Canadian Information Processing Society (CIPS)


(January 1985)


The field of information processing has a large impact on society. In turn society has the right to demand that practitioners in this field act in a manner which recognizes their responsibilities toward society, to demand that the practitioners are of the highest calibre, and to demand that a mechanism exist to protect society from those practitioners who do not, or can not, live up to these responsibilities. The standards contained in this document, and our agreement to adhere to these standards, is the response of the Canadian Information Processing Society to these rightful demands.


This document describes the code of Ethics and Standards of Conduct of the members of the Canadian Information Processing Society, with respect to their professional activities. It should not be construed to deny the existence of other ethical or legal obligations equally imperative, although not specifically mentioned.

First, the general standards and high ideals of the members of CIPS are described in the form of a Code of Ethics. Second, specific rules, the Standards of Conduct, elaborate each element of the Code in a manner which assists determination of whether or not specific activities of an individual violate the Code. They are intended to establish a minimum acceptable level of conduct, below which an individual may be said to be unethical. Third, there is a procedure which details the steps the society will follow in determining whether or not a violation of the rules has occurred, what disciplinary action is possible, and under what circumstances information will be released.

In total, this document describes the professional behaviour that members of CIPS demand of themselves and their peers. All members agree to live up to these standards when they join the Society, and reaffirm this commitment each time they renew their membership.

The Code of Ethics and Standards of Conduct deal with matters that are subject to judgement and are difficult to state absolutely. They contain words such as "authority", "competence", and "faithful" which must be judged in light of the professional and moral standards in effect at a given time and place. The enforcement procedures require peers to interpret the areas requiring judgement at the specific time of the complaint using the guidelines contained in this document.

Code of Ethics

The following statements are agreed to by all members of CIPS as a condition of membership.

I acknowledge that my position as an information processing professional carries with it certain important obligations, and I will take diligent personal responsibility for their discharge.

P) To the public: I will endeavour to protect the public interest and strive to promote understanding of information processing and its application, but will not represent myself as an authority on topics in which I lack competence.

M) To myself and my profession: I will guard my competence and effectiveness as a valuable possession, and work at maintaining them despite changing circumstances and requirements. Furthermore, I will maintain high personal standards of moral responsibility, character, and integrity when acting in my professional capacity.

F) To my colleagues: I will treat my colleagues with integrity and respect, and hold their right to success to be as important as my own. I will contribute to the professional knowledge of information processing to the best of my ability.

E) To my employer and management: I will give faithful service to further my employer's legitimate best interests through management's direction.

C) To my clients: I will give frank and careful counsel on matters within my competence, and guard my client's confidential information and private matters absolutely. In my capacity of provider of product or service, I will provide good value for my compensation, and will endeavour to protect the user of my product or service against consequential loss or harm.

S) To my students: I will provide scholarly education to my students in a sympathetic and helpful manner.

Standards of Conduct

The Code of Ethics is a set of ideals to which CIPS members aspire. The Standards of Conduct is intended to be more practicably enforceable. The following statements are agreed to by all members of CIPS as a condition of membership.

Due to my obligation to the public:

P1) I will not unreasonably withhold information pertinent to a public issue relating to computing.

P2) I will not disseminate, nor allow to go unchallenged, false or misleading information that I believe may have significant consequence.

P3) I will not offer information or advice that I know to be false or misleading, or whose accuracy is beyond my competence to judge.

P4) I will not seek to acquire, through my position or special knowledge, for my own or other's use, information that is not rightly mine to possess.

P5) I will obey the laws of the country, and will not counsel, aid, or assist any person to act in any way contrary to these laws.

P6) I will endeavour to enhance public understanding of information processing, particularly its current capabilities and limitations, and the role of the computer as tool, not an authority.

Due to my obligation to myself and my profession:

M1) I will not knowingly allow my competence to fall short of that necessary for reasonable execution of my duties.

M2) I will conduct my professional affairs in such a manner as to cause no harm to the stature of the profession.

M3) I will take appropriate action on reasonably certain knowledge of unethical conduct on the part of a colleague.

Due to my obligation to my colleagues:

F1) I will not unreasonably withhold information pertinent to my work or profession.

F2) I will give full acknowledgement to the work of others.

Due to my obligation to my employer and to my management:

E1) I will accept responsibility for my work, and for informing others with a right and need to know of pertinent parts of my work.

E2) I will not accept work that I do not feel competent to perform to a reasonable level of management satisfaction.

E3) I will guard the legitimate confidentiality of my employer's private information.

E4) I will respect and guard my employer's (and his supplier's) proprietary interest, particularly as regards data and software.

E5) I will respect the commercial aspect of my obligation to my employer.

Due to my obligation to my clients:

C1) I will be careful to ensure that proper expertise and current professional knowledge is made available.

C2) I will avoid conflicts of interest and give notice of potential conflicts of interest.

C3) I acknowledge that statements E1 to E5, cast in the employee/employer context, are also applicable in the consultant/client context.

Due to my obligation to my students:

S1 ) I will maintain my knowledge of information processing in those areas that I teach to a level exceeding curriculum requirements.

S3) I will treat my students respectfully as junior scholars, worthy of significant effort on my part.

