Got Ethics?

Do professional ethics play a role in your work? Have you had to deal with unethical actions on the part of the people you work with or work for? Does money always trump other considerations for you? I think that for web designers, usability professionals, and other information professionals ethical dilemmas can be serious and the consequences of our actions far reaching.

We deal with a great deal of information in our jobs, often of a sensitive, personal nature. We know names, addresses, e-mail addresses, credit card numbers, passwords, and other data. We have the opportunity to collect and access this information in the course of our daily work. We have real responsibilities to the people that such information belongs to. The consequences when an information professional betrays that trust can be dire.

I rarely, if ever, see discussions in forums, blogs, or online communities about ethics. I wonder if this is a result of unethical people being disinclined to participate in online communities or if people just don’t think about or talk about these things. So I would like to know, have any of you faced a situation where you have had to deal with others behaving unethically? Have you ever been asked to do something unethical on the job?

I once had the opportunity to help define the privacy policy for CIMdata as I developed a new registration system for the web site. This gave me a reason to discuss how we collect and use private information from customers and to clarify what we should and should not do with that information. In particular I was able to solidify our policy of not releasing the data to third parties. I think this was a really valuable discussion to have. I’m wondering if any of you have been through similar experiences or perhaps ones where the company really wanted to sell or distribute such data.

Kevin Hall
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