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Chris Ostrander

Ethics in Information Technology

People who are interested in pursuing an IT career are often surprised to find that ethics in information technology is an area of study in college-level information technology courses. So why would someone who is studying to be a technology assistant or working towards a networking or security technology degree need to learn ethics? The answer to that question lies in examining the tremendous and growing impact information technology has on virtually all aspects of our lives and society as a whole.

These “information age” technologies have yielded many important benefits. They have increased the efficiency, scope and range of communications, creating virtual businesses and communities across continents. They have expanded access to information, education and entertainment and improved the efficiency and economy of government agencies, healthcare systems, business and industry, and much more.

While these benefits and others have played and essential role in improving our lives and advancing our societies, it is important to acknowledge that there is another side to the coin. Information systems can also open the door to a number of actual and potential harms, which is why IT ethics issues should be an area of interest to future IT professionals. And, in fact this is not a new concept. The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers has had a code of ethics in place since 1912 and continues to revise it as new technology and ethics issues arise. The Information Systems Security Association maintains a Code of Ethics to guide its members as well. No matter what kind of IT degree you follow, IT ethics issues will need to be a consideration.

Ethical Issues In Information Technology

Information systems collect, process, store, distribute and manipulate an ever-growing amount of information. For the average individual, particularly in the U.S. and other developed nations, that includes a great deal of very personal data, including financial and health data, social connections, personal and professional communications, purchasing habits, travel histories and much more. For business and industry, information collected in these systems runs the gamut from financial and operational information to personal information on employees, business connections and consumers. Governments collect and store great deal of information – much of it sensitive or privileged – via information technology as well.

When used responsibly – with respect for the privacy, rights and safety of the individuals and organizations involved – all of this data is integral to producing the benefits listed above. However, the potential for and dangers of mishandling, theft or abuse of data are very real when it is so conveniently collected and stored in these systems. For that reason, it has become more important than ever before that ethical principles, practices and processes are applied as information technology is designed, implemented and used.

This is especially important in relation to areas like networking, since networks enable users to easily access, analyze, copy or move data from remote locations. This can create vulnerabilities if ethical policies and procedures are not used in determining what information is proper to store or not, and who should have access to that information. Security is another area in which ethical practices and policies are essential, since security professionals function as the front line in protecting the safety, privacy and property of individuals and organizations who entrust their data to these information systems.

IT ethics is a very complex subject , and we've barely scratched the surface in discussing its importance. However, for the aspiring IT professional, it should be quite clear by now why ethics training an essential element of solid, well-rounded information technology degree programs .

For more information on the kinds of courses you will encounter while pursuing a degree in IT at Bryant and Stratton College, contact the Admissions Office. Our admissions team will help you select a program that meets your needs.

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