[Taken from Computers by Long and Long; 2nd edition; Prentice-Hall, 1990. pp. 481-2]
Case 1: Programmer, personal program: taking the program to his new position
A computer programmer worked for a business enterprise that was highly dependent on its own computer system. He was the sole author of a computer program he used as an aid in his programming work. Nobody else used the program, and his manager was only nominally aware of its existence. He had written it and debugged it on his time on a weekend, but had used his EMPLOYER'S MATERIALS, FACILITIES, AND COMPUTER SERVICES.
The programmer terminated his employment, giving due notice, and with no malice on his or his manager's part. He immediately went to work for a competitor of his former employer.
Without his former employer's permission, he took the only copy of the program with him to his new employer and used it in his work. He did not share it with any others. The new employer was not aware of the program or its use, but it enhanced the programmer's performance.
Case 2: ORGANIZATIONAL ISSUES
The manager of an insurance company's records processing department is asked to design a new, automated record-keeping system. In researching her options, she discovers that she can develop a very efficient new system by rearranging work stations and tasks and by purchasing $200,000 worth of new equipment. If the new procedure is implemented, three fewer employees will be needed thus saving the company $75,000 per year in salary and benefit costs.
At the present time, the Amalgamated Office Workers is attempting to organize the firm. Management is not supportive of unions in general, but has not directly opposed the AOW. The Union advocates retraining workers who are, or might be, displaced when new technology is introduced.
It is company policy to require managers to supervise at least five employees. If implemented, the new procedures/equipment will reduce the need for supervisory personnel and the manager will have only four employees to supervise directly.
Case 3: INDIVIDUAL ISSUES
A computer student has been working on a research project at home using his personal computer. He's using his personal copy of VisiTerm, a software package that allows him to communicate with his employer's hardware. It does not come with a backup. Just as he is saving some of his work to disk, lightning strikes and the power to his home is momentarily gone. Wonderful things happen to his software. Fortunately, he has copies VisiTerm onto a backup disk of his using the copy of Locksmith III he got through his local computer club (as a favor for doing some system programming). He is able to finish his project using the copy of VisiTerm.
Case 4: Programmer: Developing Marketing Profiles from Public Information
An enterprising programmer used publicly available information stored in a variety of places or available by purchase from the Department of Motor Vehicles, mail order firms, and other sources to compile "profiles" of people (shopping habits, likely income level, whether the family was likely to have children, etc.) He sold the profiles to companies interested in marketing specialized products to niche markets. Some of the profiles were inaccurate and the families received large volumes of unsolicited, irreverent mail and telephone solicitations. They did not know why this increase in their junk mail and calls had occurred and found it annoying and bothersome. Other profiles were accurate, and families benefited from receiving the sales materials.
Case 5: Instructor: Using Students as Subjects of Experiments
An instructor of a logic course decided to test a computer-assisted instruction (CAI) system under development. The large class was divided randomly into two groups. The instructor arranged a controlled experiment in which one group was taught in the traditional manner with a textbook, lectures and test, but with no CAI. The other group used the same textbook, lectures, and tests, but in addition used CAI. The grading practices were the same for both groups.
By the middle of the term, the instructor realized that the students in the experimental group who had access to CAI were doing much better than the students in the control group. Some students in the control group sensed this difference and complained that, although they paid the same tuition, they were being denied an educational opportunity offered to others. These students insisted that the instructor discontinue the experiment and allow them to use the CAI package for the remainder of the term. The instructor refused the students' request on the grounds that ending the experiment prematurely would invalidate the results of the experiment. The instructor pointed out that only by chance were they in the control group and, because free inquiry and research are the nature of the academic world, students should take part willingly in such experiments for the sake of advancing knowledge. At the end of the term, the grades in the experimental group were significantly higher than the grades in the control group.
Case 6: Information Security Manager: Monitoring Electronic Mail
The information security manager in a large company was also the access control administrator of a large electronic mail system operated for company business among its employees. The security manager routinely monitored the contents of electronic correspondence among employees. He discovered that a number of employees were using the system for personal purposes: the correspondence included love letters, disagreements between married partners, plans for homosexual relations, and a football betting pool. The security manager routinely informed the human resources department director and the corporate security officer about these communications and gave them printed listings of them. In some cases, managers punished employees on the basis of the content of the electronic mail messages. Employees objected to the monitoring of their electronic mail, claiming that they had the same right of privacy as they had using the company's telephone system or internal paper interoffice mail system.
Consider the following questions for each case/scenario:
+ Is there an ethics issue involved?