CXO

ACM updates computing ethics code for first time in 26 years, here's what's new

The newly-revised code address issues of emerging systems, discrimination, and data privacy.

After working on it for two years, the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) has updated its Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct for the first time since 1992. As noted in a press release, the ACM claims 100,000 members from 190 countries, all of whom follow its code of ethics.

For those unfamiliar, the ACM Code of Ethics is "a collection of principles and guidelines designed to help computing professionals make ethically responsible decisions in professional practice. It translates broad ethical principles into concrete statements about professional conduct," according to the release.

As noted above, the last time the ACM code was updated was 1992. Clearly, much technological and societal change has happened since then, and the revised language seeks to address those shifts.

SEE: Ethics policy: Vendor relationships (Tech Pro Research)

The updates are seen most readily in three distinct additions: Emerging systems, discrimination, and data privacy.

The first, the release noted, is that of emerging systems. In section 3.7 of the code, it calls on ACM members and organizations to "recognize and take special care of systems that become integrated into the infrastructure of society."

As technologies integrate with travel, healthcare, and more, the creators of those systems should work to guarantee fair system access, and make sure the level of integration matches the needs of the public, the code reads.

Discrimination is also addressed in the updated code. Specifically, it calls out the responsibility of technologists to make technological systems as inclusive and accessible as possible for all people.

"Prejudicial discrimination on the basis of age, color, disability, ethnicity, family status, gender identity, labor union membership, military status, nationality, race, religion or belief, sex, sexual orientation, or any other inappropriate factor is an explicit violation of the Code," it reads. "Harassment, including sexual harassment, bullying, and other abuses of power and authority, is a form of discrimination that, amongst other harms, limits fair access to the virtual and physical spaces where such harassment takes place."

Finally, the code addresses the notion of privacy and data protection in section 1.6. Technology enables many possibilities for the collection of data, and professionals should be well-versed in all the issues surrounding privacy issues in technology.

"Computing professionals should only use personal information for legitimate ends and without violating the rights of individuals and groups," the code reads. It later goes on to state that only the minimum amount of data needed should be stored in a system, and that members must work to enable transparency in their data practices.

The big takeaways for tech leaders:

  • The ACM has updated its Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct for the first time since 1992, in order to address multiple technological and societal advancements.
  • The ACM's Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct includes new updates addressing emerging systems, discrimination, and data privacy.

Also see

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Image: iStockphoto/Devonyu

About Conner Forrest

Conner Forrest is a Senior Editor for TechRepublic. He covers enterprise technology and is interested in the convergence of tech and culture.

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