Science and Engineering Ethics

, Volume 1, Issue 2, pp 113–132 | Cite as

Computers, information and ethics: A review of issues and literature

  • Carl Mitcham


computer culture computer ethics computer ethics codes computer law computer politics computer professional responsibility information ethics virtual reality 


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Bibliography (Computers, Information and Ethics)

  1. Brown, Geoffrey.The Information Game: Ethical Issues in a Microchip World. Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press, 1990. Pp. ix, 163. Chapters 1 and 2 introduce technology and computers as moral issues. Chapters 3 and 4 consider the potentials for intentional and unintentional harm associated with computers. Chapters 5 and 6 focus on the threats to and problems of privacy. Chapter 7 assesses the claim that computers are dehumanizing. Chapter 8 examines the ownership of software. Chapter 9 concludes by arguing that the uses of computers constitutes a game with rules that societies are free to alter to their benefit.Google Scholar
  2. Bynum, Terrell W., ed.Computers and Ethics, New York: Blackwell, 1985. First published as a special theme issue ofMetaphilosophy, vol. 16, no. 4 (October 1985), pp. 263–377. Contents: James H. Moor’s influential and often cited "What Is Computer Ethics?," Deborah G. Johnson’s "Should Computer Programs Be Owned?," John W. Snapper’s "Responsibility for Computer-Based Errors," William Bechtel’s "Attributing Responsibility to Computer Systems," and Dan Lloyd’s "Frankenstein’s Children: Artificial Intelligence and Human Value." Followed by book reviews, discussions articles on teaching about and with computers, and a bibliography.Google Scholar
  3. Christians, Clifford G., Kim B. Rotzoll, and Mark Fackler, eds.Media Ethics: Cases and Moral Reasoning, 3rd edition. New York: Longman, 1991. pp. xviii, 445. (First edition: 1983.) Part one deals with news; part two, persuasion (advertising and public relations); part three, entertainment with cases on censorship, confidentiality, conflict of interest, deception, economic pressures, privacy, sensationalism, etc. in eight media: books, magazines, motion pictures, newspapers, photographs, radio, records, TV, and video. No mention of computers or the Internet, although there should be. Complemented by Thomas W. Cooper, with Clifford G. Christians, Frances Forde Plude, and Robert A. White, eds.,Communication Ethics and Global Change (New York: Longman, 1989), which contains articles on media ethics in Spain, the Netherlands, Poland, and ten other countries, and at least mentions computers.Google Scholar
  4. Dunlop, Charles, and Rob Kling, eds.Computerization and Controversy: Value Conflicts and Social Choices. Boston: Academic Press, 1991. Pp. xviii, 758. Part VII (of seven), devoted to "Ethical Perspectives and Professional Responsibilities," following an introduction by Dunlop and Kling, includes John Ladd’s "Computers and Moral Responsibility: A Framework for an Ethical Analysis," Kling’s "When Organizations Are Perpetrators: Assumptions about Computer Abuse and Computer Crime," the ACM Code of Professional Conduct, Hal Sackman’s "A Prototype IFIP Code of Ethics Based on Participative International Consensus," Terry A. Winograd’s "Strategic Computing Research and the Universities," Carl Barus’s "Military Influence on the Electrical Engineering Curriculum since World War II," and Joseph Weizenbaum’s "Against the Imperialism of Instrumental Reason."Google Scholar
  5. Ermann, M. David, Mary B. Williams, and Claudio Gutierrez, eds.Computers, Ethics, and Society. New York: Oxford University Press, 1990. Pp. ix, 376. Thirty-four readings divided into three categories: ethics in general, computers and social ideals (of privacy, personal life, work, and justice), and issues facing computer professionals (justice, law, and moral responsibility). Uneven, and lacks any references to further readings other than what is contained in the notes.Google Scholar
