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Ethics remains an important part of nearly all industries in business, and the technology world is no exception. Considering the growing scourge of hacking and cybercrime, developers especially need to conduct themselves in an honest and forthright manner. The nature of their work sometimes warrants having access to important confidential information making an ethical nature a must.

Some tech leaders wonder if a code of ethics is necessary for software engineers, while others feel instituting a formal code is an overreach. Let’s take a closer look at this important issue affecting the IT industry.

A Hippocratic Oath for Software Developers?

A code of ethics for software engineers would be something similar to the Hippocratic Oath taken by doctors and other medical personnel. A variety of professionals dealing directly with the public – financial advisors, plumbers, law enforcement officers, etc. – also follow a code of conduct. Considering the number of people who use the work of software developers on a daily basis, why is the technology world different when it comes to ethics?

Technology professional associations, like the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and the IEEE, combined to publish their own ethical code, but there isn’t anything to date covering the entire industry. Many feel this has to change considering the recent Volkswagen scandal, where software engineers wrote code to cheat emissions tests, and other examples of unethical behavior in the IT world.

The Need for Ethics in IT

Dave West, a product owner a Scrum.org, commented on the need for a formal code of ethics in software development. “I would love to see a standardized, industry code of ethics. We do have our own that falls under our mission of improving the profession of crafting software… And we feel like that is a solid foundation for anyone to fall back on if they are feeling uncertain about any part of their job responsibilities, because they can step back and look at those values and say, ‘Am I doing the right thing, here, based on these things I believe in?'” said West.

Until the industry gets behind one code of ethics, expect forward-looking high-tech organizations to publicly champion their own ethical standards. Ultimately, this may serve as a competitive differentiator between the technology leaders and the also-rans in the IT business. This is an issue that bears continued watching over time.

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