Computer Ethics Institute

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The Computer Ethics Institute (CEI) is the most prominent organization dedicated toward the promotion of ethical computer use in the United States. Its primary function is to study, publicize, and coordinate the intersection of information technology innovations, business interests, regulations and other public policies, and ethics. The organization was founded in 1985 by the Brookings Institution, IBM, the Washington Consulting Group, and the Washington Theological Consortium, and was originally known as the Coalition for Computer Ethics. In 1992, the coalition changed its name and incorporated as a research, education, and policy study group.

CEI includes among its ranks members of the various computer science and information technology professions, corporate representatives, industry organizations, and academic and public policy groups. Thus, CEI positions itself as a forum in which diverse interests can pool their knowledge and resources to identify and remedy ethical difficulties that arise along with the development and proliferation of advanced computer technology.

One of the organization's hallmarks is its "Ten Commandments for Computer Ethics":

  1. Thou shalt not use a computer to harm other people.
  2. Thou shalt not interfere with other people's computer work.
  3. Thou shalt not snoop around in other people's files.
  4. Thou shalt not use a computer to steal.
  5. Thou shalt not use a computer to bear false witness.
  6. Thou shalt not use or copy software for which you have not paid.
  7. Thou shalt not use other people's computer resources without authorization.
  8. Thou shalt not appropriate other people's intellectual output.
  9. Thou shalt think about the social consequences of the program you write.
  10. Thou shalt use a computer in ways that show consideration and respect.

Recognizing that not all legal computing activity is in fact ethical, the CEI drew up the list of ethical commandments in part to elicit conversation about computer ethics, and it has since become a widely cited general code for computer ethics in the United States.


Brookings Institution. "What is the Computer Ethics Institute?" Washington, D.C.: The Brookings Institution, 1998. Available from

Goldsborough, Reid. "Computers and Ethics." Link-up. January/February, 2000.

SEE ALSO: Computer Ethics

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