  6. Forester, Tom, ed.Computers in the Human Context: Information Technology, Productivity, and People. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1989. Pp. xii, 548. A 15-chapter anthology, with one three-article chapter on ethics. Contents: Gary T. Marx and Sanford Sherizen’s "Monitoring on the Job," Anne W. Branscomb’s "Who Owns Creativity?" and Keith Hearnden’s "Computer Criminals Are Human, Too."Google Scholar
  7. Forester, Tom, and Perry Morrison.Computer Ethics: Cautionary Tales and Ethical Dilemmas in Computing. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1990. Pp. viii, 193. A fast-paced read about computer crime, software theft, hacking and viruses, unreliable computers, invasions of privacy, AI and expert systems, and computerization in the work place. For more examples of this approach to computer ethics, see Sally Webster, "Dispatches from the Front Line: Computer Ethics War Stories,"Educom Review, vol. 27, no. 4 (July Aug. 1992), pp. 18–21.Google Scholar
  8. Friedman, Batya, and Terry Winograd, eds.Computing and Social Responsibility: A Collection of Course Syllabi. Palo Alto, CA: Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility, 1990. Pp. v, 143. Contains eleven syllabi, two of which are specifically focused on ethics for computer professionals.Google Scholar
  9. Gotterbarn, Donald, "Software Engineering Ethics," in John J. Marciniak, ed.,Encyclopedia of Software Engineering (New York: John Wiley, 1994), pp. 1197–1200. Long winded and not particularly insightful, but its very inclusion in this encyclopedia is indicative of increasing attention among this specialization within the computer professional community. Some good references in the bibliography.Google Scholar
  10. Gould, Carol C., ed.The Information Web: Ethical and Social Implications of Computer Networking, Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1989. Pp. xi, 280. Contents: Carol C. Gould’s "Network Ethics: Access, Consent, and the Informed Community," Deborah G. Johnson’s "The Public-Private Status of Transactions in Computer Networks," James H. Moor’s "How to Invade and Protect Privacy with Computers," John W. Snapper’s "On Whether a Misuse of Computer Technology Is a Violation of Personal Privacy," Robert J. Baum’s "Carts, Horses, and Consent: An Ethical Diemma for Computer Networking Policy," M. Peter Jurkat’s "What Is a Computer Program in a Network Environment?", I. Richard Lapidus’ "Ethics and the Practice of Science in a Computer Networked Environment," Frank T. Boesch’s "Ethics in Scientific Research via Networking," James W. Nickel’s "Computer Networks and Normative Change," Arnold B. Urken’s "Voting in a Computer Networking Environment," John Ladd’s "Computers and Moral Responsibility: A Framework for an Ethical Analysis," Rodney D. Andrews’ "Computer Crime: The Worm in the Apple," and Donn B. Parker’s "The Ethics of Voluntary and Involuntary Disclosure of Company Private Information."Google Scholar
  11. Gross, Larry, John Stuart Katz, and Jay Ruby, eds.Image Ethics: The Moral Rights of Subjects in Photographs, Film, and Television. New York: Oxford University Press, 1988. Pp. xx, 382. A challenging collection. Contents: Howard S. Becker’s "Foreword: Images, Ethics, and Organizations," Gross, Katz, and Ruby’s "Introduction: A Moral Pause," Brian Winston’s "The Tradition of the Victim in Griersonian Documentary," Carolyn Anderson and Thomas W. Benson’s "Direct Cinema and the Myth of Informed Consent: The Case ofTiticul Follies," Lisa Henderson’s "Access and Consent in Public Photography," Robert Aibel’s "Ethics and Professionalism in Documentary Film-making," John Stuart Katz and Judith Milstein Katz’s "Ethics and the Perception of Ethics in Autobiographical Film," John David Viera’s "Images of Property," Thomas Beauchamp and Stephen Klaidman’s "A Study in Multiple Forms of Bias," Larry Gross’s "The Ethics of (Mis)representation," Jack G. Shabeen’s "Perspectives on the Television Arab," John A. Hostetler and Donald B. Kraybill’s "Hollywood Markets the Amish," Toby Alice Volkman’s "Out of South Africa:The Gods Must Be Crazy," and Thomas Waugh’s "Lesbian and Gay Documentary: Minority Self-Imaging, Oppositional Film Practice, and the Question of Image," Followed by a selected annotated bibliography.Google Scholar
