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Users are human. As HCI professionals we must be sure that our fellow humans perceive their encounter with usability and design professionals as pleasant without sacrificing the accuracy of our results. There are guidelines produced by professional organizations like the APA and the ACM about how HCI professionals should behave. However, there are few examples from real life about how to translate this information into everyday behavior. This panel will discuss specific examples of HCI dilemmas that the panelists have faced in their daily work.
CHI2001 Panel Proposal Page 1 Ethics in HCI
CHI2001 Panel Documentation
Ethics in HCI
Users are human. As HCI professionals we must be sure
that our fellow humans perceive their encounter with
usability and design professionals as pleasant without
sacrificing the accuracy of our results. There are guidelines
produced by professional organizations like the APA and
the ACM about how HCI professionals should behave.
However, there are few examples from real life about how
to translate this information into everyday behavior. This
panel will discuss specific examples of HCI dilemmas that
the panelists have faced in their daily work.
Ethics, HCI professional issues, social computing.
Brenda Laurel
Art Center College of Design
Carolyn Snyder
Snyder Consulting
88 Brookwood Drive
Salem, NH 03079, USA
Whitney Quesenbery
Cognetics Corporation
51 Everett Drive #103B
PO Box 386
Princeton Junction, NJ 08829, USA
Chauncey E. Wilson
Bentley College
Rolf Molich
Skovkrogen 3
DK-3660 Stenlose, Denmark
Rolf Molich
Contact information above.
Ethical issues permeate our profession, but there are
relatively few public discussions of these issues, perhaps
because they are uncomfortable for many practitioners. A
quick survey of the ACM Digital library on topics
showing the key word ethics produced 69 hits with only
about 3 articles focusing on the concerns of HCI
Informed consent and User Self-Esteem
Consider a simple example, the use of videotape in
usability and field studies. Wendy Mackay, in one of the
few papers specific to the HCI community [4], wrote of
how easy it is to compromise our integrity when we
employ video (or audio) to present our results and
influence others. For example, a question that Mackay asks
is “do we need to have internal participants who have
already signed an employee agreement about being
videotaped also sign a consent form?” Many HCI
colleagues forego the consent form for internal participants,
but this is probably an ethical violation since a video of an
internal person doing poorly on a task could affect his/her
reputation at work.
Our belief is that internal participants should be afforded
equal (or perhaps greater) protection than external
participants, even to the extent of promising that their tape
will not be shown to anyone other than the HCI team. A
key ethical tenet is that the participant should leave a test
feeling no worse than when they arrived and ideally should
feel better because they learned something, or contributed
to a better design.
Field studies often present HCI colleagues with ethical
dilemmas. For example, a HCI colleague can sometimes
find it difficult to preserve anonymity (and confidentiality)
while at the same time providing feedback to customers on
the results of field studies. Customers often want to hear
about the results of field studies and some may even
demand to know as a condition for allowing interviews.
How do you respond to a senior vice president who asks
you “How did Fred do with the new product?” If your
visit focuses on only a few users and you promised a
report on your visit, how do you insure that the
anonymity of the feedback is not compromised?
CHI2001 Panel Proposal Page 2 Ethics in HCI
There are several methods to insure anonymity: put in
writing the conditions of the visit and make sure that this is
a prominent topic in preparations and planning. You can
also say that there will be an aggregate report from several
different customers, but that no individuals will be
Data Integrity and Presentation
The manner in which we report the results of product
evaluations presents some interesting ethical issues for
HCI practitioners. Since we have to work with product
teams, there may be a tendency to soft pedal bad results to
preserve a working relationship with that team. The ability
to simultaneously present bad results and keep good
relationships is a difficult skill to learn but is important if
we are to fulfill the user advocate role. Mackay [4]
discusses how highlight tapes can be “doctored” by
omitting particular segments or by making “rare events
appear representative”.
A final ethical issue in reporting is the validity and
reliability of the data. At the 2000 UPA conference, a
group of HCI practitioners discussed how few usability
reports address validity and reliability, even at the most
basic level. Are we being sloppy (and perhaps unethical) in
presenting usability reports that fail to address
fundamental aspects of data integrity?
Undue Persuasion
The design of persuasive technologies presents some
ethical issues for HCI designers. [3] highlights ethical
principles for the design of persuasive technologies. Here
are two examples from their list:
Rule VII: “Persuasive technologies must not misinform
in order to achieve their persuasive end.”
Rule VIII: “The creators of a persuasive technology
should never seek to persuade a person or persons of
something they themselves would not consent to be
persuaded to do.”
As HCI colleagues, what do we do when confronted with
knowledge that a product may misinform potential users or
persuade them to do something outrageous? Do we remind
our managers of these ethical issues, quit the company, or
write an expose that may land us in court?
Life and Death
Ethical issues can become complex when people are
working on systems that might have life or death
consequences. For example, designers of medical hardware
and software make decisions that may compromise the
health of an individual. Is it ethical to follow the advice that
5-8 users will reveal the major problems of a product?
