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Professional Deontology, Self-regulation and Ethics in the Information Society

mardi 28 octobre 2003, par BERLEUR Jacques

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IFIP (International Federation for Information Processing) has been working on professional codes of deontology for the last 10 years. Lessons have been derived from that experience and most probably are applicable in the general field of engineering, especially when the pending question is related to the information society. (Jacques BERLEUR and Marie d’UDEKEM-GEVERS, Codes of Ethics/Conduct for Computer Societies : The Experience of IFIP, in : Goujon Philippe, Heriard Dubreuil Bertrand, eds. Technology and Ethics, A European Quest for Responsible Engineering, European Ethics Network, Peeters, Leuven, 2001, pp. 327-350)

Today there is an emphasis on instruments of self-regulation in a society where it is said that legal instruments are territorial and not global. IFIP-SIG9.2.2 has proposed a classification of some of those instruments and made their analysis : jbl/IFIP/sig922/selfreg.html From those professional deontological statements and those self-regulating instruments, specific domains appear as a general preoccupation for building a framework for regulating the information society. Most of the time, it is considered as an ethical preoccupation. The question may be raised if it is not more a self-protecting attitude than a protection of the customers, clients or citizen.

How to introduce ethical consideration in those statements and instruments remains a challenge to be examined in the agenda of the World Summit on the Information Society.


  • Professor at the Informatics Faculty of the University of Namur (Belgium) since 1972 : "Computers and Rationality - Epistemological Questions", "Computers and Society", and "Ethics of Computing".
  • Director of CITA (Cellule Interfacultaire de Technology Assessment), an interdisciplinary research group specialized in the assessment of the Information and Communication Technology.
  • President (Rector) of his University, 1984-1993.
  • Member of the Belgian Privacy Protection Commission, 1984-
  • Corresponding Member of the European Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters, Paris, (1993- ).
  • Active in the International Federation for Information Processing (IFIP) : Chairman of IFIP-TC9 (1999-2004), Chairman of IFIP-WG9.2 "Social Accountability" (1990-1996), Chairman of IFIP-Ethics Task Group, set up by the 1992 IFIP General Assembly (1992-1994), and now Chair of the Special Interest Group "IFIP Framework on Ethics" (1994-..).
  • Belgian expert at the Commission of the European Communities for several programmes, among which the COST A4 Programme and the FAST Programme (Forecasting and Assessment for Science and Technology).
  • Editor, co-editor or author of 15 books, among which :
    • The Information Society : Evolving Landscapes, Springer-Verlag/Captus, 1990
    • Ethics of Computing : Codes, Spaces for Discussion and Law, Chapman and Hall, 1996
    • An Ethical Global Information Society : Culture and Democracy Revisited, Chapman & Hall, 1997
    • Ethics and the Governance of the Internet, IFIP Press, 1999
    • Human Choice and Computers, Issues of Choice and Quality of Life in the Information Society, Kluwer Academic Publishers, 2002
    • Perspectives and Policies on ICT in Society, (in preparation) Further information at : jbl

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