  12. Grunig, Larissa A., and William M. Johnson. "Professional Responsibilities in a Global Context," in Allen Kent and James G. Williams, eds.,Encyclopedia of Computer Science and Technology, vol. 27, supplement 12 (New York: Marcel Dekker, 1993), pp. 223–235.Google Scholar
  13. Hauptman, Robert, ed. "Ethics and the Dissemination of Information." Special theme issue,Library Trends, vol. 40, no. 2 (Fall 1991). pp. 199–375. Contents: Hauptman’s "Introduction," Rosemary Ruhing DuMont’s "Ethics in Librarianship: A Management Model," Rhode Garoogian’s "Librarian/Patron Confidentiality: An Ethical Challenge," Maria E. Protti’s "Dispensing Law at the Front Lines: Ethical Dilemmas in Law Librarianship," M. Sandra Wood’s "Public Service Ethics in Health Sciences Libraries," John Swan’s "Ethics Inside and Out: The Case of Guidoriccio," Thomas J. Froehlich’s "Ethical Considerations in Technology Transfer," Norman D. Stevens’ "Ethical Considerations in Representation Or, Did Dui Do It?," Susan N. Bjorner’s "Which Hat Are You Wearing Today? Ethical Challenges in Dual Employment," Gordon Moran and Michael Mallory’s "Some Ethical Considerations Regarding Scholarly Communication," and Judith Serebnick’s "Identifying Unethical Practices in Journal Publishing." See also Martha Montague Smith, "Infoethics for Leaders: Models of Moral Agency in the Information Environment,"Library Trends, vol. 40, no. 3 (Winter 1992), pp. 553–570.Google Scholar
  14. Hiltz, Starr Roxanne, and Murray Turoff.The Network Nation: Human Communication via Computer. Revised edition. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1993, Pp. xxxi, 557. The basic descriptive analysis of computer networking, but no discussion of ethics.Google Scholar
  15. Hoffman, Lance J., ed.Computers and Privacy in the Next Decade. New York: Academic Press, 1980. Pp. xv, 215. Ten papers, followed by commentaries, from a workshop of the same title. Papers: Willis H. Ware’s "Privacy and Information Technology — The Years Ahead," George B. Trubow’s "Microcomputers: Legal Approaches and Ethical Implications," Portia Isaacson’s "The Personal Computer versus Personal Privacy," Susan Hubbell Nycum’s "Privacy in Electronic Funds Transfer, Point of Sale, and Electronic Mail Systems in the Next Decade," Robert C. Goldstein’s "Privacy Cost Research: An Agenda," James B. Rule, Douglas McAdam, Linda Stearns, and David Uglow’s "Preserving Individual Autonomy in an Information-Oriented Society," T.D. Sterling’s "Stressing Design Rather than Performance Standards to Ensure Protection of Information: Comments," H.P. Gassmann’s "Privacy Implications of Transborder Data Flows: Outlook for the 1980s," Gordon C. Everest’s "Nonuniform Privacy Laws: Implications and Attempts at Uniformity," and Alan F. Westin’s "The Long-Term Implications of Computers for Privacy and the Protection of Public Order."Google Scholar
  16. Hoffman, W. Michael, and Jennifer Mills Moore, eds.Ethics and the Management of Computer Technology. Cambridge, MA: Oelgeschlager, Gunn, and Hain, 1982. pp. xix, 175. Proceedings of the Fourth National Conference on Business Ethics. Contents: Joseph F. Coates’ "Computers and Business: A Case of Ethical Overload," James C. Emery’s "The Promise and Problems of Computer Technology," Abbe Mowshowitz’s "The Bias of Computer Technology," Donn B. Parker’s "Ethical Dilemmas in Computer Technology," Deborah G. Johnson’s "Educating Toward Ethical Responsibility," Jeffrey A. Medlman’s "Educating Toward Ethics Responsibility in the Teaching of Management Information Systems," Elizabeth Byrne Adams’ "Information Resource Management," W. Forest Horton’s "Evolving Policy on Information Resource Management," Arthur R. Miller’s "Computers and Privacy," James Brian Quinn’s "Values, Technology, and Strategic Choice," Sidney Schoeffler’s "Computers and Business Strategy," and Clarence C. Walton’s "Computers: Fast Instruments and Slow Minds."Google Scholar
