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Computer

Society
Connection
CHANGES TO THE CODE

Computer Society and ACM Major revisions were made between


version 3.0—widely distributed through
Computer (Don Gotterbarn, Keith Miller,

Approve Software and Simon Rogerson, “Software Engi-


neering Code of Ethics, Version 3.0,”
November 1997, pp. 88-92) and Com-

Engineering Code of Ethics munications of the ACM—and version


5.2, the recently approved version. The
preamble was significantly revised to
include specific standards that can help
Don Gotterbarn, Keith Miller, Simon Rogerson

S
professionals make ethical decisions. To
Executive Committee, IEEE-CS/ACM Joint Task Force facilitate a quick review of the principles,
on Software Engineering Ethics and Professional Practices a shortened version of the code was added
to the front of the full version. This short-
ened version is not intended to be a stand-
oftware engineering has evolved expects them to meet, about what their alone abbreviated code. The details of the
over the past several years from peers strive for, and about what to expect full version are necessary to provide clear
an activity of computer engi- of one another. In addition, the code guidance for the practical application of
neering to a discipline in its own should inform the public about the these ethical principles.
right. With an eye toward for- responsibilities that are important to the In addition to these changes, the eight
malizing the field, the IEEE Computer profession. principles were reordered to reflect the
Society has engaged in several activities Adopted by the Computer Society and order in which software professionals
to advance the professionalism of soft- the ACM—two leading international should consider their ethical obligations:
ware engineering, such as establishing computing societies—the code of ethics Version 3.0’s first principle concerned the
certification requirements for software is intended as a guide for members of the product, while version 5.2 begins with
developers. To complement this work, a evolving software engineering profes- the public. The primacy of well-being
joint task force of the Computer Society sion. The code was developed by a and quality of life of the public in all deci-
and the ACM has recently established multinational task force with additional sions related to software engineering is
another linchpin of professionalism for input from other professionals from emphasized throughout the code. This
software engineering: a code of ethics. industry, government posts, military obligation is the final arbiter in all deci-
After an extensive review process, ver- installations, and educational profes- sions: “In all these judgements concern
sion 5.2 of the Software Engineering sions. for the health, safety and welfare of the
Code of Ethics and Professional Practice,
recommended last year by the IEEE-
CS/ACM Joint Task Force on Software
Engineering Ethics and Professional About the Joint Task Force
Practices, was adopted by both the IEEE
Computer Society and the ACM. This Code of Ethics was developed by the IEEE-CS/ACM Joint Task Force on
Software Engineering Ethics and Professional Practices. Members are
PURPOSE
The Software Engineering Code of Executive Committee Tom Jewett
Ethics and Professional Practice, intended Donald Gotterbarn (Chair) Mark Kanko
as a standard for teaching and practicing Keith Miller Ernie Kallman
software engineering, documents the eth- Simon Rogerson Duncan Langford
ical and professional obligations of soft- Joyce Currie Little
ware engineers. The code should instruct Members Ed Mechler
practitioners about the standards society Steve Barber Manuel J. Norman
Peter Barnes Douglas Phillips
Ilene Burnstein Peter Ron Prinzivalli
Michael Davis Patrick Sullivan
Editor: Mary-Louis e G. Piner, Comput er, Amr El-Kadi John Weckert
10662 Lo s Vaquero s Circle, PO Box 3014,
N. Ben Fairweather Vivian Weil
Los Alam itos, CA 9 0720-131 4; mpine r@
Milton Fulghum S. Weisband
computer .org
N. Jayaram Laurie Honour Werth

84 Computer
This code may be republished without permission as long as it is not changed in any way and it carries the copyright notice.

