Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Responsible Conduct of Research in Australia

Greetings from the Great Hall of the Austrlaian National University in Canberra, where a Research Data Workshop on the Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research by the Australian National Data Service (ANDS). There has been recent controversy over the distribution of climate change data. ANDS has been set up to help Australian researchers collect even larger collections of data online, so it is timely to have a look at the ethics of this. There will be a second workshop tomorrow on the services which ANDS provides.

ANDS has produced a short guide "Research data policy and the Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research". This suggests institutions review policies on: Intellectual property (covering copyright, moral rights, patent), Data management (Storage, Retention, Disposal, Access), Conflict of interest, Collaboration and contractual agreements, Ethics and privacy and Compliance. Many of these issues are covered in my lecture notes on Metadata and Electronic Data Management.

At question time I asked if ANDS would require organisations contributing data to indicate if they comply with the code. The reason for this is that ANDS, by referring people to data sources take on an ethical and legal responsibility for what is done with that data. Even if there is no black letter law requiring the use of the code, the fact that it exists is likely to be taken into account by a court or other body assign the actions of researchers. Given that ANDS has endorsed the code, it would be difficult for ANDS to claim that the code does not apply to them. It would not be possible to say that the data ANDS refers people to is not ANDS data and they have no responsibility for it: by referring people to data ANDS takes on obligations. One way to discharge those obligations might be to record if the organisation providing the data complies to the code or another code. Data uses could then make an informed decision as to if they should use the data.

The code itself (Reference No: R39 508kbytes PDF, 41 pages) was published in 2007 by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), with help from the Australian Research Council and Universities Australia. There is also a Summary

Synopsis of publication:

The Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research guides institutions and researchers in responsible research practices and promotes integrity in research for researchers. The Code shows how to manage breaches of the Code and allegations of research misconduct, how to manage research data and materials, how to publish and disseminate research findings, including proper attribution of authorship, how to conduct effective peer review and how to manage conflicts of interest. It also explains the responsibilities and rights of researchers if they witness research misconduct.

Developed jointly by the National Health and Medical Research Council, the Australian Research Council and Universities Australia, the Code has broad relevance across all research disciplines. It replaces the Joint NHMRC/AVCC Statement and Guidelines on Research Practice (1997).

Compliance with the Code is a prerequisite for receipt of National Health and Medical Research Council funding. ...

From: Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research, NHMRC, 2007

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Monday, February 15, 2010

Social Implications of Emerging Technologies

The IEEE International Symposium on Technology and Society (ISTAS2010) is being held on the theme: Social Implications of Emerging Technologies, at University of Wollongong, 7-9 June 2010. I have been reviewing papers for the conference and they look interesting:

The IEEE International Symposium on Technology and Society (ISTAS) is an annual international forum exploring the social implications of technology. ISTAS10 will bring together participants sharing research, projects, and ideas about:

Automatic Identification

  • Automatic identification technologies including biometrics (DNA), RFID
  • Surveillance, dataveillance, sousveillance, anti-surveillance, uberveillance
  • National security, emergency response, border control, e-tollway, e-passports

Location-Based Services

  • Geographic information systems, digital mapping, geotagging, street view, CCTV
  • Location-based services, global positioning systems (GPS), tracking, monitoring

Social Networking

  • Social networking applications, blogs, glogs, cyberstalking, collaboration
  • Data collection, data merging, data matching, data mining, disclosure
  • Mobile comms, wearable computing, ubiquity, context-aware applications


  • Microchip implants, biomedical solutions, diagnostics, drug delivery
  • Nanotechnology, bionics, transhumanism, artificial intelligence, robots, cyborgs

Privacy, Security & Human Rights

  • Cyberethics, privacy, data protection, trust, control, consent, transborder flows
  • Security, law enforcement, covert/overt policing, laws, regulations, public policy
  • Social implications, registers, human rights, intellectual property, social equity ...

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Thursday, November 13, 2008

Economics of Spam

The paper "Spamalytics: An Empirical Analysis of Spam Marketing Conversion", details how researchers hacked into a spam network to measure its effectiveness. I was interviewed about it ("Spammers making a profit") on ABC Radio for the PM program. The researchers suggest that Spam is not as profitable as previously thought. My main concern with the research was over the ethics and legality of the research technique.

