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Communications of the ACM

Computing ethics

Ethics Viewpoints Efficacies

scales of justice


Seeking answers to ethical concerns.

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CACM Administrator

The following letter was published in the Letters to the Editor in the June 2013 CACM (
--CACM Administrator

I wrote and won approval for the first ACM Professional Guidelines, which evolved into the ACM Code of Ethics in the 1970s. This led to my obtaining two National Science Foundation grants from the Office of Science and Society, Science Education Directorate, Ethics and Values in Science and Technology Program. The grants helped me hold two ACM ethics workshops in 1977 and 1987, respectively, resulting in two books, Ethical Conflicts in Computer Science and Technology, AFIPS Press, 1981, and Ethical Conflicts in Information and Computer Science, Technology, and Business, QED Information Sciences, 1990.

I strongly support Rachelle Hollander's scenario approach to ethics explored in her Viewpoint "Ethics Viewpoints Efficacies" (Mar. 2013), finding it useful and revealing in the two ACM ethics workshops. I invited CS opinion leaders to discuss, evaluate, and vote "unethical" or "not unethical" on almost 100 ethical-conflict scenarios. The scenarios came from my earlier NSF-funded studies of cases of computer abuse and misuse. It was fascinating to see how ethical values changed from 1978 to 1988. Ponder how they have changed since.

Donn B. Parker
Los Altos, CA

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