Testing 5-8 users is much cheaper than testing large
numbers so there is a trade-off of time-to-market with
possibility of death because a subtle problem did not come
out in the limited testing.
Pushing Back on Management
Pushing back on management when there are ethical issues
(especially the less obvious ones) is hard for experienced
practitioners and almost impossible for the brand-new
person in the field. We view this panel as the starting point
for a vigorous and continuing discussion about how we can
keep high levels of integrity while working in product
development environments that can bend ethical
There are plenty of guidelines for proper conduct around
[1,2]. Some of the popular Human Factors textbooks
contain sections on ethics in HCI, for example [5].
However, it appears that these guidelines are relatively
unknown. We offer the following possible reasons for this:
The guidelines are written in a language that is hard to
The guidelines are difficult to locate.
There are few (if any) examples of how these principles
are applied in practice.
Some of the guidelines mostly deal with usability
testing and handling of videotapes. These, of course, are
important details, but ethical dilemmas extend far
beyond usability lab practices into all phases of
product design.
We don’t think HCI needs another code of ethics. What we
do need instead is a collection of case studies illustrating
the ethical concerns other HCI professionals have been
struggling with. Ethics should be a part of any formal
training – graduate classes, seminars by professionals, etc.
HCI professionals face ethical issues every day. Here are
some examples that could form the basis for a set of case
First a few simple ones:
You go into the field. You have told your interviewees
that their comments to you are private. A senior VP
asks you “who did well in the study?” What do you
Answer: You can’t give any answer that reveals or even
narrows down the identity of an interviewee, no matter
who is asking - a promise is a promise.
CHI2001 Panel Proposal Page 3 Ethics in HCI
A usability test center entertains visitors by showing
video clips with “funny” episodes from usability tests
where test participants are picking their noses, etc.
Here are some more subtle examples:
Your usability studies show that a product is not
usable. Marketing folks claim that it is really usable. Do
you email the CEO and lay your job on the line?
You are aware that a product you are working on is
using some technology that someone has patented
(there are lots of GUI patents now). Do you make a
stink? Talk to your boss and ask him to talk to others?
You learn that your company wants to acquire a
company for some GUI technology, but you know
from reading and reviewing an evaluation copy of the
product that the technology is really pretty poor and
even unreliable. Do you make a stink about this or let it
pass until others discover they have wasted
$10,000,000 on clunky technology that they will write
off in less than a year?
As HCI professionals we cannot deny responsibility for
the products of our work. We cannot defer responsibility
to the decision makers, the managers and business
sponsors that define the objectives of the system. We are
responsible for ensuring that ethical issues in product
development are discussed openly and not hidden away in
bureaucratic closets.
Our aim is to show the diversity of ethical problems in
HCI through examples that members of the audience can
relate to, and to give attendees an experience they could not
get by reading articles or proceedings, or by surfing the
We will discuss real dilemmas that the panelists have faced
during their professional career although some details may
have been changed to avoid identification of the
The panel will focus on dilemmas whose solutions are non-
trivial and where substantial arguments can be presented
both for and against a particular action.
Where appropriate, we will involve all of the audience in a
final “vote” where members of the audience will be able to
show their personal opinion on the dilemma by waving
yellow or blue sheets of paper.
Introduction to panel. The panel theme and format is
briefly introduced by the panel organizer. Panelists are
briefly introduced by the organizer using one slide per
panelist (5 minutes). The organizer takes a quick vote
of the audience to see how many people are familiar
with existing ethical guidelines.
Presentation of dilemmas (5 dilemmas @ 15 minutes).
Each panelist will present one dilemma using one or
two slides. The presentation will be followed by a brief
discussion where one or two other panelists contribute
their opinion. We will then allow for comments from
the audience and take a quick vote to survey the
attitude of the audience.
Concluding remarks from the panelists (10 minutes)
Some of the panelists will have extra dilemmas ready for
discussion if time permits.
Brenda Laurel
Dilemma 1: Your client wants to build an inclusive online
community. Your research shows that strong, coherent
communities invariably possess means for the group to set
boundaries and exclude some people from membership. Do
you argue that the client needs to provide for exclusion and
boundary-setting in order to make its online community
Yes: It is usually a better design decision to accommodate
human characteristics than to try to change them.
This particular need for boundary-setting by
communities is so strong that ignoring it will insure
No: The desire to exclude is part of the dark side of
human nature. A humanistic approach seeks to
improve human character. The client can make an
inclusive community so attractive that it will override
exclusionary impulses.
Dilemma 2: Your client asks you to determine through
user testing an optimal shooter interface for an online game
targeted to teens and adults. In the design of your research,
you have the opportunity to define the “optimal” interface
as productive of pleasure and excitement, or as a realistic
representation of doing violent harm to another person. Do
you choose pleasure over realism?