public is primary; that is, the ‘Public


Interest’ is central to this Code.” For Software Engineering Code of
example, the whistle-blowing clauses
(6.11-6.13) describe a software engi- Ethics and Professional Practice
neer’s obligations when public safety is
threatened by defective software devel-
opment and describe steps to meet those SHORT VERSION: PREAMBLE the practice of their profession and
obligations. The short version of the code summa- shall promote an ethical approach to
The code now contains an open-ended rizes aspirations at a high level of abstrac- the practice of the profession.
clause (8.07) against using prejudices or tion. The clauses that are included in the
bias in any decision making, written full version give examples and details of FULL VERSION: PREAMBLE
broadly enough to include consideration how these aspirations change the way we Computers have a central and growing
of new social concerns. act as software engineering professionals. role in commerce, industry, government,
Finally, the code includes specific lan- Without the aspirations, the details can medicine, education, entertainment, and
guage about the importance of ethical become legalistic and tedious; without the society at large. Software engineers are
behavior during the maintenance phase details, the aspirations can become high- those who contribute, by direct partici-
of software development. The new text sounding but empty; together, the aspira- pation or by teaching, to the analysis,
reflects the amount of time a computer tions and the details form a cohesive code. specification, design, development, certi-
professional spends modifying and Software engineers shall commit them- fication, maintenance, and testing of soft-
improving existing software and also selves to making the analysis, specifica- ware systems. Because of their roles in
makes clear that we need to treat main- tion, design, development, testing, and developing software systems, software
maintenance of software a beneficial and engineers have significant opportunities
respected profession. In accordance with to do good or cause harm, to enable oth-
their commitment to the health, safety, ers to do good or cause harm, or to influ-
The primacy of and welfare of the public, software engi- ence others to do good or cause harm. To
wel l-being and quality neers shall adhere to the following eight ensure, as much as possible, that their
of life of the public Principles: efforts will be used for good, software
is emphasized engineers must commit themselves to
throughout the code. 1. Public. Software engineers shall act making software engineering a beneficial
consistently with the public interest. and respected profession. In accordance
2. Client and employer. Software engi- with that commitment, software engi-
neers shall act in a manner that is in neers shall adhere to the following Code
tenance with the same professionalism as the best interests of their client and of Ethics and Professional Practice.
new development. The quality of main- employer, consistent with the public The Code contains eight Principles
tenance depends upon the professional- interest. related to the behavior of and decisions
ism of the software engineer, because 3. Product. Software engineers shall made by professional software engineers,
maintenance is more likely to be scruti- ensure that their products and related including practitioners, educators, man-
nized only locally, whereas new devel- modifications meet the highest pro- agers, supervisors, and policy makers, as
opment is generally reviewed at a fessional standards possible. well as trainees and students of the pro-
broader corporate level. 4. Judgment. Software engineers shall fession. The Principles identify the ethi-
maintain integrity and independence cally responsible relationships in which
in their professional judgment. individuals, groups, and organizations
n the same spirit that created the code

I
5. Management. Software engineering participate and the primary obligations
of ethics, the Computer Society and managers and leaders shall subscribe within these relationships. The Clauses of
the ACM continue to support the soft- to and promote an ethical approach each Principle are illustrations of some of
ware engineering profession through the to the management of software de- the obligations included in these relation-
Software Engineering Professionalism velopment and maintenance. ships. These obligations are founded in
and Ethics Project (http://computer.org/ 6. Profession. Software engineers shall the software engineer’s humanity, in spe-
tab/swecc/Sepec.htm). This project will advance the integrity and reputation cial care owed to people affected by the
help make the code an effective practical of the profession consistent with the work of software engineers, and in the
tool by publishing case studies, support- public interest. unique elements of the practice of soft-
ing further corporate adoption of the 7. Colleagues. Software engineers shall
code, developing curriculum material, be fair to and supportive of their col- Software Engineering Code of Ethics and
Professional Practice, copyright © 1999 by the
running workshops, and collaborating leagues. Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers,
with licensing bodies and professional 8. Self. Software engineers shall partic- Inc., and the Association for Computing
societies. ipate in lifelong learning regarding Machinery, Inc.

October 1999 85
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