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How Do I Develop a Code of Computer Ethics?

By G. Wiesen
Updated May 16, 2024
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To develop a code of computer ethics, you should first consider the overall or basic tenets of your code that are vital and most important. You can begin with these general aspects of the code to give yourself an overall guide for what you need to include to ensure ethical behavior. From this beginning, you can then refine your code and establish more specific information relevant to computer use in your environment and that avoids confusion or issues involving vague language. You can also look at other ethical codes for computer use to help you establish a code of computer ethics that is meaningful and works for you.

A code of computer ethics is a document that indicates the type of behavior for using a computer that is considered ethical. This code is usually created at a workplace or school, though other organizations may use such a code, and establishes guidelines for students, employees, or group members. In many ways, a code of computer ethics functions as a set of rules for people to follow and provides specific examples of behavior that is and is not acceptable.

One of the easiest ways to begin creating your code of computer ethics is to start with a “big picture” approach. You should try to determine the major or overall values and rules that you consider important for ethical computer use. This can be anything from “Respect other people’s digital information” to “Do not use computers to harm others.” You can determine what basic elements your code of computer ethics should have, and use this as the foundation for the rest of your work.

Once you have the basic outline for your code, then you can begin to develop more specific rules and elements of it. You might establish “Do not use computers to harm others” as a basic tenet of your code, but this is vague and should have more specific meaning. This may be elaborated on to include “Do not use computers to physically attack others” and “Do not use computers to engage in bullying, harassment, or abuse of any kind.” This type of specificity within can help you avoid issues created by vague language, and allows you to provide information that is more specific to your purposes.

As you are developing your code of computer ethics, you might also look to examples of codes that others have created. One of the best places to begin is with the Ten Commandments of Computer Ethics, which provides a simple and basic outline that you can consider in developing your own code. You should also look to codes of ethics established by other businesses and organizations to see if they have any ideas you missed.

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