer Ethics?
- Software Ethics
- A Short History of Computer Ethics
- Your Guide to Being a Good Digital Citizen
- Troubling Consequences of Online Political Rumoring
- Data Privacy: Things Every Professional Should Know
- Ethics in the Digital World: Where We Are Now and What’s Next
- The Future of Truth and Misinformation Online
- How to Avoid Copyright Infringement in the Age of Social Media
- Identity Theft and Your Social Security Number
- Ways to Prevent IT Abuse
- Using Information Correctly: Copyright and Fair Use
- Guide to Securing Your Online Footprint
- Best Practices to Avoid Plagiarism
- The Ethics of a Computer Network Attack
- Software Testing Tutorial
- Types of Online Deception
- The Spread of True and False News Online
- Trusting Tech: Using AI to Combat Deepfakes and Preserve Privacy
- Misinformation on Social Media
- Top Domain Hosting Services
- Sexual Harassment on the Internet
- Best Test Management Tools
- Technology Security Tips
- Computer Security Researchers Aim to Prevent Tech Abuse
- Surveillance Technology Can Have Unintended Consequences