Yes: The clients wants a game, not a simulation. Everyone
knows that shooter games are not the same as reality,
and they should not be measured by the same
CHI2001 Panel Proposal Page 4 Ethics in HCI
No: The only way around the accusation that shooter
games encourage violence is to be sure that they
portray violent actions and their consequences
Carolyn Snyder
Dilemma 1: You’ve found some problems in usability
testing. While none are critical, you feel that several are
important and you’d like to see them fixed before release.
Because the development schedule is extremely tight, only
high-priority changes are being made.
Yes: You have a responsibility to make the product as
usable as possible under a situation of serious
resource constraints. Without bluffing, you’ll
accomplish nothing.
No: Bluffing will damage your credibility with the team,
lessening the chance that they’ll listen to you next
time. Besides, you don’t feel quite right about it.
Dilemma 2: Participants in a usability test have given
written consent to have the session videotaped for internal
company purposes. They are not explicitly told that some
unknown number of people will be watching the live video
from the observation and control rooms. Are the live
observers covered by the consent form?
Yes: Consenting to being videotaped includes implicit
permission to be observed live.
No: The participant may trust that any uncomfortable
moments captured on the tape will not be shown to
others, but with live action there’s no way to prevent
this. Also, people in a non-public setting have a right
to know exactly who is watching them.
Dilemma 3: You’re a usability consultant brought in to
test a web site. The web site is being designed and
developed by a third company. The testing reveals some
usability problems. You have some ideas for solutions that
you’ve seen work in other sites. You ask your client
whether she wants you to include your recommendations
in your final report. She says they’ve hired the design firm
to solve the problems, so you should stick to documenting
the findings. Do you include your recommendations?
Yes: The client doesn’t necessarily speak for the design
firm, and you are in a position to help them do their
job better. You are serving a higher purpose – the
client’s ultimate success - by passing along whatever
wisdom you can offer.
No: You don’t want to step on any toes, either at the
client or the design firm. If they’ve said no to
something, you shouldn’t do it, even if you can do it
without charging them extra.
Whitney Quesenbery
Dilemma 1: You have set up early usability tests of a
paper prototype with nurses at a medical facility. The test
was difficult to schedule because nurses’ time is guarded
carefully and marketing carefully guards the relationship
with customers. The nursing managers insist on “taking the
test” themselves first, and then on being present in the
room during the tests with the other participants to “be
sure they do it right.” You believe that the managers’
presence will be intimidating to the nurses, altering the
results of the test. Do you continue with the usability
Yes: If you turn down this opportunity to work with
users, it might be impossible to set up a test in the
future. Although you would have to carefully
evaluate the test results for bias caused by the
managers, you will still get valuable comments on the
concepts in the prototype.
No: Putting the nurses into a situation where they are
being asked to react and comment freely in front of
their obviously critical managers would be so
stressful as to be unethical. You should find a way to
avoid running these tests.
Dilemma 2: You are the leader of a group developing user
interface design standards to promote consistency and
usability among your company's products. You have
been working with this group for several months and have
what you consider a solid set of standards published and
accepted, despite some initial resistance to the concept of
either standardization or usability. Several products are
close to release with new versions incorporating your
standards. You are working with a new product group and
discover a problem in the standards. You can think of a
work-around that will enable them to stay in compliance,
but realize that it would be better to modify the standard
to take this new information into account. The change
require substantial modification to the earlier products. It is
unlikely that you will be able to make this change in the
future. Do you change the standards?
Yes: Like design, developing standards is an iterative
process. The newest product to use the standards
CHI2001 Panel Proposal Page 5 Ethics in HCI
exposed new information and flaws should be
corrected to make all of the user interfaces stronger.
No: Because you have a valid work-around, practical
expediencies should rule. Sometimes good ideas or
critical information come too late.
Chauncey Wilson
Dilemma 1: You are a manager of a HCI group at a major
software company. Your latest product is almost through
the beta process and is getting good reviews. At the very
last customer visit, a potential scalability problem is
observed. Later, in discussions with a trusted technical
source, you come to believe that this scalability issue
(which is not related to the UI work that your team has
done) could have catastrophic consequences for large (but
not small or medium) customers. The next day is sign-off
for the product and everyone's large bonus depends on a
unanimous sign-off that day. The director of the project
goes around the room asking each manager if the product is
ready and they all reply “YES”. Then it is your turn. You
stand to lose a $10,000 bonus. Do you bring up the
potential defect and ask for a delay in the product until
you confirm your suspicions?
Yes: You don't deserve a bonus for shipping an unusable
product. This sort of incentive is inherently unethical
for exactly this reason – it’s a conflict of interest.
No: The product defect is not of your making and you
will not be blamed for it when large customers start
complaining loudly. The company will fix the
problem in the future. The company philosophy is
that time-to-market is more important than last
minute flaws that will hurt revenues. The company
has survived similar problems in the past.
Rolf Molich
Dilemma 1: In a press interview about the usability of
bank websites a usability expert strongly criticizes the
user interface of the website of a certain bank. Among
other things he states that the website contains features
that are otherwise “only found in porn websites”. The
expert later confesses off-the-record that his critical
remarks were based solely on his personal opinions, not on
usability tests. Is this behavior ethical?
