specific considerations of professional responsibility. Section 3 pertains more specifically to individuals
who have a leadership role, whether
in the workplace or in a volunteer
professional capacity. Commitment
to ethical conduct is required of every ACM member and principles involving compliance with the Code
are given in Section 4.
The Code as a whole is concerned
with how fundamental ethical principles apply to one’s conduct as a
computing professional. Each principle is supplemented by guidelines,
which provide explanations to assist
members in understanding and applying it. These extraordinary ethical
responsibilities of computing professionals are derived from broadly
accepted ethical principles.
The Code is not an algorithm for
solving ethical problems, rather it is
intended to serve as a basis for ethical decision making in the conduct
of professional work. Words and
phrases in a code of ethics are subject to varying interpretations, and
a particular principle may seem
to conflict with other principles
in specific situations. Questions
related to these kinds of conflicts
can best be answered by thoughtful
consideration of the fundamental
ethical principles, understanding
the public good is the paramount
consideration. The entire profession benefits when the ethical decision making process is transparent to all stakeholders. In addition,
it may serve as a basis for judging the
merit of a formal complaint pertaining to a violation of professional ethical standards.
1. GENERAL MORAL PRINCIPLES
A computing professional should...
1. 1 Contribute to society and to human
well-being, acknowledging that all
people are stakeholders in computing.
This principle concerning the quality
of life of all people affirms an obliga-
tion to protect fundamental human
rights and to respect diversity. An
essential aim of computing profes-
sionals is to minimize negative con-
sequences of computing, including
threats to health, safety, personal se-
curity, and privacy. Computing pro-
fessionals should give consideration
to whether the products of their ef-
forts will be used in socially respon-
sible ways, will meet social needs,
and will be broadly accessible. They
are encouraged to actively contribute
to society by engaging in pro bono or
volunteer work. When the interests of
multiple groups conflict the needs of
the least advantaged should be given
increased attention and priority.
In addition to a safe social environment, human well-being requires a
safe natural environment. Therefore,
computing professionals should be
alert to, and make others aware of,
any potential harm to the local or
1. 2 Avoid harm.
In this document, “harm” means
negative consequences to any stakeholder, especially when those consequences are significant and unjust.
Examples of harm include unjustified
death, unjustified loss of information,
and unjustified damage to property,
reputation, or the environment. This
list is not exhaustive.
Well-intended actions, including
those that accomplish assigned duties, may unexpectedly lead to harm.
In such an event, those responsible are
obligated to undo or mitigate the harm
as much as possible. Avoiding unintentional harm begins with careful consideration of potential impacts on all
those affected by decisions.
To minimize the possibility of indirectly harming others, computing
professionals should follow generally
accepted best practices for system design, development, and testing. Additionally, the consequences of emergent systems and data aggregation
should be carefully analyzed. Those
involved with pervasive or infrastructure systems should also consider
Principle 3. 7.
At work, a computing professional
has an additional obligation to report
any signs of system risks that might
result in serious personal or social
harm. If one’s superiors do not act to
curtail or mitigate such risks, it may
be necessary to “blow the whistle”
to reduce potential harm. However,
capricious or misguided reporting
of risks can itself be harmful. Before
reporting risks, the computing pro-
fessional should thoroughly assess
all relevant aspects of the incident as
outlined in Principle 2. 5.
1. 3 Be honest and trustworthy.
Honesty is an essential component of
trust. A computing professional should
be fair and not make deliberately false
or misleading claims and should provide full disclosure of all pertinent
system limitations and potential problems. Fabrication of data, falsification
of data, and scientific misconduct are
similarly violations of the Code. One
who is professionally dishonest is accountable for any resulting harm.
A computing professional should
be honest about his or her own qualifications, and about any limitations in
competence to complete a task. Computing professionals should be forthright about any circumstances that
might lead to conflicts of interest or
otherwise tend to undermine the independence of their judgment.
Membership in volunteer organizations such as ACM may at times
place individuals in situations where
their statements or actions could be
interpreted as carrying the “weight”
of a larger group of professionals.
An ACM member should exercise
care not to misrepresent ACM, or
positions and policies of ACM or any
1. 4 Be fair and take action not to dis-
The values of equality, tolerance, respect for others, and equal justice
govern this principle. Prejudicial discrimination on the basis of age, color,
disability, ethnicity, family status, gender identity, military status, national
origin, race, religion or belief, sex,
sexual orientation, or any other inappropriate factor is an explicit violation
of ACM policy. Sexual harassment is a
form of discrimination that limits fair
access to the spaces where the harassment takes place.
Inequities between different
groups of people may result from the
use or misuse of information and
technology. Technologies should be
as inclusive and accessible as possible. Failure to design for inclusiveness and accessibility may constitute