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IT firms urged to improve staff ethics

By Miya Knights
Date: September 20, 2003

computer crime Younger IT professionals a little too 'flexible', finds survey

Companies cannot afford to neglect ethics in IT policy making, according to the third biannual study into the attitudes of information systems professionals.

The Institute for the Management of Information Systems, which conducted the survey, highlighted some potentially problematic areas.

Speaking at the launch, Professor Simon Rogerson, director of the Centre for Computing and Social Responsibility, and world-leading expert on ethics in IT, warned that the results would have an impact on many IT issues.

"It is vital for organisations to take some action to raise ethical awareness amongst their information systems employees," said Rogerson.

"It is also important that any ethical programme be placed in the context of the organisation developing it, otherwise some may find that employees become wedded to the technology rather than the purposes that technology is meant to serve."

Current issues include data protection and privacy, entitlement (or identity) cards, electronic voting, systems security, smart CCTV, cyber-terrorism, auction websites and software testing.

The results for 2001/2002 reveal shifts in the attitudes of information systems professionals which suggest a correlation between ethical awareness, nationality and age.

Mary Prior, principal computing, science and engineering lecturer at De Montfort University, and the study's author, highlighted changing attitudes of information systems professionals towards ethical issues according to age, suggesting that employers would benefit from formulating clear ethical codes.

But the findings also indicate that this trend is one to watch with caution, as the vast proportion of younger, less experienced information systems professionals demonstrated a more flexible attitude to ethical issues.

Of the 40 per cent of the respondents who agreed that use of an employer's computer facilities is acceptable for employees' profit-making activities, for example, half were aged under 25 and 89 per cent under 40.

"Ethical policy is an important part of the professionalism of our industry," said Rogerson. "Society needs to trust its IT professionals, therefore it is important that we continue this research."

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