Ever wondered how the companies that send out junk emails make any money, when most people delete the emails without reading them? Well, a group of computer scientists in California has found that spammers are turning a profit, despite only getting one response for every 12.5-million emails they send.

From: Spammers making a profit, PM, ABC Radio, Wednesday, 5:10pm on Radio National and 6:10pm on ABC Local Radio, 12 November, 2008 (audio also available)

The researchers hacked into the "Storm" botnet network and monitored how many messages were sent. They then set up two fake e-commerce web sites to see how many people would click through the spam ads to buy the products. They found only one in 12.5 million clicked through. Based on this they suggested Spam is not very profitable. It seems a reasonable conclusion and I suggested in the radio interview that the people doing this could probably earn more from the effort involved via legitimate e-commerce.

There are numerous research papers on the economics of Spam. The wall Street Journal covered this in 2002: For Bulk E-Mailer, Pestering Millions Offers Path to Profit. That spam may not be as profitable as previously thought is interesting, but does not necessarily lessen its appeal to criminals.

However, my main concern was the methodology of the research. It is ethically and legally questionable for the researchers to hack into a spam network. Like any citizen, when a researcher finds someone doing something illegal, they have a responsibility to report that to the appropriate authorities so it can be investigated and those involved prosecuted. In this case the researchers do not appear to have done that and instead monitored the network and even set up their own e-commerce store to exploit it.

The researchers are from Dept. of Computer Science and Engineering, Berkeley and University of California, San Diego. Those institutions have ethical guidelines for research which the researchers should have consulted before proceeding.

In the ethics section of the paper, the authors state: " First, our instrumented proxy bots do not create any new harm" and "Second, our proxies are passive actors and do not themselves engage in any behaviour that is intrinsically objectionable; they do not send spam e-mail, they do not compromise hosts, nor do they even contact worker bots asynchronously. " and "Finally, where we do modify C&C messages in transit, these actions themselves strictly reduce harm. Users who click on spam altered by these changes will be directed to one of our innocuous doppelganger Web sites.".

However, the authors do not address the issue of if they were taking part in a criminal activity or if they should have reported the criminal activities to the appropriate authorities. It seems a flawed argument for the researchers to say their activities were no more harmful than those being observed.
The “conversion rate” of spam — the probability that an unsolicited e-mail will ultimately elicit a “sale” — underlies the entire spam value proposition. However, our understanding of this critical behavior is quite limited, and the literature lacks any quantitative study concerning its true value. In this paper we present a methodology for measuring the conversion rate of spam. Using a parasitic infiltration of an existing botnet’s infrastructure, we analyze two spam campaigns: one designed to propagate a malware Trojan, the other marketing on-line pharmaceuticals. For nearly a half billion spam e-mails we identify the number that are successfully delivered, the number that pass through popular anti-spam filters, the number that elicit user visits to the advertised sites, and the number of “sales” and “infections” produced.

Categories and Subject Descriptors: K.4.1 [Public Policy Issues]: ABUSE AND CRIME INVOLVING COMPUTERS
General Terms: Measurement, Security, Economics

From: Spamalytics: An Empirical Analysis of Spam Marketing Conversion, Chris Kanich, Christian Kreibich, Kirill Levchenko, Brandon Enright, Geoffrey M. Voelker, Vern Paxson, Stefan Savage, CCS'08 Conference, ACM, October 2008

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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Ethical Investment Roadshow

Australian Ethical Investment Ltd. is doing a series of roadshows in Australia and New Zeeland. James Thier, Executive director, talked in Sydney last night (Tuesday 19 August 2008). He gave a realistic overview of ethical investment (and the different terms such as Socially responsible investing and sustainable investing), how it is intended to help the community and the environment and his company's superannuation and trust investment products.

James did a reasonable job of a difficult task of selling investments in the current negative financial environment. Like other investments, the value of Australian Ethical's have gone down recently. But most of the presentation concentrated on the long term gains the fund has made and the social and environmental value of the investments.

One question I had was about the mechanics of the AEI process. I have been an AEI investor for some years (even bought some shares in the company). One frustration has been the difficulty of making regular investments. With less ethical superannuation funds, after I fill in the complicated application form they give me a BPAY code. I can make an additional investment simply by making a BPAY payment through my bank. The BPAY code indicates who I am and what fund the money has to go into. There is no need to fill out any forms. AEI now allows BPAY for trust investments, but seems to still want me to send details of my payment separately for superannuation. This is an error prone and inefficient process.

