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Integrity - use of values or principles to guide action in the situation at hand.

Below are links and discussion related to the values of freedom, hope, trust, privacy, responsibility, safety, and well-being, within business and government situations arising in the areas of security, privacy, technology, corporate governance, sustainability, and CSR.

Ethics in IT: Dark secrets, ugly truths -- and little guidance, 29.10.07

Computer World

What Bryan found on an executive’s computer six years ago still weighs heavily on his mind. He’s particularly troubled that the man he discovered using a company PC to view pornography of Asian women and of children was subsequently promoted and moved to China to run a manufacturing plant.

“To this day, I regret not taking that stuff to the FBI,” says Bryan.

It happened when Bryan, who asked that his last name not be published, was IT director at the U.S. division of a $500 million multinational corporation based in Germany.

The company’s Internet usage policy, which Bryan helped develop with input from senior management, prohibited the use of company computers to access pornographic or adult-content Web sites. One of Bryan’s duties was to monitor employee Web surfing using products from SurfControl PLC and report any violations to management.

Bryan knew that the executive, who was a level above him in another department, was popular within both the U.S. division and the German parent. But when the tools turned up dozens of pornographic Web sites visited by the exec’s computer, Bryan followed the policy. “That’s what it’s there for. I wasn’t going to get into trouble for following the policy,” he reasoned.

So he went to his manager with copies of the Web logs (which he still has in his possession and made available to Computerworld for verification).

Power and Responsibility

Bryan’s case is a good example of the ethical dilemmas that IT workers may encounter on the job. IT employees have privileged access to digital information, both personal and professional, throughout the company, and they have the technical prowess to manipulate that information.

That gives them both the power and responsibility to monitor and report employees who break company rules. IT professionals may also uncover evidence that a co-worker is, say, embezzling funds, or they could be tempted to peek at private salary information or personal e-mails. But there’s little guidance on what to do in these uncomfortable situations.

In the case of the porn-viewing executive, Bryan didn’t get into trouble, but neither did the executive, who came up with “a pretty outlandish explanation” that the company accepted, Bryan says. He considered going to the FBI, but the Internet bubble had just burst, and jobs were hard to come by. “It was a tough choice,” Bryan says. “[But] I had a family to feed.”

In theory, ethical behavior is governed by laws, corporate policy, professional ethics and personal judgment.

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"We shall need compromises in the days ahead, to be sure. But these will be, or should be, compromises of issues, not principles. We can compromise our political positions, but not ourselves. We can resolve the clash of interests without conceding our ideals. And even the necessity for the right kind of compromise does not eliminate the need for those idealists and reformers who keep our compromises moving ahead, who prevent all political situations from meeting the description supplied by Shaw: "smirched with compromise, rotted with opportunism, mildewed by expedience, stretched out of shape with wirepulling and putrefied with permeation.
Compromise need not mean cowardice. .."

John Fitzgerald Kennedy, "Profiles in Courage"


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