Ethics Essay

Note: This essay references material provided by my engineering ethics course.

A Code of Ethics, often implemented by companies or discipline organizations such as IEEE, is a guide for professionals to adhere to that promotes ethical behavior. The IEEE Code of Ethics, for example, is an important tool to guide people through ethical dilemmas, as discussed through Marcus’s situation in “Big Data Issue.” It is often hard to weigh and balance everything when trying to solve an ethical situation, as personal values, job duties, and external interests often clash for various reasons. A Code of Ethics very clearly defines what should be focussed on, thus making it easier to navigate and solve such issues.

When confronted with an ethical dilemma, I like to start by categorizing all factors of the situation. This begins by comparing my personal interests and job interests with the five precursors, personal ethical values, and applicable Code of Ethics. Identifying the factors that oppose the above in any form should be noted and looked into further. Oftentimes not every factor can be solved in a satisfying manner, but minimizing the ethical breaches as much as possible is vital. With all ethical dilemmas, there is often an abundance of nuance that allows for several interpretations for approaches as seen by our group discussions.

Several ethical dilemmas were explored, including one related to data privacy from “Big Data Issue,” where Marcus is a computer scientist working on a project for his job that involves the use of personally identifiable information. Our discussion was largely in agreement of the different factors to consider. Public safety was one consideration, since the sensitive information can be a breach of privacy. The first code in the IEEE code of ethics describes that decisions should be made with the safety of the public. For some people this would fall under their own personal values, or the code of ethics can be interpreted in this manner that encompasses sensitive digital information. While in this situation, if Marcus were to press back on his supervisor and risk John impacting his job in almost a retaliatory manner, John has an obligation as well, as described in IEEE code 10 to support Marcus for bringing up his ethical concerns. One classmate described that IEEE code 9 is also relevant to John, as any form of retaliation would be considered an ethical violation. With all these factors in mind, we decided that Marcus should prioritize the privacy of the sensitive information over John’s instruction even though he may risk losing the project. To start, opening a conversation with John about his concerns is the first step to resolving this issue. John is likely to have just worked in ignorance, and a polite conversation about the issue could be all it takes to reach a solution.

To frame this situation from the perspective of the Virtue of Ethics, there are three qualities that stand out most: Integrity, responsibility, and honesty. In this dilemma, Marcus displays a sense of integrity since he initially questioned the ethics of the project he was working on that contained sensitive information. In order to solve the ethical issue, Marcus must be honest with his concerns when bringing them up to his supervisor. If Marcus displays honesty, John is much more likely to reciprocate it and have a productive conversation. There is also a responsibility for keeping all parties accountable, and Marcus’s sense of responsibility to do something is important to this situation. He is in a unique position to do something about it, and recognizes that he has an obligation to uphold the Code of Ethics. These three factors are most important because they all lend themselves to the solution I outlined above. Compassion is one example of a factor that I think is less relevant to this situation. While important generally, is not as related since this ethical dilemma involves technical information privacy that is not related to just one identifiable person.

A Code of Ethics is an important tool at a professional’s arsenal that allows them to navigate ethical dilemmas much easier, especially in the case of Marcus’s situation. The process to solve these ethical situations involve a complex interweaving of personal values and job duties that can be hard to untangle. Because of this, several solutions can be described by different people, and a code of ethics allows for a concrete base to start from.

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