James mentioned he had done a study overseas. A quick web search found that he was a 2006 Churchill Fellow:
Fellowship travel was undertaken from April 4 to June 6, 2007. The intent was to visit organisations actively participating in a variety of shareholder advocacy roles. These included the more traditional/corporate perspectives of investment houses through to activist undertakings of NGOs. A significant element in the mix is faith-based organisations, which are increasing willing to attend to matters outside their normally prescribed domain, such as climate change. In addition, there is a growing profile which sees the need to address policy formulation in the endeavour to effect real and lasting improvement.

The dimensions of this investigation were not only significantly different from what is often the case in Australia, but equally there proved to be considerable variation
within norms of the countries visited.

Sacramento – CalPERS is one of the largest pension funds in the world and a leader in corporate governance with respect to issues of shareholder value.
Boston – Attending the Ceres conference on Climate Change. Meeting with Tim Smith, Senior Vice President, after his move to Walden Asset Management to enhance their active proxy voting as a means to secure public and management attention.
New York - Interfaith Centre of Corporate Responsibility provides guidance and co-ordination on social issues to faith-based members and a broader constituency, including acting as a clearing-house for information on shareholder actions.
Amsterdam – Meeting Professor Harry Hummel of SNS who is pre-eminent in socially responsible product innovation.


Shareholder activism is a broad paradigm through which individuals or groups can exert pressure on companies to affect a particular corporate practice.

Provide procedural infrastructure/produce alternative products to enable new possibilities whereby Australians can influence corporate decision-makers in a concrete, non-confrontational manner
• Establish a framework/methodology for co-ordinating participants and institutional investors to act in a common interest
Consider an integrated approach to the often disparate programs of
corporates, NGOs and faith-based organisations

Implementation and Dissemination

Research findings will be disseminated through regular public presentations and in association with a broad range of networks – professional and community, as well as media contacts and via publications. Promotion to 40,000 people occurred through
newsletter and a keynote speaker at a Climate Change summit comprising hundreds of attendees, in July 2007.

Possibly new approaches to investment product formulation and manufacture. ...

From: Executive Summary, "To examine the mechanisms of shareholder advocacy, especially resolutions proposed at Annual General Meetings, used to improve the ethics of corporations and promote ecological sustainable and socially just enterprises", Report by James Thier, The Winston Churchill Memorial Trust of Australia, 10 September 2007
ps: I noticed that with his business suit James was wearing what appeared to be a pair of canvas and rubber walking boots. I don't know if this was to avoid animal products or against child labour for shoe making in third world countries, or just for comfort. If reminded me of an eminent IT professor who once gave a keynote speech at a conference. I was in the front row and so could see he was wearing hiking boots with his suit.

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Saturday, July 26, 2008

Australian Robotic Weapon Platform

FireStorm Weapon System on iRobot Vehicle Metal Storm have displayed their high speed mortar on a military PacBot robot from an iRobot. The Metal Storm gun is electrically fired, with a minimum of moving parts, making it a good match for a robot. However, a cluster of off the shelf single shot, electrically primed mortars would be almost as effective, a lot cheaper and able to be fielded without years of development.

MetalStorm's FireStorm four barrel 40mm system has four rounds in each barrel , giving 14 shots total. The platform has electric motors to rotated and elevate the system. However, the iRobot itself can rotate using differential steering of the tracks and and elevate using a scissor action of the “flippers” (axillary tracks). So a much simpler arrangement would be possible using sixteen one shot 40mm grenade barrels fixed on the robot platform, using ammunition of the M203, or similar and aimed using the tracks.

Also the MetalStorm people need to keep in mind that they are just a programing change away from breaching the land mine treaty. A robotic mortar which fires automatically, without human intervention, would technically be a land mine and so illegal.

Payload weight, reliability and the ability to render the weapon harmless are critical requirements when arming unmanned robotic platforms and systems. In addition to meeting weight restrictions, the weapon system cannot be permitted to jam or need manual intervention or the mission may be jeopardised. Also if the weapon is captured it should not be capable of being fired back at friendly forces.

