EE 494 Engineering Ethics Drs. DCHopkins and DT Shaw
Engineering Ethics • Engineering is a profession serving society. As such, society imposes special obligations on engineers. • These responsibilities are expressed in a code of ethics which all engineers (as other professionals) are expected to follow. • Ethical responsibilities are placed on engineers because they provide services or make judgments that are not easily understood by the general public (because of their high technical nature). • Furthermore, the results of their work impact society as a whole. Clients must trust an engineer’s professional judgment.
Rules of Behavior • Etiquette - rules of acceptable personal behavior and courtesy when interacting with others in a social setting – examples include table manner, dating etc. • Laws - a system of rules and punishments clearly defined and established by a society to maintain a safe and orderly social environment– when in doubt, consult your friendly attorneys.
Rules of Behavior • Morals - personal rules of right and wrong behavior derived from a person’s upbringing, religious beliefs, and societal influences. • Ethics - a code or system of rules defining moral behavior for a particular section of the society.
NSPE Fundamental Canons Engineers, in fulfillment of their professional duties, shall: • Hold paramount safety, health and welfare of the public • Perform services only in areas of their competence • Issue public statements only in an objective and truthful manner • Act for each employer or client as faithful agents or trustees • Avoid deceptive acts • Conduct themselves honorably, responsibly, ethically, and lawfully so as to enhance the honor, reputation, and usefulness of the profession
Characteristics of a Good Case Study • Real facts, conclusions, opinions. • Relevant issues, with general principles. • Illustrates the need to carefully consider ethic issues in our professional lives • Sometimes it’s tough to distinguish the differences of morality, legality and ethics. • Importance of being informed & discerning
Porn on the Dean’s PC:The Importance of Professional Ethics Adopted from Lecture notes of Professor Kevin W. Bowyer University of South Florida (Last revised 3/26/01) The 6 O’Clock News: Divinity school dean and cyber porn.
Involved In This Case • Employee rights and responsibilities in using employer computing resources. • Employer responsibilities in handling violations of company policies. • Rights of privacy and free speech. • Leaking information to the local news paper • Standards of professional conduct. • Employee protection and Whistle Blowing
A Quick First Look Technician discovers porn on dean’s home PC… Question: Should technician keep discovery confidential? Should technician report this to administration? Should tech whistle blow to the Boston Globe? First impressions are likely to reflect knee-jerk reactions, prejudices, etc. Well-reasoned conclusions are needed: • informed about the facts, and • discerning of which facts are relevant.
Who should be involved • Direct participants in the act • Those suffering consequences • Those having responsibility for avoidance • leading to and during the “situation.” • Those who will judge • Those who will provide correction (if needed)
How It Started • Dean requests larger disk, transfer of files. • Tech discovers porn in course of the work: Image on-screen? Tech opened files? • “Thousands of images” • No pornography of children or violent acts
Relationships • Dean is Harvard employee. • Tech is Harvard employee. • PC is Harvard property. • PC is located in dean’s home office. • Dean’s home is Harvard property.
What does the technician do? What’s next? Should tech keep discovery confidential?
Analogy - 1: Simple service Idealized doctor / patient relationship. An idealized doctor-patient relationship is a weak analogy. employs doctor patient personal service What might be an appropriate analogy?
Analogy - 2: All parties involved Better analogy, technician replacing file cabinet. company employs employs owns manager tech uses file cabinet services What is the significance of what is in the file cabinet?
Analogy - 3: Situation comparison Dean - Technician relationship: Harvard employs employs owns Dean Tech uses services PC Analogy is incomplete and does not explain Dean-Technician relationship
Informed & Discerning The technician MUST be INFORMED & DISCERNING Technician has competing responsibilities: • to keep info seen on dean’s pc confidential • to report violation of computer use policy, if he/she know the policy.
Informed - about policy Harvard Policies on university owned computers • No “inappropriate, obscene, bigoted or abusive” material allowed on university computers. • Computer use “related to School’s mission of education, research and public service.” • “Explicit authorization” required for “private … or non-Harvard uses.” • Employee does not have legal right to privacy on the company computer. • American Management Association survey: 27% of US firms review employee email, most on random basis. • 21% of companies review stored files.
Informed - about the legalities First Amendment Protection: “Congress shall make no law • respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; • or abridging the freedom of speech, or the press; • or the right of people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
Cyber space protection Protection of cyber users, operators and systems • 1st amendment holds that all speech is legal except for certain extreme speech (obscenity & treason in time of war) • Limits the government’s ability to search or seize systems, • as such measures would interfere with ability to publish or distribute speech • The legal burden on computer server operators are minimal in the US
Cyber privacy - Legalities • In this day and age, I would say that an employee is foolish or naïve who allows information to be stored in his or her computer that he or she does not want the employer to be aware of. C. Cornish, American Bar Association privacy committee
Discerning Action: Technician must report infractions of policy to administration. Consequences: Dean resigns dean-ship, but keeps tenure. Unethical: Technician determines that justice is not served and leaks the story to the Boston Globe.
By the Way … Informed - about the Dean • Married, two grown daughters. • Ordained Evangelical Lutheran pastor. • Dean of Harvard Divinity for 13 years. • Established the Center for Study of Values In Public Life. • Strong record raising endowment funds. NOT RELEVANT!