DMU expert helps form new code of ethics for computer industry

Computing professionals around the world will be expected to abide by a new code of conduct drafted in part by a De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) ethics expert.

Catherine Flick, Reader in Computing & Social Responsibility, has been part of the executive committee re-drafting the Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct for ACM, the Association for Computing Machinery.

The revised Code of Ethics, which has taken two years to re-draft, addresses the significant advances in computing technology since its first draft in 1992 – before smartphones, online shopping and social media.


ACM’s Code of Ethics is considered the standard for the computing profession and has been adopted by computing professionals, organisations and technology companies around the world.

It aims to help its nearly 100,000 members from 190 countries to make ethically responsible decisions in professional practice. It also adds new responsibilities for computing professionals in leadership roles to “recognise and take special care of systems that become integrated into the infrastructure of society”, a reflection of how embedded in technology much of public life is today.  

Dr Flick said: “The updated Code reflects a significant effort to capture and reflect computing professionals’ opinions about the ethics of the work that they do, and the importance of protecting the public good that should be at the core of the technology they research, create and use.”

Catherine’s efforts as part of the Code update team reflect a career of working to help individuals and companies incorporate ethics into their day-to-day work. The EU funded projects ETICA, Responsible-Industry, COMPASS, and Living Innovation, and her work in video games and ethics have all provided her with valuable experience in working with different stakeholders to develop common understandings of ethics in practice.

This update of the ACM Code of Ethics expresses the experiences, values, and aspirations of computing professionals around the world, and it captures the conscience of the profession. It affirms an obligation of computing professionals, both individually and collectively, to use their skills for the benefit of society.

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“The best professional organizations make ethical conduct the foundation of their service to the community, and the most tangible expression of that commitment is a code of ethics,” said ACM President Cherri M. Pancake.

“So much has changed since ACM released its last Code of Ethics in 1992. Because computing is now inextricably linked into almost every aspect of society, the actions of computing professionals have more impact than ever before. It is imperative that everyone in our field act responsibly.”

“The Code represents the aspirations and the conscience of the profession,” explained Donald Gotterbarn, Co-Chair of ACM’s Committee on Professional Ethics (COPE) and Professor Emeritus at East Tennessee State University. “We’ve outlined overarching principles, explanations, and guidelines to steer decision making based on the understanding that the public good is always the primary consideration.”

The ACM Code of Ethics update will form the basis of a significant impact case study for DMU, as the code is used throughout education, policy, research, and innovation around the world.

Posted on Monday 23rd July 2018

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