As recommended by the IEEE-CS/ACM Joint Task Force on Software
Engineering Ethics and Professional Practices and jointly approved by the ACM and the
IEEE-CS as the standard for teaching and practicing software engineering. (Download the
pdf format here.)
The short version of the code summarizes aspirations at a high level of abstraction.
The clauses that are included in the full version give examples and details of how these
aspirations change the way we act as software engineering professionals. Without the
aspirations, the details can become legalistic and tedious; without the details, the
aspirations can become high sounding but empty; together, the aspirations and the details
form a cohesive code.
Software engineers shall commit themselves to making the analysis, specification,
design, development, testing and maintenance of software a beneficial and respected
profession. In accordance with their commitment to the health, safety and welfare of the
public, software engineers shall adhere to the following Eight Principles:
1 PUBLIC - Software engineers shall act consistently with the
2 CLIENT AND EMPLOYER - Software engineers shall act in a manner
that is in the best interests of their client and employer, consistent with the public
3 PRODUCT - Software engineers shall ensure that their products
and related modifications meet the highest professional standards possible.
4 JUDGMENT - Software engineers shall maintain integrity and
independence in their professional judgment.
5 MANAGEMENT - Software engineering managers and leaders
shall subscribe to and promote an ethical approach to the management of software
development and maintenance.
6 PROFESSION - Software engineers shall advance the integrity
and reputation of the profession consistent with the public interest.
7 COLLEAGUES - Software engineers shall be fair to and
supportive of their colleagues.
8 SELF - Software
engineers shall participate in lifelong learning regarding the practice of their
profession and shall promote an ethical approach to the practice of the
Computers have a central and growing role in commerce, industry, government, medicine,
education, entertainment and society at large. Software engineers are those who contribute
by direct participation or by teaching, to the analysis, specification, design,
development, certification, maintenance and testing of software systems. Because of their
roles in developing software systems, software engineers have significant opportunities to
do good or cause harm, to enable others to do good or cause harm, or to influence others
to do good or cause harm. To ensure, as much as possible, that their efforts will be used
for good, software engineers must commit themselves to making software engineering a
beneficial and respected profession. In accordance with that commitment, software
engineers shall adhere to the following Code of Ethics and Professional Practice.
The Code contains eight Principles related to the behavior of and decisions made by
professional software engineers, including practitioners, educators, managers, supervisors
and policy makers, as well as trainees and students of the profession. The Principles
identify the ethically responsible relationships in which individuals, groups, and
organizations participate and the primary obligations within these relationships. The
Clauses of each Principle are illustrations of some of the obligations included in these
relationships. These obligations are founded in the software engineer's humanity, in
special care owed to people affected by the work of software engineers, and in the unique
elements of the practice of software engineering. The Code prescribes these as obligations
of anyone claiming to be or aspiring to be a software engineer.
It is not intended that the individual parts of the Code be used in isolation to
justify errors of omission or commission. The list of Principles and Clauses is not
exhaustive. The Clauses should not be read as separating the acceptable from the
unacceptable in professional conduct in all practical situations. The Code is not a simple
ethical algorithm that generates ethical decisions. In some situations, standards may be
in tension with each other or with standards from other sources. These situations require
the software engineer to use ethical judgment to act in a manner which is most consistent
with the spirit of the Code of Ethics and Professional Practice, given the circumstances.
Ethical tensions can best be addressed by thoughtful consideration of fundamental
principles, rather than blind reliance on detailed regulations. These Principles should
influence software engineers to consider broadly who is affected by their work; to examine
if they and their colleagues are treating other human beings with due respect; to consider
how the public, if reasonably well informed, would view their decisions; to analyze how
the least empowered will be affected by their decisions; and to consider whether their
acts would be judged worthy of the ideal professional working as a software engineer. In
all these judgments concern for the health, safety and welfare of the public is primary;
that is, the "Public Interest" is central to this Code.
The dynamic and demanding context of software engineering requires a code that is
adaptable and relevant to new situations as they occur. However, even in this generality,
the Code provides support for software engineers and managers of software engineers who
need to take positive action in a specific case by documenting the ethical stance of the
profession. The Code provides an ethical foundation to which individuals within teams and
the team as a whole can appeal. The Code helps to define those actions that are ethically
improper to request of a software engineer or teams of software engineers.
is not simply for adjudicating the nature of questionable acts; it also has an
important educational function. As this Code expresses the consensus of the
profession on ethical issues, it is a means to educate both the public and
aspiring professionals about the ethical obligations of all software engineers.
Principle 1 PUBLIC
Software engineers shall act consistently
with the public interest. In particular, software engineers shall, as appropriate:
1.01. Accept full responsibility for their own work.
1.02. Moderate the interests of the software engineer, the employer, the client and the
users with the public good.