Yes. The fact that the remarks are based on opinion
instead of usability testing isn’t relevant. In this field,
we are often asked to make judgments without having
collected any empirical data.
No. The comparison is intended to embarrass the bank
while making the usability expert seem witty and hip.
It is a lack of professionalism and evidence of the
person’s immaturity. Serious attacks on the usability
of other people’s work should be based on users’
findings. The usability expert reduces HCI to an
opinion war where the person with the hippest and
most loudly voiced opinions wins.
Dilemma 2: Your startup company is usability testing
online versions of several competing e-commerce
bookstores to gather usability data for your own website.
To make the tests as realistic as possible, you want to ask
test participants to place real orders on the website using
their own credit card. Provided that you reimburse test
participants in full for all their expenses, is it ok to ask
them to reveal information about their credit card?
Yes. We really need the diversity of the data that will
result from using diversified credit cards and
diversified personal addresses. We also need to test
complete, realistic sales. There’s nothing secret about
a credit card number. You can publish your credit
card number on the front page of the New York
Times, if you wish. Inform the test participant well
before the test that s/he will be using his/her own
credit card and excuse them immediately if they
No. The facilitator must ask the test participant to use
the facilitator’s credit card or stop the test when the
website asks for credit card information. The real
issue isn't budgeting and reimbursement – it’s privacy
and potential legal exposure. Think about it... the
users will be coming to an unknown company, and
then a nice lady asks them to disclose their credit card
number while she takes copious notes. Sounds like a
scam to me!
Brenda Laurel is a member of the Graduate Faculty, Media
Design Program, Art Center College of Design. Brenda is a
usability expert specializing in interactive entertainment for
the last 25 years. She is best known as co-founder and
chief designer of Purple Moon, a company formed to
develop interactive products for girls. Purple Moon arose
from Laurel's work at Interval Research Corporation,
where she coordinated research activities exploring gender,
culture and technology. Laurel is the editor of “The Art of
Human-Computer Interface Design,” and author of
“Computers as Theatre” and numerous other seminal
CHI2001 Panel Proposal Page 6 Ethics in HCI
papers and articles on interactive narrative, virtual
environments and experience design.
Carolyn Snyder is an independent usability consultant with
more than 17 years of experience in the software industry.
She works with development teams to make their websites
and software more usable. Before starting Snyder
Consulting in March 1999, Carolyn was a principal
consultant at User Interface Engineering, one of the
country’s leading usability consulting firms. During her 6-
year tenure there, she worked with dozens of high-tech
clients, specializing in paper prototyping and usability
testing. Carolyn is co-author of Web Site Usability: A
Designer’s Guide.
Whitney Quesenbery is a lead interface designer at
Cognetics Corporation. She is one of the developers of
LUCID (Logical User-Centered Interaction Design), a
framework for managing the design and evaluation of the
user interface. Her projects with Cognetics have included
designs for clients such as Shared Medical Systems,
Novartis, Gerber, Deloitte Consulting, Hewlett-Packard,
Macmillan, IDX and Lucent. Whitney is the Manager of
the STC Usability SIG.
Chauncey Wilson has is director of the Bentley College
Design and Usability Testing Center. Chauncey has been a
product line development manager at BMC Software, Inc.
for two years. He has been an HCI architect and usability
engineer for IDX Corporation, FTP Software, Dun &
Bradstreet Software, Human Factors International and
Digital Equipment Corporation. Chauncey co-authored a
chapter (with Dennis Wixon) on Usability Engineering in
the Handbook of Human-Computer Interaction. In the
1980s Chauncey chaired an ethics and experimental design
panel at the Army Human Engineering Laboratory.
Rolf Molich owns and manages DialogDesign, a small
Danish usability consultancy ( Rolf
conceived and coordinated the comparative usability
evaluation study CUE-2 where 9 usability labs tested the
same application. Rolf was a principal investigator in the
NN/group’s recent large scale usability test of 20 US e-
commerce websites. Rolf has worked with usability since
1984; he is the co-inventor of the heuristic inspection
method (with Jakob Nielsen), and he is the author of the
best-selling Danish book “User friendly computer
systems”, of which almost 20,000 copies have been sold.
Right from the first edition in 1986 this book has contained
a section on ethics.
The following list describes references quoted in the text.
An extensive bibliography follows this panel outline.
1. ACM/IEEE-CS Joint Task Force on Software
Engineering Ethics and Professional Practices. Software
engineering code of ethics and professional practice.
Available at
2. American Psychological Association (APA). Ethical
principles of psychologists and code of conduct.
Available at
3. Berdichevsky, D., and Neuenschwander, E. Towards an
ethics of persuasive technology. Commun. ACM 42, 5
(May 1999), 51-58.
4. Mackay, W.E. Ethics, Lies and Videotape, in
Proceedings of CHI ’95 (Denver CO, May 1995),
ACM Press, 138-145.