  17. Johnson, Deborah G. "Computers," in Lawrence C. Becker, ed.,Encyclopedia of Ethics (New York: Garland, 1992), vol. 1, pp. 191–194. Good precis of Johnson’s general argument inComputer Ethics (1994).Google Scholar
  18. Johnson, Deborah G.Computer Ethics. 2nd ed. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1994. Pp. x, 181. Best available general textbook. Overview of issues related both to computer professionals and to societal users. (First edition: 1985. Pp. xv, 110.)Google Scholar
  19. Johnson, Deborah G. and Helen F. Nissenbaum, eds.Computers, Ethics, and Social Values. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, forthcoming. A collection of 67 articles on seven topics: the nature of computer ethics; crime, abuse, and hacker ethics; ownership of computer software; privacy and databases; computers and risk; liability, professional responsibility, and codes; the connected society.Google Scholar
  20. Johnson, Deborah G., and John W. Snapper, eds.Ethical Issues in the Use of Computers. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 1985. Pp. 363. An out-of-print but important first collection of readings. Effectively superseded by Deborah G. Johnson and Helen F. Nissenbaum, eds.Google Scholar
  21. Laudon, Kenneth C.Dossier Society: Value Choices in the Design of National Information Systems. New York: Columbia University Press, 1986. Pp. xi, 421. Systematic overview that moves from a description of existing systems (part II) and an analysis of the social impacts of existing and future systems (part III) to an examination of policy choices (part IV).Google Scholar
  22. Mintz, Anne P., ed.Information Ethics: Concerns for Librarianship and the Information Industry. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 1990. Pp. ix, 86. Proceedings from a conference. Includes Diana Woodward’s "A Framework for Deciding Issues in Ethics," Robert Hauptman’s "Ethical Concerns in Librarianship: An Overview," Robert F. Barnes’ "Ethical and Legal Issues Raised by Information Technology: The Professional-Producer Product Mix," Silva Barsumyan’s "Can Your Client Sue You for Misinformation?," and Susan J. Kaplan’s "Information Ethics: An Annotated Bibliography." Followed by eight professional information ethics codes.Google Scholar
  23. Mitcham, Carl, and Alois Huning, eds.Philosophy and Technology II: Information Technology and Computers in Theory and Practice. (Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science, vol. 90. Philosophy and Technology, vol. 2.) Boston: D. Reidel [now Kluwer], 1986. Pp. xxii, 352. Part I (five papers) focuses on metaphysical and epistemological issues, part II (six papers) on philosophical analyses of human-computer interactions, and part III (nine papers) on ethical-political issues associated with information technology and computers. Part III contents: Albert Borgmann’s "Philosophical Reflections on the Microelectronic Revolution," Edmund F. Byrne’s "Microelectronics and Workers’ Rights," Nathaniel Laor and Joseph Agassi’s "The Computer as a Diagnostic Tool in Medicine," Carl Mitcham’s "Information Technology and the Problem of Incontinence," Wolfgang Schirmacher’s "Privacy as an Ethical Problem in the Computer Society," and Walther Ch. Zimmerli’s "Who Is to Blame for Data Pollution? On Individual Moral Responsibility with Information Technology." An appendix provides a 40-page, 500 entry "Select Annotated Bibliography on Philosophical Studies of Information Technology and Computers." Also published in German in a slightly different format asTechnikphilosophie im Zeitalter der Informationstechnik (Braunschweig: Vieweg, 1986). pp. vii, 226.Google Scholar