1.03. Approve software only if they have a well-founded belief that it is safe, meets
specifications, passes appropriate tests, and does not diminish quality of life, diminish
privacy or harm the environment. The ultimate effect of the work should be to the public
1.04. Disclose to appropriate persons or authorities any actual or potential danger to
the user, the public, or the environment, that they reasonably believe to be associated
with software or related documents.
1.05. Cooperate in efforts to address matters of grave public concern caused by
software, its installation, maintenance, support or documentation.
1.06. Be fair and avoid deception in all statements, particularly public ones,
concerning software or related documents, methods and tools.
1.07. Consider issues of physical disabilities, allocation of resources, economic
disadvantage and other factors that can diminish access to the benefits of software.
encouraged to volunteer professional skills to good causes and to contribute to
public education concerning the discipline.
Principle 2 CLIENT AND EMPLOYER
Software engineers shall act
in a manner that is in the best interests of their client and employer, consistent with
the public interest. In particular, software engineers shall, as appropriate:
2.01. Provide service in their areas of competence, being honest and forthright about
any limitations of their experience and education.
2.02. Not knowingly use software that is obtained or retained either illegally or
2.03. Use the property of a client or employer only in ways properly authorized, and
with the client's or employer's knowledge and consent.
2.04. Ensure that any document upon which they rely has been approved, when required,
by someone authorized to approve it.
2.05. Keep private any confidential information gained in their professional work,
where such confidentiality is consistent with the public interest and consistent with the
2.06. Identify, document, collect evidence and report to the client or the employer
promptly if, in their opinion, a project is likely to fail, to prove too expensive, to
violate intellectual property law, or otherwise to be problematic.
2.07. Identify, document, and report significant issues of social concern, of which
they are aware, in software or related documents, to the employer or the client.
2.08. Accept no outside work detrimental to the work they perform for their primary
Promote no interest adverse to their employer or client, unless a higher ethical
concern is being compromised; in that case, inform the employer or another
appropriate authority of the ethical concern.
Principle 3 PRODUCT
Software engineers shall ensure that
their products and related modifications meet the highest professional standards possible.
In particular, software engineers shall, as appropriate:
3.01. Strive for high quality, acceptable cost, and a reasonable schedule, ensuring
significant tradeoffs are clear to and accepted by the employer and the client, and are
available for consideration by the user and the public.
3.02. Ensure proper and achievable goals and objectives for any project on which they
work or propose.
3.03. Identify, define and address ethical, economic, cultural, legal and environmental
issues related to work projects.
3.04. Ensure that they are qualified for any project on which they work or propose to
work, by an appropriate combination of education, training, and experience.
3.05. Ensure that an appropriate method is used for any project on which they work or
propose to work.
3.06. Work to follow professional standards, when available, that are most appropriate
for the task at hand, departing from these only when ethically or technically justified.
3.07. Strive to fully understand the specifications for software on which they work.
3.08. Ensure that specifications for software on which they work have been well
documented, satisfy the users requirements and have the appropriate approvals.
3.09. Ensure realistic quantitative estimates of cost, scheduling, personnel, quality
and outcomes on any project on which they work or propose to work and provide an
uncertainty assessment of these estimates.
3.10. Ensure adequate testing, debugging, and review of software and related documents
on which they work.
3.11. Ensure adequate documentation, including significant problems discovered and
solutions adopted, for any project on which they work.
3.12. Work to develop software and related documents that respect the privacy of those
who will be affected by that software.
3.13. Be careful to use only accurate data derived by ethical and lawful means, and use
it only in ways properly authorized.
3.14. Maintain the integrity of data, being sensitive to outdated or flawed
Treat all forms of software maintenance with the same professionalism as new
Principle 4 JUDGMENT
Software engineers shall maintain
integrity and independence in their professional judgment. In particular, software
engineers shall, as appropriate:
4.01. Temper all technical judgments by the need to support and maintain human values.
4.02 Only endorse documents either prepared under their supervision or within their
areas of competence and with which they are in agreement.
4.03. Maintain professional objectivity with respect to any software or related
documents they are asked to evaluate.
4.04. Not engage in deceptive financial practices such as bribery, double billing, or
other improper financial practices.
4.05. Disclose to all concerned parties those conflicts of interest that cannot
reasonably be avoided or escaped.
Refuse to participate, as members or advisors, in a private, governmental or
professional body concerned with software related issues, in which they, their
employers or their clients have undisclosed potential conflicts of interest.
Principle 5 MANAGEMENT
Software engineering managers and
leaders shall subscribe to and promote an ethical approach to the management of software
development and maintenance. In particular, those managing or leading software engineers
shall, as appropriate:
5.01 Ensure good management for any project on which they work, including effective
procedures for promotion of quality and reduction of risk.
5.02. Ensure that software engineers are informed of standards before being held to
5.03. Ensure that software engineers know the employer's policies and procedures for
protecting passwords, files and information that is confidential to the employer or
confidential to others.
5.04. Assign work only after taking into account appropriate contributions of education
and experience tempered with a desire to further that education and experience.
