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Is it Time for a Professional Code of Ethics for DBAs?

The root of this blog post is witnessing one too many DBAs, either through direct action or indirectly by failing to act, damage or destroy the very databases they are charged with protecting.  In a sense, DBAs are the guardians of an extremely valuable corporate asset - its data.  But a large number of DBAs, while responsible for databases, have no idea how to be a proactive guardian of that data.  And, in my opinion, that is a moral and ethical breach more than it is a technical shortcoming.  This is even more important when we consider that some of these databases have a direct impact on human lives, particularly medical, security, and defense related data.  (I write more about this topic in my monthly column in Database Trends & Applications Magazine.)

When we consider other professions with a direct effect on human lives, we can see that they have all implemented professional codes of ethics.  Famously, the Hippocratic Oath of doctors is just the beginning.  "First, do no harm."  Professional Engineers (PE), whose buildings might fall down on our heads were they only motivated by maximizing profits, must adhere to seven fundamental canons.  Among them, PE's shall hold paramount the safety, health, and welfare of the public and that PE's shall perform services only in areas of their core competency.  Even professions that affect our finances (e.g., certified public accountants) and contractual obligations (e.g., lawyers) are sworn to uphold professional codes of ethics.

The Association for Computing Machinery has a rather long code of conduct for a variety of computer-related disciplines.  But the closest it gets to a DBA-type role is one for a systems engineer.  Certainly, it has some passages which are reusable, such as those related to conflicts of interest.  Honestly, though, it's not that close.  I think we need our own - a code of ethics for DBAs, database programmers, and BI professionals.

So - what do you think?  What are some ethical standards that we should aspire to?  What are some big ethical lapses that you've witnessed, and that we should be sure to avoid as true professionals?

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