Metal Storm has unique characteristics that make it ideally suited to unmanned air or ground robotic platforms. In particular it has the following features:

  • Extremely lightweight
  • No moving parts (no jamming)
  • Precision firing rates - single shot to rapid burst automatic
  • Selectable munitions; lethal, non lethal, marker rounds
  • Low velocity or medium velocity mitigating recoil for smaller lightweight UAVs or platforms
  • High velocity for larger UAVs or robotic platforms
  • Electronic fire control and sighting integrates with UAV or robotic platform electronics
  • Weapon is rendered harmless if captured as fire control system is locked out.

Small robotic platforms can carry single or multi-barrel Metal Storm weapons that can be attached to existing structures (such as a robotic arm or wing), or can be integrated with specialised mounts that can target independently of the movement and direction of travel of the robotic platform.

Metal Storm has already conducted live firings from several robotic platforms including the Dragonfly rotary wing UAV, the iRobot Warrior UGV and the Talon UGV. ...

From: Unmanned Systems/Robotic Platforms, Metal Storm

FireStorm is a lightweight multi barrel 40mm electronic weapon system that brings cutting edge solutions to the Defence, Security and Law Enforcement communities.

The system can be mounted to fixed or mobile platforms to provide mission support for operations to include:

  • Military Operations on Urban Terrain (MOUT)
  • Reconnaissance Patrol
  • Border Patrol
  • Critical Infrastructure Protection
  • Crowd Control

FireStorm has successfully demonstrated its capabilities under separate contracts for the U.S. Navy and U.S. Army. Recent demonstrations have proven the system capable of delivering High Explosive (HE) and a range of less lethal munitions. FireStorm brings the operational community a total force continuum application.

  • No Moving Parts - All Metal Storm guns have no moving parts for high reliability.
  • Safe Operation - FireStorm features a number of mechanical and electrical interlocks making it one of the safest guns to operate.
  • Cost Effective - FireStorm is inexpensive to acquire, use and maintain.
  • Plug & Play Operation - FireStorm requires only DC power and an ethernet connection for operations.
  • Unattended All Weather Operation - FireStorm is environmentally sealed allowing for all-weather operations for extended periods without continuing maintenance requirements.
From: FireStorm, Metal Storm

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Friday, May 02, 2008

ICT Ethics in the Workplace

Greetings from the last day of the ET GOVICT2008 conference. Mr. Mark Haughey CIO, Workplace Authority, talked on "The Uncertainty of Ethics in IT". Mark brought the conference back to reality by discussing his experience as an IT professional in the public service. He emphasized value for money and planning. I asked him he thought ICT professionals have an ethical responsibility for reducing greenhouse emission through reducing energy use. He responded that this was also a practical problem with high power servers upsetting building air conditioning by creating hotspots. Idris Sulaiman from Computers Off, pointed out there were some new guidelines on this.

Ms. Cecilia Ridgley School of Information Technology and Electrical
Engineering UNSW@ADFA, ICT Advisory Services, KPMG Canberra talked about "The Decision Disconnect - Ethics and ICT Governance". Cecilla put the ICT Governance AS8015 in the business context. She talked about the difference between hard hierarchal crystal organization structures and fluid amoebic structures.
Language, learning and leadership can be used for governance.

Dr. Daryl Macer, Regional Adviser, Regional Unit for Social and Human
Sciences (RUSHAP) in Asia and the Pacific, UNESCO, challenged our ideas of who and what ethics apply to. He used examples from science fiction, such as HAL and Japanese comic books, such as Astro Boy.
Dr. Macer related infoethics to bioethics, suggesting the work on ethics in medicine, such as the "Universal Declaration on the Human Genome and on Human Rights", could be largely applied to information technology ethics. He also mentioned the "Ethics of Energy Technologies in Asia and the Pacific Project". Unfortunately I couldn't find a web site for the project, if someone could point this out, that would be good.

Phillip N. Argy, Deputy Chairman – ACS Foundation, Chief Executive – ArgyStar.com, talked on "Trusted vs. Trustworthy – how professionalism bridges the ethics gap". He cited a software problem which caused a Boeing 777 flight out of Perth to turn back. Philip is one of the WIPO arbitrators and one of his cases I noticed was on ownership of "The Wiggles" web address.

