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IT Ethics

Over on Slashdot there’s a lively discussion of IT ethics, and what sort of codes (no pun intended) network managers work by. Three camps of “ethical rules” came up:

Of course, these guides regularly conflict. Scanning personal e-mails is high-profile topic, but it’s certainly not the only ethical dilemma confronting the conscientious network admin. I once knew a network administrator who routinely scanned and copied all mp3s from networked personal folders into his “master database,” which took up a few spare gigs of unused space and more than a few spare hours of his workday, spent chilling out to the Grateful Dead. He didn’t last too long, despite his impressive collection of B-sides.

Which rules are the trump card when it comes to acting ethically? Are ethics ever written into your job description? Have you tried building in ethical rules into your networking infrastructure? Tight permission access comes to mind, but that’s a security no-brainer at this point.

Unfortunately, most of the networking engineer guidance we found was pretty minimal, such as this rather vague section in SAGE’s Code of Ethics:

  • I will strive to build and maintain a safe, healthy, and productive workplace.
  • I will do my best to make decisions consistent with the safety, privacy, and well-being of my community and the public, and to disclose promptly factors that might pose unexamined risks or dangers.
  • I will accept and offer honest criticism of technical work as appropriate and will credit properly the contributions of others.
  • I will lead by example, maintaining a high ethical standard and degree of professionalism in the performance of all my duties. I will support colleagues and co-workers in following this code of ethics.

Nary a word on reading e-mails, logging chats or jamming out on borrowed binary.

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