5. Nielsen, J. Usability Engineering. Academic Press, San
Diego CA, 1993.
CHI2001 Panel Proposal Page 7 Ethics in HCI
CHI2001 Panel Documentation
Sources of Information on Computer and HCI Ethics
Collected by Chauncey Wilson
American Psychological Association (APA) Ethics Code
Draft for Comment
American Psychological Association (APA) Ethics Code
Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) Code of
Ethics and Professional Conduct
Australian Computer Society (ACS) Code of Ethics
Online Articles
Galilean Nemesis: Notes on Video Ethics in HCI by
Bob Anderson, Rank Xerox Ltd, 1998.
This paper discusses the ethics of video collection from
several theoretical perspectives. Anderson focuses on
similarities and differences between informed consent and
data usage in medical and psychology experiments. He
notes that getting participants to agree to allow video data
beforehand present an ethical issue since the person cannot
know what the video will actually reveal beforehand.
The Ethics of Research into Invasive Technologies by
Bob Anderson, Rank Xerox Ltd, 1991.
Anderson discusses various ethical frames of reference
(utilitarianism for example) are appropriate for condoning
research practices with invasive computer technologies.
Privacy-related Issues in Computer-Mediated Spaces
by Liam J. Bannon, Dept. of Computer Science &
Information Systems, University of Limerick, Limerick,
Ireland, 1994.
Bannon describes some of his personal experiences with
privacy on computer-mediated workspaces. Ethical issues
involved in videotape, ubiquitous computing, collaborative
environments, and audio taping of phone calls (a legal
issues in many states).
Ethics of Computers That Persuade by B. J. Fogg,
Stanford University, Palo Alto, CA.
Fogg gives a brief introduction to the ethics of persuasive
computing. He discusses the ethics of persuasive
computers and the ethics of studying people who use
persuasive computing systems.
Computer Ethics: Future Directions by Dr John
Weckert, Sturt University, Australia, 2000.
A wide ranging discussion of ethical questions including:
How easy should we make our systems (should we
build in challenges)?
How much focus should we put on accessibility?
What are some of the ethical issues with global
Intelligent Agents: Some Ethical Issues and
Dilemmas by Carolyn Dowling, Australian Catholic
University, Australia, 2000.
Dowling describes some of the ethical issues in the design
of agents. Her paper focuses mostly on delegation, trust,
and autonomy.
Compendium of Links on Human and Ethical Issues.
Ethics, Lies, and Videotape… by Wendy E. Mackay,
Rank Xerox, Cambridge, UK, 1995
(requires ACM Digital Library registration)
CHI2001 Panel Proposal Page 8 Ethics in HCI
Usability Testing: Revisiting Informed Consent
Procedures for Testing Internet Sites by O. K.
Burmeister. 2000.
World-Wide CHI: Future Ethics by by John Karat and
Clare-Marie Karat.
This is a short article in the SIGCHI Bulletin for January
1997. The article discusses issues raised in the book: Ethics
of Computing; Codes, Spaces for Discussion and Law,
edited by Profs. Jacques Berleur and Klaus Brunnstein.
Ethical Issues of Medical Records on the Internet by
M. L. Mick and S. E. Conners. 1997.
Online Experiments: Ethically Fair or Foul? By B.
Azar. APA Monitor Volume 31(4), April 2000.
Ethical and Legal Issues of Human Subjects Research
on the Internet. A Report of an AAAS Program on
Scientific Freedom Workshop. Washington, DC, 1999
Books and Hardcopy Articles
Berleur, J. and Brunnstein, K. (Eds.) Ethics of
Computing; Codes, Spaces for Discussion and Law.
Chapman & Hall, 1997. This book was discussed in the
November 1997 SIGCHI Bulletin. The book compares 30
different codes of ethics.
Bowyer, K. W. Ethics and Computing Living
Responsibly in a Computerized World (Second
Edition). IEEE Press: Piscataway, NJ, 2001.
Johnson, D. G. and H. Nissenbaum. Computers, Ethics,
and Social Values. Prentice-Hall: 1995.
Raskin, J. Wanted for Crimes Against the Interface:
Thoughts on an HCI Poster. Interactions.
November/December, 1996. ACM: p. 70-76. Raskin makes
a point at the end of the article that we, UI designers are
often forced to capitulate on what is the best design,
sometimes for fear of losing our job or irritating those that
manage design. Raskin asks if there is some ethical code
that “…supports us in refusing to do what we know is
wrong without fearing for our jobs?”
Schrier, J. R. Reducing Stress Associated with
Participating in a Usability Test. Proceedings of the
Human Factors Society 36th Annual Meeting. 1992, v.2,
Cohen, R. The Ethicist. A Column in The New York
Times Sunday Magazine. (requires
CHI2001 Panel Proposal Page 9 Ethics in HCI
Links collected by Francie Fleek
Online Articles
Human Error: Designing for Error in Medical
Information Systems or "Don't worry--it always beeps
when you do that!" by Ramon M. Felciano, Stanford
University, 1995
Human Error in Medicine bibliography:
The paper includes suggestions for what a developer can
do to improve the situation:
Have “error awareness”
Take a systemic view
Use errors as tools to analyze your design.