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Thursday, May 01, 2008

Justice Kirby on Regulating Technology

Greetings from the evening session of ET GOVICT2008 conference. The speaker is Justice Michael Kirby, High Court of Australia on The Challenge of Regulating Contemporary Technology. He started by addressing the issue of HIV/Aids. He argued you can't simply regulate on a technical level, separate from culture and this applies to ICT. Justice Kirby commented that most lawyers are not interested in technology and science. He has been involved in bioethics with UNESCO , TELOS at the University of London. He also cited Roger Brownsword's new book Rights, Regulation, and the Technological Revolution.

He then discussed the different viewpoints on privacy issues between Europeans and and Americans in the OECD Principles for the Protection of Privacy and Transborder Flows of Personal Data. He argued that consensus is possible, even in such contentious issues. One problem with such principles he pointed out is that not long after the principles were defined, along came networked public computer systems making data widely available with few limits. The technology moves fast and principles need to keep up. He quoted from Roger Brownsword's book on the relative priorities of regulation of different technologies.

I asked the Justice how Australian lawyers would cope with the type of online arbitration process used by WIPO. He joked that this might be a job for him next year when he retires from the bench and more seriously commented that lawyers should look to technology to help with processes but some serendipity may be lost in the process. One example of a happy accident he mentioned was that research on disease in monkeys had lead to an AIDS vaccine (the recent failure of a trial of the vaccine did not diminish from the value of the attempt).

There is a transcript and video of a talk by Justice Kirby to the IIA in February when he covered some of the same issues.

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Embedding Ethics as Deliberative Acts in Software Development

The afternoon session of the 2008 conference on the ethical governance of ICT, in Canberra got down to the details of teaching ethics to ICT people. Associate Professor Craig McDonald, talked about how ethics is included in ICT courses at the University of Canberra by embedding ethics as deliberative acts in software development. I wondered if this was just using software engineering terms to make ICT people feel more comfortable with ethics.

I had to look up
"deliberative", to see the meaning; the best I could find was: "A discourse in which a question is discussed, or weighed and examined". An example of its use is in Deliberative democracy. Craig then went on to discuss "Governance", using the example of the "governor" on a steam engine. He then contrasted the CPA's model of governance, which said it was something done at upper levels of the organization and argued that it is done at all levels.

Craig argued that organizations should be designed so that people can exercise appropriate governance at all level in the organization. This worried me as it would provide an excuse for an ICT professional to say that they were not responsible for their actions because their organization did not give them that decision making ability.

However, since the
Nuremberg Trials in 1945, it has been established that professionals, such as doctors, are not absolved for criminal actions simply because they were following orders. An extreme case of this, which I have used in teaching ethics to ICT students is Tsunami warning systems. The failure of "Life-critical systems" which could result in millions of deaths may result and could result in the ICT professionals at fault being charged with crimes against humanity.

Next is Ms Marghanita da Cruz, Principal Consultant Ramin Communications Pty Ltd
(ramin.com.au) on "No duty of Care: the Governance of ICT". This discussed the Austrlaian Standrad AS8015 "ICT Governance", which
Marghanita described as being about "telling non-ICT people what to do" and "taking IT into a business context". She suggested that such standards should encourage ICT people to say what can be done, rather than what can't be done.

Professor Shirley Gregor, Director National Centre for Information Systems Research at ANU discussed Ethics education of ICT professionals. Shirley is also responsible for the ACS's Body of Knowledge (BOK), which sets down what should be in university courses in ICT. She pointed out that ethics is one of the few parts of the BOK which is mandatory for all universities to include in their courses. We then went around the room discussing the practicalities of how to instill value sets, make it credible, practical, without imposing personal value systems.

One interesting point is that Professor Gregor pointed out that IT people, and males in particular, may have a different view of ethics to the rest of the population. She posited that Kohlberg's stages of moral development were developed based on research exclusively with males. Perhaps ICT should recruit more females to have a more ethical profession. ;-)

Professor Gregor asked how students are taught ethics in practice. It turns out that I teach some of her students ethics, in ANU computer science courses:
With these ethics are incorporated in computer courses, use ACS and other professional bodies codes as examples, and use the results of ACS/ARC/CAPPE ethics research.

David Lindley, Academic Principal, ACS Education, Australian
Computer Society discussed Educating for Professionalism. The ACS is looking to use the
Skills Framework for the Information Age ( SOFIA ).

