Professional Ethics in a Virtual World: The Impact of the Internet on Traditional Notions of Professionalism
- 318 Downloads
Numerous articles in the popular press together with an examination of websites associated with the medical, legal, engineering, financial, and other professions leave no doubt that the role of professions has been impacted by the Internet. While offering the promise of the democratization of expertise – expertise made available to the public at convenient times and locations and at an affordable cost – the Internet is also driving a reexamination of the concept of professional identity and related claims of expertise and standards of integrity.
This paper begins with a presentation of case studies illustrating the ease by which impostors infiltrate the ranks of professionals. Reports of individuals masquerading as professionals via the Internet often reveal that these imposters cause harm to the unwary victims who rely on assertions of professional expertise. Such reports motivated the authors to examine the origins and evolution of the traditional roles of professions and professionals in today’s society, as well as question how, or whether, the standards for professional practice have been adapted to the challenges posed by technology, i.e., do statements of professional ethics provide a ‘guiding light’ for practitioners and their clients in the cyber age? The authors challenge the professions to consider the notion that technology forces a confrontation between the guild-like aspects of a profession that have served, on the one hand, to protect a profession from encroachment and, on the other hand, have purportedly protected the public.
The authors conclude by presenting an examination of websites that show recognition of the challenges that the Internet poses to professionalism, as we have known it. Detailed discussion of the websites of two professions illustrates different approaches to responding to these challenges.
KeywordsDemocratization of information profession(s) professional ethics professional expertize professionalism
Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.
- American Bar Association, Center for Professional Responsibility: 2003, ‘Information for the Public’, http://www.abanet.org/cpr/Google Scholar
- American Bar Association, Law Practice Management Section: 2003, ‘elawyering Serving Society Through Technology’, http://www.elawyering.org/Google Scholar
- American Cancer Society: 2003, ‘American Cancer Society, Inc.’, http://www.cancer.org/docroot/home/index.aspGoogle Scholar
- Bayles, M. 1988‘Trust and the Professional-Client Relationship’Flores, A eds. Professional Ideals 67Wadsworth Publishing CompanyBelmontGoogle Scholar
- Brown R. (2001). ‘Jupiter Sees Solution for e-Healthcare’, www.line56.com/articles/Google Scholar
- Brust R. (2000). ‘ High-Tech Matchmaking’, ABA Journal June, 103Google Scholar
- Camenisch, P. 1983Grounding Professional Ethics in a Pluralistic SocietyHaven PublicationsNew York, NYGoogle Scholar
- Carter T. (2000). ‘Checkbook Credibility?’. ABA Journal June, 50–54Google Scholar
- Chicago-Kent College of Law, Illinois Institute of Technology. (2003). ‘The Justice Web Collaboratory’, http://www.kentlaw.edu/jwc/Google Scholar
- Federal Bureau of Investigation. (2000). ‘Press Release’, May 8Google Scholar
- Federated Press. (2001). ‘Federated Press Business and Legal Publishing’, http://www.federatedpress.com/Google Scholar
- Flores, A. 1988Professional IdealsWadsworth Publishing CompanyBelmont, CAGoogle Scholar
- Hamilton N. (2001). ‘Academic Tradition and the Principles of Professional Conduct’. Journal of College and University Law Winter, 611–612Google Scholar
- Healthwise. (2003). ‘Healthwise: For Every Health Decision’, http://www.healthwise.org/Google Scholar
- Hi-Ethics. (2000). ‘Health Internet Ethics’, http://www.hiethics.org/Google Scholar
- Internet Legal Services. (2003). ‘Legalethics.com Internet Legal Services’, http://www.legalthics.com/Google Scholar
- Lewis, M. 2001‘Faking It’The New York Times Magazine July.152644Google Scholar
- Lewis, M. 2001‘Jonathan Lebed’s Extracurricular Activities’The New York Times Magazine February.252666Google Scholar
- Meltsner, A., Bellavita, C. 1983The Policy OrganizationSage PublishingBeverly Hills, CAGoogle Scholar
- Moody L. (2001). ‘Ask A Lawyer.com The Local Link Between Consumers, Lawyers, and the Law’, http://www.askalawyer.com/Google Scholar
- National White Collar Crime Center and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. (2002). ‘ICFF 2002 Internet Fraud Report’, January 1, 2002–December 21, 2002, p. 7Google Scholar
- Newton, L. 1988‘Lawgiving for Professional Life: Reflections on the Place of the Professional Code’Flores, A eds. Professional Ideals 51Wadsworth Publishing CompanyBelmont, CAGoogle Scholar