  24. Mowshowitz, Abbe.The Conquest of Will: Information Processing in Human Affairs. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley, 1976. Pp. xvi, 365. "Most computer-based information processing systems ... serve one of two general social functions: the coordination of diversity or the control of disorder. Coordination and control signify the extremes of a continuum of social choices" (p. ix) which remain open only "so long as the paralysis of will is not complete" (p. 314). Part I outlines the historical origins of the computer. Part II focuses on the coordination of economic activities and social services. Part III deals with social control. Part IV examines the influence of computers on human self-understanding. Two themes that pervade the book are the social distributions of power and the exercise of individual responsibility in computer utilizations. Two subsequent contributions: "Ethics and Cultural Integration in a Computerized World," in A. Mowshowitz, ed.,Human Choice and Computers, 2 (Amsterdam: North-Holland, 1980), pp. 251–269; and "Afterthoughts and Reflections," in Harold Sackman, ed.,Computers and International Socio-Economic Problems (Amsterdam: North-Holland, 1987), pp. 137–145.Google Scholar
  25. Parker, Donn B.Crime by Computer. New York: Scribner, 1976. Pp. xii, 308. Fails to mention ethics.An update, Fighting Computer Crime (New York: Scribner’s, 1983), does include a whole section (eight chapters out of 44 total in the book), pp. 189–252, on "Ethical Conflicts in Computing." See also Donn B. Parker, David C. Smith, Geoffrey W. Turner, and Sanford Sherizen,Computer Crime: Criminal Justice Resource Manual, 2nd edition (Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, August 1989 [first published, 1988); and K.M. Jackson, J. Hruska, and Donn B. Parker,Computer Security Reference Book (Boca Raton, FL: CRC, 1992).Google Scholar
  26. Parker, Donn B. "Ethics in Computer Science and Technology," in Jack Belzer, Albert G. Holzman and Allen Kent, eds.,Encyclopedia of Computer Science and Technology, vol. 8 (New York: Marcel Dekker, 1977), pp. 130–135. This is the first article to link "ethics" and "computers" in its title, and remains a good introduction to issues and history. See also Theodor D. Sterling, "Humanizing Information Systems," vol. 9, pp. 361–371.Google Scholar
  27. Parker, Donn B., Susan Swope, and Bruce N. Baker.Ethical Conflicts in Information and Computer Science, Technology, and Business. Wellesley, MA: QED Information Sciences, 1990. pp. ix, 245. Essentially an update of Parker’sEthical Conflicts in Computer Science and Technology ([Arlington, VA]: [American Federation of Information Processing Societies], [1981]). (AFIPS, which is now defunct, was the uncredited publisher; the title page also lists no date of publication, but Parker himself later cites it as 1981.)Google Scholar
  28. Perrolle, Judith A.Computers and Social Change: Information, Property, and Power. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 1987. Pp. xx, 297. Textbook overview of computers and society (covering social context, individual or ergonomic context, transformation of work, and impact on democracy), with brief mention of ethics, p. 230–233.Google Scholar
  29. Poster, Mark.The Mode of Information: Poststructuralism and Social Context. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1990. Pp. vii, 179. A neo-marxist critique of postmodern theories.Google Scholar
  30. Pylyshyn, Zenon W., ed.Perspectives on the Computer Revolution. Englewood Cliffs: NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1970. Pp. xx, 540. Chapter 8, "Ethical and Moral Issues," includes Edmund C. Berkeley’s "The Social Responsibilities of Computer People" (from 1962), Alan F. Westin’s "Legal Safeguards to Insure Privacy in a Computer Society" (1967), and Alice Mary Hilton’s "An Ethos for the Age of Cyberculture" (1965).Google Scholar
  31. Rajlich, Vaclav. "Ethics and Computers," in Gary G. Bitter, ed.,Macmillan Encyclopedia of Computers (New York: Macmillan, 1992), vol. 1, pp. 372–377. See also Judith A. Perrolle, "Social Impacts of Computing," vol. 2, pp. 875–879.Google Scholar
  32. Robinett, Jane, and Ramon Barquin, eds.Computers and Ethics: A Sourcebook for Discussions, Brooklyn, NY: Polytechnic Press, 1989. Pp. 46. Reprint, Washington, DC: Computer Ethics Institute, 1992. Includes Barquin’s "Toward a New Ethics for the Computer Age," Larry Rasmussen’s "Privacy and Judeo-Christian Resources," and Deborah G. Johnson’s "A Framework for Thinking about Computer Ethics," as well as selected bibliography.Google Scholar