The last presentation was by
Mr. Neville Holmes, University of Tasmania on An Ethical Imperative for the Computing Profession. Neville writes entertainingly provocative and thought provoking columns in IEEE Computer magazine. In his presentation he emphasized the human and multidisciplinary aspects of the computing profession. He argued that he preferred reading Jane Austin, the book, rather than the BBC TV adaption (I preferred Joe Wright's adaption of Pride and Prejudice). Mores seriously I was not convinced of this argument, as a book is just a form of information technology which is so old it seems natural, but it is not, it places machinery between the author and the reader. In the extreme case it is now not possible to distinguish between human written text and that generated by computers.

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Professional Bodies and ICT Governance

Greetings from the ET GOVICT2008 conference on the ethical governance of ICT, in Canberra. John Ridge, Executive Director of the ACS Foundation, gave the opening address. This two day conference is on at University House, Australian National University, 1 - 2 May 2008. Anyone can come along, pay the modest fee and join in.

The conference has researchers and practitioners looking at ethical governance, governance of ethics, of Information and Communication Technology, and the role of professional bodies.

John has started by raising the issue of qualifications and the difference between a practitioner and a professional. He cited the new book:
Ethics in ICT: An Australian Perspective. McDermid, D. C. (2003)
Pearson Educational: Melbourne. He points out that the ACS meets most of the requirements which McDermid lists. He argues that ICT is not ready to have the next logical step, which is registration. He also asserts that ICT people do not value being part of being a profession. He lamented that the take-up rate of initiatives such as ACS's certification program.

Professor Don Gotterbarn argued that discussion of professionalism of ICT was the "same old same old". He went through the history of ethics and professional codes in the USA and UK, relating this to the Australian situation.

Dr. Richard Lucas reported research on what Australian ICT people actually thought of ethics and codes. This is a refreshing and revolutionary approach to the issue. Rather than theorize about what might work, CAPPE has collected actual quantitative evidence about what people will accept. This is not a new idea in other fields, for example to see if consumers can tell one brand of car from another, a group of them are asked. In retrospect, it seems to do the same with professional conduct.

Some later topics:

Keynote Speakers are Professor Simon Rogerson, Director of the Centre for Computing and Social Responsibility, DeMontfort University, UK and Professor Don Gotterbarn, Software Engineering Ethics Research Institute, East Tennessee State University - ICT Governance and What to Do About the Toothless Tiger(s): Professional Organisations and Codes of Ethics.

The Conference is sponsored by The Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics, The Australian Computer Society, ARC Governance Research Network, The Australian National University, Charles Sturt University and UNESCO.

1-2 May 2008
List of Presenters
Name Title and Association Title of Paper
John Ridge ACS Foundation Opening Address

Justice Michael Kirby AC

High Court of Australia The Challenge of Regulating Contemporary Technology

Professor Don Gotterbarn Director, Software Engineering Ethics Research Institute,
East Tennessee State University
ICT Governance and what to do about the toothless tiger(s): Professional
Organizations and Codes of Ethics

Professor Simon Rogerson Director, Centre for Computing and Social
Responsibility, De Montfort University, UK The Role of Governance in Sensitising ICT Development

1 Mr. Mark Haughey CIO, Workplace Authority The Uncertainty of Ethics in IT

2 Professor Shirley Gregor ANU Endowed Chair in Information Systems, Director
National Centre for Information Systems Research,
School of Accounting and Business Information Systems,
Ethics education of ICT professionals

3 Ms. Cecilia Ridgley School of Information Technology and Electrical
Engineering UNSW@ADFA,
ICT Advisory Services, KPMG Canberra
The Decision Disconnect - Ethics and ICT Governance

4 Dr. Daryl Macer Regional Adviser, Regional Unit for Social and Human
Sciences (RUSHAP) in Asia and the Pacific, UNESCO
Office in Bangkok
The relationship of IT ethics and governance to the broader conduct and ethics of science and technology

5 Phillip N. Argy
Immediate Past President – Australian Computer Society
Deputy Chairman – ACS Foundation
Chief Executive – ArgyStar.com
Trusted vs. Trustworthy – how professionalism bridges the ethics gap

6 Professor John Weckert
Dr. Richard Lucas
Research Fellow, CAPPE, ANU
Professorial Fellow, CAPPE, CSU Ethics and Regulation in the ICT Industry 2007 Survey: An Overview