Be willing to redesign.
Use simulations when possible.
Automate data collection for error analysis.
Perform structured evaluations to estimate human
Anticipate error through better coding.
Critical Legal Issues of the Patient Record by Elizabeth
Bowman and Mary McCain, The University of
Tennessee-Memphis, 1998 (abstract only from EEI21 -
The Ethics of Electronic Information in the 2st Century
conference). Note the next conference will be October 18-
21, 2001 in Memphis
Open-Source Medical Information Management by
Daniel L. Johnson, 1999
An outpatient physician makes a case for open software
for the electronic patient record.
Practical Software Engineering – Social, Ethical and
Professional Issues. Course outline by Rob Kremer
Includes outlines of the ACM and IEEE codes of ethics,
including brief case studies. This article includes a reprint
of those codes in a relatively easy to read format.
Bibliography includes references from CACM and IEE.
This article includes a reprint of those codes.
Ethics On The World Wide Web – bibliography of
medical ethics web sites
Also related pages on computers and other ethical areas
Towards ethical guidelines for e-health: JMIR (Journal
of Medical Internet Research) Theme Issue on eHealth
Ethics – January 2001
Their editorial outlines issues in online medical ethics,
including a swipe at the HONCode (which is answered on
the HON site at:
EHealth Code of Ethics
On Wednesday, May 24, 2000 the eHealth Ethics
Initiative introduced an International Code of Ethics for
health care sites and services on the Internet. The event
took place at the Dirksen Senate Building in Washington,
Internet Healthcare Coalition home page -
EHealth Ethics Initiative -
Code of Ethics -
(PDF download in English and Spanish from this page)
Anyone who users the Internet for health-related reasons
has a right to expect that organizations and individuals who
provide health information, products or services online will
uphold the following guiding principles
1. Candor: Disclose information that if known by
consumers would likely affect consumers’
understanding or use of the site or purchase or use of a
product or service.
2. Honesty: Be truthful and not deceptive
3. Quality: Provide health information that is accurate,
easy to understand,and up-to-date.
Provide the information users need to make their own
judgements about the health information, products or
services provided by the site.
4. Informed Consent: Respect users’ right to determine
whether or how their personal information may be
collected, used, or shared.
5. Privacy: Respect the obligation to protect users’
6. Professionalism in Online Health Care: Respect
fundamental ethical obligations to patients and clients.
CHI2001 Panel Proposal Page 10 Ethics in HCI
Inform and educated patients and clients about the
limitations of online health care.
7. Responsible Partnering: Ensure that organizations and
sites with which they affiliate are trustworthy.
8. Accountability: Provide meaningful opportunity for
users to give feedback to the site.
Monitor their compliance with the eHealth Code of
Health on the Net Foundation
This organization was founded out of a 1995 international
conference on The Use of the Internet and World-Wide
Web for Telematics in Healthcare. One of their projects is a
Code of Conduct available in 17 languages. Sites can apply
for membership and the site includes a checklist for
validation. It is primarily concerned with how clearly the
source of both data and funding for a site can be determined
as well as whether privacy and advertising policies are
Health on the Net
HON Code of Conduct for medication and health web sites
(English version) –
The HONCode includes statements on:
1. Authority
2. Complementarity
3. Confidentiality
4. Attribution
5. Justifiability
6. Transparency of authorship
7. Transparency of sponsorship
8. Honesty in advertising and editorial policy
... • Always follow guidelines from Ethics in HCI [195], the ACM Special Interest ...
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The border of computer technology and human beings have become ambiguous, where they are integrated and merged with each other. The human body is being modified and even artificial components are implanted inside the body. However, we often face fear or anxiety in such approaches, due to the unclearness of safety and threat of social acceptance. There has been an interest in using surface electrodes and electricity to modify the body without direct implants to the body. I consider this approach to be positioned between wearables and implants, where artificial electrical signals are applied inside the body from the outside surface. In this thesis, I call this approach “Electrical Body Hacks.” This thesis aims to bridge the gap between wearables and cyborgs (implants), by practice through electrical body hacks, and to increase the acceptance of such attempts by developing an experimental platform. However, electricity is not completely safe for the human body. The knowledge required for such consideration is spread throughout a large number of research fields. Therefore, I start by reviewing previous research pertaining to HCI in which users come into contact with electricity, as well as safety consideration and guidelines. As a practice for my approach, we present a multi-channel electrical muscle stimulation (EMS) toolkit, in order to ease the access of users for electrical body hacks. We organized a workshop and found that multi-channel EMS has a significant demand for human augmentation purposes. To explore cognitive understandings of EMS on an unacceptable body part, I present studies of EMS applied on a human face. EMS may stimulate the face to express emotions through the facial muscle actuation, which may work better for negative emotions. Furthermore, a user study was performed to explore the effect of our approaches with combinations with virtual reality (VR) contents, which was found effective to enhance the experience. Finally, we present an approach which allows a human body to activate low-power electronic devices by touching them, and to present application domains that overlap with wearable and cyborg approaches. Consideration for the acceptability of such systems are key issues, and discussions are required. Therefore, I present a careful discussion to address this issue, and to help increase the acceptability of the research area and future work. I envision future development and research of body modification to be more safe and acceptable for human augmentation.