5.05. Ensure realistic quantitative estimates of cost, scheduling, personnel, quality
and outcomes on any project on which they work or propose to work, and provide an
uncertainty assessment of these estimates.
5.06. Attract potential software engineers only by full and accurate description of the
conditions of employment.
5.07. Offer fair and just remuneration.
5.08. Not unjustly prevent someone from taking a position for which that person is
5.09. Ensure that there is a fair agreement concerning ownership of any software,
processes, research, writing, or other intellectual property to which a software engineer
5.10. Provide for due process in hearing charges of violation of an employer's policy
or of this Code.
5.11. Not ask a software engineer to do anything inconsistent with this Code.
Not punish anyone for expressing ethical concerns about a project.
Principle 6 PROFESSION
Software engineers shall advance
the integrity and reputation of the profession consistent with the public interest. In
particular, software engineers shall, as appropriate:
6.01. Help develop an organizational environment favorable to acting ethically.
6.02. Promote public knowledge of software engineering.
6.03. Extend software engineering knowledge by appropriate participation in
professional organizations, meetings and publications.
6.04. Support, as members of a profession, other software engineers striving to follow
6.05. Not promote their own interest at the expense of the profession, client or
6.06. Obey all laws governing their work, unless, in exceptional circumstances, such
compliance is inconsistent with the public interest.
6.07. Be accurate in stating the characteristics of software on which they work,
avoiding not only false claims but also claims that might reasonably be supposed to be
speculative, vacuous, deceptive, misleading, or doubtful.
6.08. Take responsibility for detecting, correcting, and reporting errors in software
and associated documents on which they work.
6.09. Ensure that clients, employers, and supervisors know of the software engineer's
commitment to this Code of ethics, and the subsequent ramifications of such commitment.
6.10. Avoid associations with businesses and organizations which are in conflict with
6.11. Recognize that violations of this Code are inconsistent with being a professional
6.12. Express concerns to the people involved when significant violations of this Code
are detected unless this is impossible, counter-productive, or dangerous.
Report significant violations of this Code to appropriate authorities when it is
clear that consultation with people involved in these significant violations is
impossible, counter-productive or dangerous.
Principle 7 COLLEAGUES
Software engineers shall be fair
to and supportive of their colleagues. In particular, software engineers shall, as
7.01. Encourage colleagues to adhere to this Code.
7.02. Assist colleagues in professional development.
7.03. Credit fully the work of others and refrain from taking undue credit.
7.04. Review the work of others in an objective, candid, and properly-documented way.
7.05. Give a fair hearing to the opinions, concerns, or complaints of a colleague.
7.06. Assist colleagues in being fully aware of current standard work practices
including policies and procedures for protecting passwords, files and other confidential
information, and security measures in general.
7.07. Not unfairly intervene in the career of any colleague; however, concern for the
employer, the client or public interest may compel software engineers, in good faith, to
question the competence of a colleague.
situations outside of their own areas of competence, call upon the opinions of
other professionals who have competence in that area.
Principle 8 SELF
Software engineers shall participate in
lifelong learning regarding the practice of their profession and shall promote an ethical
approach to the practice of the profession. In particular, software engineers shall
continually endeavor to:
8.01. Further their knowledge of developments in the analysis, specification, design,
development, maintenance and testing of software and related documents, together with the
management of the development process.
8.02. Improve their ability to create safe, reliable, and useful quality software at
reasonable cost and within a reasonable time.
8.03. Improve their ability to produce accurate, informative, and well-written
8.04. Improve their understanding of the software and related documents on which they
work and of the environment in which they will be used.
8.05. Improve their knowledge of relevant standards and the law governing the software
and related documents on which they work.
8.06 Improve their knowledge of this Code, its interpretation, and its application to
8.07 Not give unfair treatment to anyone because of any irrelevant prejudices.
8.08. Not influence others to undertake any action that involves a breach of this Code.
8.09. Recognize that personal violations of this Code are inconsistent with being a
professional software engineer.
This Code was
developed by the IEEE-CS/ACM joint task force on Software Engineering Ethics and
Professional Practices (SEEPP):
Executive Committee: Donald Gotterbarn
Keith Miller and Simon Rogerson;
Members: Steve Barber, Peter Barnes, Ilene Burnstein, Michael
Davis, Amr El-Kadi, N. Ben Fairweather, Milton Fulghum, N. Jayaram, Tom Jewett,
Mark Kanko, Ernie Kallman, Duncan Langford, Joyce Currie Little, Ed Mechler,
Manuel J. Norman, Douglas Phillips, Peter Ron Prinzivalli, Patrick Sullivan,
John Weckert, Vivian Weil, S. Weisband and Laurie Honour Werth.
Copyright 1999 by the Institute of Electrical
and Electronics Engineers, Inc, and the Association for Computing Machinery, Inc.
This code may be republished without permission as long as it is not changed in any way and it carries the copyright notice.