7 David Lindley Ph.D.
Academic Principal, ACS Education, Australian
Computer Society
Manager: Professional Standards & Development
Australian Computer Society
Educating for Professionalism: An ACS Perspective

8 Ms Marghanita da Cruz
Principal Consultant Ramin Communications Pty Ltd
(ramin.com.au) No duty of Care: the Governance of ICT

9 Sheryle Moon CEO, AIIA Ethics and ICT Governance from an industry perspective

10 Associate Professor Craig McDonald
University of Canberra Ethics by Design: embedding ethics in ICT Governance

11 Clive V. Boughton Australian National University - Education and Research
of Software Engineering Practices,
Senior Member of ACS,
Committee Member on Certification for Australian
Safety Critical Systems Association (aSCSa),
Member ACM,
Member IEEE-CS
What IS an ICT professional anyway?

12 Mr. Neville Holmes University of Tasmania An Ethical Imperative for the Computing Profession

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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

ICT Governance and Ethics Conference

A Conference on the Ethical Governance of ICT and the Role of Professional Bodies is 1-2 May 2008 in Canberra. This will feature the research funded by the Australian Computer Society, which I have used in my lectures on ICT ethics at ANU.
A Conference on the Ethical Governance of ICT and the Role of Professional Bodies
1-2 May 2008
held at
University House, Australian National University

This is a two day conference that will examine issues related to the ethical governance, governance of ethics, of Information and Communication Technology, and the role of professional bodies.

The conference will cover issues related to – the governance of ICT in particular, the industry as a whole, industry businesses, ICT within organisations, ICT projects, and ICT professional bodies.
Individual topics may include:

  • licensing and accreditation of ICT professionals,
  • education of ICT professionals,
  • governance of policies and procedures concerning ethics in the ICT industry,
  • the ethical content of standards, methodologies, and processes used by the ICT industry,
  • the place of government regulations, and
  • the role of professional organisations.
The opening address will be given by John Ridge the Executive Director and inaugural Chairman of the ACS Foundation.

The keynote speakers are:
  • Prof. Simon Rogerson the Director of the Centre for Computing and Social Responsibility at DeMontfort University in the UK who will speak on The role of governance in sensitising ICT development and
  • Prof. Don Gotterbarn of the Software Engineering Ethics Research Institute at East Tennessee State University who will speak on Ict Governance and What to Do About the Toothless Tiger(s): Professional Organisations and Codes of Ethics.
For more information concerning the conference contact: Dr. Richard Lucas – Richard.Lucas@anu.edu.au or Professor John Weckert – jweckert@csu.edu.au

Registration Details

For enquiries about registration and related matters contact

Andrew Long – Andrew.Long@anu.edu.au

Cost: There is a nominal conference registration fee of AU$50 to cover morning/afternoon tea and lunch.

Register By Date: 16 April 2008

The conference is generously supported by: The Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics, the Australian Computer Society, ARC Governance Research Network, the Australian National University, and UNESCO.

From: Ethical Governance of ICT and the Role of Professional Bodies, CAPPE, 2008

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Thursday, March 06, 2008

Regulation in the ICT Industry

After the plenary sessions, the ACS Canberra Branch conference shifted gears, with parallel sessions about the nature of the IT industry and profession. Richard Lucas talked about research conducted into the views of ICT people about the profession, regulation and ethics. One issue was that there are so many groups involved in the ICT industry that there was not a level of regulation as might apply in other professions. The Government was not seen to be the way to regulate the industry, with ICT people wary of such control.

Richard presented a relatively bleak picture, with little recognition of professionalism and little obvious enforcement of ethical standards. However, Richard mentioned they are working on ways to help ICT professionals do the right thing, rather than externally forcing them to.

Previous research in the area is in the ACS's magazine: Ethics survey: haste sours quality in ICT (Richard Lucas, Information Age, 17/06/2007).

After lunch Ann Steward, Australian Government Chief Information Officer, is talking about ICT in the government sector.

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Friday, August 17, 2007

Ethical World Trust

Last night Australian Ethical Investment launched its "World Trust" in Canberra. This is for long-term investments in overseas companies which meet environmental and ethical guidelines. This is available to individuals to invest in directly, as a superannuation fund and via employer's superannuation guarantee payments.