... This is also the case when evaluating educational tools. Other issues to be considered which are presented by Molich (2001) include; the manner in which the results of an evaluation are reported. ...
... -EMS should be never used by people that do not know or do not understand the safety issues or how EMS works. -Always follow guidelines from Ethics in HCI [118], the ACM Special Interest Group on Human-Computer Interaction (SIGCHI) [170], and the American Psychological Association [2]. ...
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The human body has unique electrical characteristics. These characteristics have been investigated in various studies in human-computer interaction (HCI) and related research fields. Such studies include applications for using the body as a conductive lead for transmission or electric field sensing and activating human muscles or organs. However, electricity is not completely safe for the human body; therefore, to avoid harming users, careful consideration is essential when developing such devices. The knowledge required for such consideration is spread throughout a large number research fields, and it can be difficult for researchers in the HCI field to comprehend all of them. The purpose of this article is to support researchers in developing systems that apply electricity to the human body and to serve as a basis for further research. This article reviews previous research pertaining to HCI in which users come into contact with electricity. In addition, considerations of how and where this type of research can be expanded, along with guidelines grounded in other fields for designing systems safely and addressing ethical concerns, are presented. An understanding of the field and of the related safety issues will enhance the understanding of limitations and potential and can clarify the design space.
... This is also the case when evaluating educational tools. Other issues to be considered which are presented by Molich (2001) include; the manner in which the results of an evaluation are reported. ...
... This student is given a firm understanding of what is involved when dealing with real people, as he or she will do once gainfully employed. More specifically, the implications of the ethical principles from Table 1 are highlighted by examining published cases [6] and by considering the implications of each principle. In particular, a discussion of the need for free and informed consent leads to an appreciation of its affect on human dignity, the importance of privacy and confidentiality, and minimization of harm. ...
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Ethics and usability testing are increasingly important parts of a modern computer science education, given the changing profile of computer science employment and the increased focus on privacy. This paper introduces the concept of a participant pool, a means to recruit participants for research, which can be a valuable tool in teaching usability testing and ethics. It has a role in an overall emphasis on software quality and the importance of research. It can also help to increase the profile of this research and the desirability of a Computer Science degree to the larger population.
It was explored that instructions for manual industrial installation are better than instructions on a stationary monitor in a head-worn Virtual Reality Display (AR-HWD). A prototype consisting of virtual instruction screens was designed for two instance assembly tasks. In a comparative analysis, participants carried out the tasks with instructions through an AR-HWD and a stationary screen. The task performance and user experience were measured through questionnaires, interviews, and observation notes. The study showed that the consumers had the enjoyment of exploring the technology and were enthusiastic. The perceived utility in the current situation was different, but the users saw a tremendous opportunity for the future with AR-HWDs. The accuracy of the task with the ARHWD directions was as strong as on the screen. AR-HWDs are a better solution than a stationary screen, but technical limitations are required and new technology employees need to be educated in order to make their application effective.
Conference Paper
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Recent years have seen growing interest in 'ethics' within the Child-Computer Interaction (CCI) community. In this paper, we take stock of 18 years of CCI research by conducting a systematic literature study exploring how and to what extent ethics has been dealt with in the community's leading venues: the Interaction Design and Children (IDC) conference and the International Journal of Child-Computer Interaction (CCI). Searching all papers in the IDC conference proceedings and IJCCI, 157 papers were found that use the word stem 'ethic*'. Based on our analysis of these papers, our study demonstrates that while ethics is frequently mentioned, the literature remains underdeveloped in a number of areas including definition and theoretical basis, the reporting of formal ethical approval procedures , and the extent to which design and participation ethics is dealt with. Based on our study we provide five avenues of future research in the interests of developing a more explicit discourse on ethics in CCI.