Enforcement Procedures

It is essential that the Code of Ethics, and Standards of Conduct be supported with clear orderly, and reasonable enforcement procedures if the Society is to be able to discipline members who violate the Standards of Conduct. The enforcement procedures must be equitable to all parties, and must ensure that no actions are taken in an arbitrary or malicious manner. The following Enforcement Procedures have been designed with these points in mind.

The Complaint

The complaint must:

• be against a single individual, and

• be in writing, and

• cite the specific clause of the Standards of Conduct that is alleged to have been violated, and

• describe the specific action in question, and

• describe, in general terms, the substantial negative effect of that action upon the profession, the Society, a business, or an individual, and

• contain a statement that the specific action of the accused in question is or is not already or imminently [to the best knowledge of the complainant(s)] the subject of legal proceedings, and

• contain a signed statement that the facts are true to the best knowledge of the complainant(s).

This complaint must be sent to the National President of CIPS. The National President, or his delegate, will review the complaint to determine if it meets the above criteria. If it doesn't, it will be returned to the complainant(s) for possible change and re-submission. If the specific action of the accused is (imminently) the subject of legal proceedings, no further action will be taken until those proceedings are concluded. If the complaint is not rejected then, subject to legal advice, the accused member will be notified (by Registered Mail to last known address), provided with a copy of the complaint, and allowed 30 days to prepare a written rebuttal of the complaint if so desired. The President of the Section the accused belongs to will be notified. The rebuttal should address the same points as the complaint, and must also include a statement that the facts contained in the rebuttal are true to the best knowledge of the accused.

The National President of CIPS or his delegate shall review the complaint and, if available, the rebuttal, to determine if there is sufficient evidence to hold a full hearing. If it is determined that a full hearing is warranted, the full information will be forwarded to a three member Hearing Committee appointed within 30 days of the receipt of the rebuttal or of the last date allowed for receipt of the rebuttal.

The Hearing Process

The Hearing Committee shall adhere to the following procedure:

• The Hearing Committee will attempt to interview, at the expense of CIPS, the complainant(s), and the accused, plus any other parties with relevant information. The number of people interviewed, and the extent of the effort to secure interviews, is a matter of judgement by the Hearing Committee. The Hearing Committee will decide if the accused may be present during the interviews. If the accused is not allowed to be present during the interviews, the accused shall be provided with notes documenting the substance of the interviews.

• The accused will be afforded the opportunity for a full hearing, with the complainant present if desired by the accused.

• The Hearing Committee should have the services of legal counsel available as required. The accused, and the complainant, may obtain counsel, at their own expense, if either or both so desire.

• The Hearing Committee, after full and complete deliberation, will rule in writing as to the individual case.

Additional rules and procedures shall be established by the Hearing Committee as required in their judgement.

The Hearing Committee ruling may be:

1) a clearing of charges, or

2) a warning statement to the accused, or

3) suspension of national and local membership for a specified period of time, or

4) revocation of the current membership of the accused in the Society, and a statement of the accused's eligibility for other grades of membership.

5) Such other ruling as the Hearing Committee in its discretion sees fit. (e.g.: change letterhead, business cards to delete reference to being a member of CIPS).

The Hearing Committee will prepare an opinion on the particular case, that will cover the facts of the case, the action taken, and the reason for that action. This will be reviewed by the Executive Committee of the National Board of CIPS and by legal counsel at the discretion of the Executive Committee. When approved this opinion will be sent to the accused, who may consider exercising the Appeal Process.

Due diligence should be used to provide this opinion to the accused within 120 days of the receipt of the complaint by the Hearing Committee. If this is not possible, a letter should be sent to the National President of CIPS, with copies to the accused and complainant(s), requesting an extension of this limit, and stating the reason for this request.

The Appeal Process

If not satisfied with the ruling of the Hearing Committee, the accused may appeal to the Executive Committee of the National Board of CIPS within 30 days of issuance of the Hearing Committee opinion. If appealed, the following procedure will be used.

• The Executive Committee, at its next scheduled meeting, or at a special session, shall review the opinion, and any other information available, and shall determine if:

1) a substantive procedural error has been committed by the Hearing Committee, or

2) substantial new evidence has been produced.

• The accused and the complainant are permitted legal counsel at the Executive Committee appeal session.

• The Executive Committee shall determine if, in its sole judgement, one of the two above noted criteria have been established, in which case the council shall refer the matter back to the previous or a new Hearing Committee for further proceedings.

• The decision of the Executive Committee shall be final: there shall be no further appeal.

Publication and Record Retention

After the Appeal Process and any further proceedings have been exhausted or after completion of the time allowed to initiate an Appeal Process, the Opinion will be published in the appropriate CIPS publication if the ruling was a suspension or revocation of membership, and will be published at the request of the accused, if the ruling was a clearing of charges or issuing of warning statement.

The record of the Hearing Committee and all appropriate supporting documentation will be retained by National for five years. Response to queries may include statistical information that does not reveal detail about a specific complaint, such as the number of complaints processed, provided the approval of the Executive Committee is obtained, or responses may include copies of information previously published.

Any other information may be released only with the written permission of the Executive Committee, the accused, and the accuser(s).

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