Asee peer logo

Ethical Issues in Computing: Student Perceptions Survey

Download Paper |


2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

June 29, 2016





Conference Session

Curricular Issues in Computing and Information Technology Programs I

Tagged Division

Computing & Information Technology

Page Count




Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Ali Salehnia South Dakota State University

visit author page

Professor of Computer Science, South Dakota State University. Computer Science Faculty since 1982. Published more than 40 peer reviewed papers. Supervised more than 30 Master's Degree thesis and research/design papers. Served on more than 60 Master's and Ph.D. students' graduate committees.

visit author page

author page

Shieva Salehnia

Download Paper |



Abstracts Today, computer software is being used in systems as well as other situations where there is a high potential for social impact. For example, such software is highly used in medicine and safety, dependent situations. Furthermore, the consequences of negative results from unreliable systems and software are becoming, public knowledge every day. Since these situations create a negative image for computer professionals and since these episodes create an environment of nontrust for the discipline, a good look at the ethical issues in software engineering and information system is necessary.

As the amount of corporate and personal information continues to grow and the access to that information by Information Technology professional increases, ethics and value judgments by computer and information systems professionals becomes more important. Pearson defined three factors which require further study of ethical behavior of IS professionals. These include a greater reliance on IT systems across the business enterprise, increasing use of the system generated information for Computer Science and Information System students will compose the future workforce

The ACM and IEEE Code of Ethics remind us that a computer professional has obligations to society, to their employer, their clients, their colleagues, and to professional organizations. All information and computing professional and non-information system organizations have a code of ethics which emphasize responsibility. For example, the ACM Code of Ethics has the following statements: In section 1.2 “Avoid harm to others”; In section 1.3 "Be honest and trustworthy”; In section 2.1 “Strive to achieve the highest quality in both process and products of professional work”. In section 2.5 “Give comprehensive and thorough evaluation of computer systems and their impacts, with special emphasis on possible risks". In section 2.6 “Honor contracts, agreement and assigned responsibilities'”; section 3.1 indicates: “articulate social responsibilities of member of an organizational unit and encourage full acceptance of those responsibilities." All of these quotes clearly emphasize the view of the ACM relative to responsibilities.

In the general Moral Imperatives section 1.1 of the ACM Code of Ethics we read. "As an ACM member I will ... Contribute to society and human well-being.... An essential aim of a computing professional is to minimize negative consequences of computing systems, including threats to health and safety. When designing or implementing systems, computing professionals must attempt to ensure that the produce of their efforts will be used in society responsible ways, will meet social needs, and will avoid harmful effects to health and welfare."

The IEEE Code of Ethics' section I reads as follows and I quote “We the members of the IEEE do hereby commit ourselves to the highest ethical and professional conduct and agree: 1. To accept responsibility in making decision consistent with the safety, health and welfare of the public, and, a disclose promptly factors that might endanger the public or the environment.” Since we believe that software developers are engineers and scientists, they should definitely abide by the Guidelines and produce reliable and safe products.

We believe that ethical issues play a big role in the analysis and development of software and application products. Wood, et al. [22] argue about the need for the information systems person to receive training in ethical implications and they indicate that the existence of professional codes of practices is a clear indication that ethical neutrality is not possible. They continue to argue "Self-reflection by systems analysis on the ethical implications of their practice should ensure that ethical decisions are not made implicitly for them."

In this research paper, we present the results and analysis of a survey completed by computer science and information systems students. The survey consists of 30 questions related to ethical behavior of students at the different college levels and different majors. The results of the survey will be analyzed to evaluate student perceptions of ethical behavior in regard to oblige, opportunities, and intent, and professional responsibility. The survey questions are created to address these 4 aspects and are presented ethical situations to which computer science and non-computer science students will respond. The results of the survey will be used to teach students to understand ethical issues and professional responsibilities related to computer science and information systems. They will also be discussed when teaching professional responsibilities of the technological, economic, and environmental point of views.


Salehnia, A., & Salehnia, S. (2016, June), Ethical Issues in Computing: Student Perceptions Survey Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.26740

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2016 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015