The cost to society of mental illness is substantial. A large scale international study has identified mental illnesses as the second leading cause of disability and premature mortality in the developed world [Murray, C.L., Lopez, A.D. (Eds.), 1996. The Global Burden of Disease: A comprehensive assessment of mortality and disability from disease, injuries, and risk factors in 1990 and projected to 2020. Harvard University, Cambridge, MA]. Unfortunately, research also suggests that the majority of people suffering from treatable mental health disorders do not have access to the required treatment. Furthermore, even when treatment is accessible many sufferers are unable to successfully engage with professional services [Surgeon General, 1999. Mental Health: A Report of the Surgeon General – Executive Summary, Department of Health and Human Services, Washington, DC, Retrieved August 2006, from; WHO World Mental Health Survey Consortium, 2004. Prevalence, severity, and unmet need for treatment of mental disorders in the World Health Organization World Mental Health Surveys. Journal of the American Medical Association, 291(21)]. Computer assisted mental health interventions have the potential to help in addressing this imbalance. However, a review of literature shows that to date this potential has been largely unexplored. One of the primary reasons for this is that few researchers from a HCI or technical background have engaged in this area. The primary purpose of this paper is to provide a foundation and set an agenda for future research on the design of technology for talk-based mental health interventions. Theoretical approaches to the treatment of mental illness are reviewed, as is previous research on the use of technology in this area. Several significant factors effecting design and evaluation are identified and based on these factors a broad set of design guidelines are proposed to aid the development of new technologies. Of the issues identified, ethical requirements along with the sensitivity and stigma associated with mental illness pose particular challenges to HCI professionals. These factors place strict limitations on access to mental health care (MHC) settings by non-MHC professionals and create difficulties for the direct application of traditional HCI methods, such as participatory, user-centred and iterative design. To overcome these difficulties this paper proposes a model for collaborative design and evaluation, involving both HCI and MHC professionals. The development of adaptable technologies is an important element of the proposed approach. The final contribution of the paper is to suggest future research directions and identify ways in which HCI researchers can contribute to this work.
Conference Paper
HCI as a field comfortably and unquestionably links itself with the corporate world. What does this mean in terms of an ethics of problem choice, meaning the considerations that influence what types of design projects HCI researchers consider as important? Using the work of the industrial designer Victor Papanek, I foreground the agency of the designer. By undertaking a close reading of a recent publication of a major corporate research lab, I examine what important social and political aspects are missing from their vision of the future. I end by examining the work of the design team Anthony Dunne and Fiona Raby, describing how HCI can be involved in the formation of new forms of subjectivity that are not subservient to a market-based ideology.
Technologies have always influenced people's lives and how they lead them, but for the most part, their effects on people's attitudes and behaviors have been incidental, even accidental. For example, automobiles and highways helped create the American suburbs, but they were not invented with the intent of persuading tens of millions of people to commute to work every day. Early computer spreadsheets gave people the number-crunching abilities needed to model future financial decisions, but did not advise people to take particular actions or reward them for what their designers might have viewed as "good" choices. Only recently have technologies emerged that are actively persuasive in their own right, artifacts created primarily to change attitudes and behaviors of their users. The study of such technologies is called "captology." What if home financial planning software persuaded its users to invest in the stock market? And what if the market then crashed, leaving the users in financial ruin? Or, more subtly, what if the makers of the software arranged with certain companies to "push" their particular stocks? Would such designs differ in a morally relevant reporting information, the technology risks being contradicted and thus devalued as a persuasive agent. The user might subsequently mistrust all persuasive technologies. Therefore, established computer credibility is valuable for persuasive purposes and for many other applications in society Most humans anticipate dishonesty in other humans, sensing it to varying degrees. They do not, however, expect dishonesty from technology, nor do they have any instinctive aptitude for detecting it. To safeguard this credibility and avoid its abuse, authors of this article therefore propose another principle for the design of persuasive technology. These technologies must not misinform in order to achieve their persuasive ends. INSETS: From the Dark Side; Pack-a-Day Parent.
Videotape has become one of the CHI community's most useful technologies: it allows us to analyze users' interactions with computers, prototype new interfaces, and present the results of our research and technical innovations to others. But video is a double-edged sword. It is often misused, however unintentionally. How can we use it well, without compromising our integrity? This paper presents actual examples of questionable videotaping practices. Next, it explains why we cannot simply borrow ethical guidelines from other professions. It concludes with a proposal for developing usable ethical guidelines for the capture, analysis and presentation of video. KEYWORDS: HCI professional issues, video editing, ethics, social computing. INTRODUCTION The lights dim in the plenary talk at CHI'95. You settle back in your seat to hear from one of the early innovators in HCI - in fact, your former thesis advisor from a decade ago. As expected, he is an entertaining speaker. He quickly has the...
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Mackay, W.E. Ethics, Lies and Videotape, in Proceedings of CHI '95 (Denver CO, May 1995), ACM Press, 138-145.
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Nielsen, J. Usability Engineering. Academic Press, San Diego CA, 1993. Ethics in HCI
Online Experiments: Ethically Fair or Foul? By B Online Experiments: Ethically Fair or Foul? By B. Azar. APA Monitor Volume 31(4), April 2000.
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Bowyer, K. W. Ethics and Computing Living Responsibly in a Computerized World (Second Edition). IEEE Press: Piscataway, NJ, 2001.
A Column in The New York Times Sunday Magazine. (requires registration)
  • R The Columns Cohen
  • Ethicist
Columns Cohen, R. The Ethicist. A Column in The New York Times Sunday Magazine. (requires registration).