Some of the companies they have invested in are the Shimano (bicycle gears, Japan), Herman Miller (Office Furniture, USA), Accell (Bicycles including electric bicycles, Netherlands), Suntech (solar cells, China). Perhaps they need to invest in some open source hardware and software companies.

One worry I had about the trust is that most of the investments so far are in the developed world (North America, UK, Europe and Japan). I don't know if it is that AEI can't find profitable investments elsewhere, or can't find ones meeting their high ethical standards, or there just isn't enough economic activity elsewhere to make it worth investing.

But the major problem with AEI's trusts, including the world trust, is that it is so hard to invest. AEI go to a lot of trouble to select ethical investments and communicate that to the potential investor. But when it comes time to invest they make you fill out a lot of paperwork, (you can't apply online) and discourage electronic payments. AEI now now have BPAY for investments, but not for superannuation and you have to apply on paper and get a number on paper before you can use it. AEI needs to invest a little in being able to take payments online easily. The investment would pay off within a few weeks.

The AEI people genuinely believe in what they are doing and recently refurbished their building to make it energy and water efficient. There will be tours of the building and seminars about it during September and a talk on the technological aspects in October.

ps: I own shares in AEI and have money in their Australian Ethical Retail Superannuation Fund.

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Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Remaining human in the networked world

Matthew Allen

Recommended talk by Matthew Allen:

‘...Computer Says No’: Networks of Information and the Ethics of Discretion

By Associate Professor Matthew Allen, Curtin University of Technology

Book: NSW 31 Jul, ACT 7 Aug, QLD 8 Aug, NT 9 Aug, Vic 15 Aug, SA 20 Aug, WA 21 Aug, Tas 28 Aug,

“Just when is it dangerous to remain silent, and be discreet, when information comes to our attention in unexpected ways?”

We live in a world in which computer technologies are used in networks to permit increasingly rapid and extensive exchanges of information. More and more of what we, as humans, do and think is being expressed as ‘information’ - precisely because of the ease with which information can be transmitted and processed. This networked, digital world offers real benefits and opportunities and yet poses great challenges as well – for ethical and professional practice in situations where established norms, expectations and understandings no longer apply in quite the same way they once did.

With emphasis on the idea of ‘discretion’ Matthew will explore some of the central issues facing computer professionals in a world of information networks and investigate some of the newer problems of being (or remaining) human in this world of computing technology.

What You Will Learn

• computer systems tend to limit the exercise of discretion in human decision-making; and that information networks tend to lead to unintended and indiscreet access to information

• network technologies change common or accepted approaches to making ethical decisions about information

• human identity and involvement in decision making can be constrained by the autonomous operation of rules within computer-based systems

• computer professionals play an important role in guiding society towards a better understanding and use of information networks


Associate Professor Matthew Allen

Associate Professor Matthew Allen established the Internet Studies Program at Curtin University of Technology in 1999, in the School of Media and Information. He is an active writer and researcher on issues relating to the policy and governance of the Internet, as well as its social consequences. He is also a nationally recognised tertiary educator, having won an Australian Award for University Teaching in 2000 and has been involved in online learning since 1995. On research leave from Curtin University of Technology for 2007, he is turning his attention to the meaning and importance of so-called Web 2.0 technologies and social applications. He is the current President of the International Association of Internet Researchers.

ps: for those wondering, "Computer says no ..." is a catchphrase by the character Carol Beer in the TV show Little Britain.

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Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Ethics of Killer Robots

Philip Argy, president of the Australian Computer Society, wrote a thought provoking article "Dilemma in Killer Bots" (The Australian, January 16, 2007):
'WHEN science fiction writer Isaac Asimov developed his Three Laws of Robotics back in 1940, the first law was: "A robot may not harm a human being, or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm." ... reports out of Korea of newly developed guard robots capable of firing autonomously on human targets are raising concerns about their potential uses. ...'.
Roger Clarke wrote an article "Asimov's Laws of Robotics - Implications for Information Technology" for IEEE Computer Magazine in 1993.

LEGO Mindstorms NXT robot kitThere are already some domestic robots available which could raise safety concerns, even if not designed to deliberately harm people. Professor Rodney Brooks, Director of the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, gave a talk in Canberra last year about the potential for low cost robots.

iRobot Roomba Vacuuming RobotThe Roomba robot vacuum cleaner he talked about and the Lego robot kit are examples of low cost robots and kits available.

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