  33. U. S. Congress, Office of Technology Assessment.Intellectual Property Rights in an Age of Electronics and Information. (CIT-302) April 1986. pp. 300 (NTIS order #PB87-100301). A proposed "Bill of Rights for Electronic Citizens" from this OTA study by Frank W. Connolly, Steven W. Gilbert, Peter Lyman, with Jon Edwards, Rena Lederman, and Michael Merrill is reprinted in two parts inEducom Review, vol. 26, no. 2 (Summer 1991), pp. 37–41; and vol. 26, nos. 3–4 (Fall–Winter 1991), pp. 53–58. Further discussion takes place in seven articles on the same theme inEducom Review, vol. 28, no. 3 (May–June 1993), pp. 24–47.Google Scholar
  34. U. S. Congress, Office of Technology Assessment.Science, Technology, and the Constitution. (BP-CIT-43) September 1987. pp. 32 (NTIS order# PB88-142534). A background paper from a program on Science, Technology, and the Constitution in the Information Age. Begins by arguing the centrality of information, then considers the impact of information technologies on the First, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Eighth, and other Amendments. "[I]nformation, and the electronic, chemical, biological, and social technologies that generate and give access to it, often affect constitutional relationships that we are accustomed to think of as political, economic, or legal in nature" (pp. 2–3).Google Scholar
  35. U. S. Congress, Office of Technology Assessment.Informing the Nation: Federal Information Dissemination in an Electronic Age. (CIT-396) October 1988. pp. 344. (NTIS order #PB89-114243)Google Scholar
  36. U. S. Congress, Office of Technology Assessment.Finding a Balance: Computer Software, Intellectual Property and the Challenge of Technological Change. (TCT-527) May 1992. pp. 236 (NTIS order #PB92-169242) See also the earlier study: Computer Software and Intellectual Property. (BP-CIT 61) March 1990. Pp. 36. (NTIS order #BP90-220005)Google Scholar
  37. Weizenbaum, Joseph.Computer Power and Human Reason: From Judgment to Calculation. New York: W.H. Freeman, 1976. pp. xii, 300. An epistemological and moral critique of "logicality itself_quite apart from whether logicality is encoded in computers or not" (p. 3). First three chapters offer a general and now somewhat dated introduction to computers. Last seven chapters argue "first, that there is a difference between man and machine, and second, that there are certain tasks which computersought not be made to do, independent of whether computers can be made to do them" (p. x). Translations:Die Macht der Computer und die Olmmacht der Vernuft (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1977).La frontera entre el ordenador y la mente (Madrid: Pir mide, 1978).Puissance de l’ordinateur et raison de l’homme (Boulogne-sur-Seine: Editions d’Informatique, 1981). British reprint: Penguin, 1984.Google Scholar
  38. Wiener, Norbert.The Human Use of Human Beings: Cybernetics and Society. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1950. p. 241. New revised edition, 1954. p. 199. Reprinted Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1954. p. 199. "It is the thesis of this book that society can only be understood through a study of the messages and the communication facilities which belong to it; and that in the future development of these messages and communication facilities, messages between man and machines, between machines and man, and between machine and machine, are destined to play an ever-increasing part" (p. 25). See also the 33 miscellaneous papers (from 1933–1975) on "Cybernetics, Science, and Society," in P. Masani, ed.,Norbert Wiener: Collected Works, vol. 4 (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1985), pp. 663–842.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Opragen Publications 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • Carl Mitcham
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyPennsylvania State UniversityUSA

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