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Computer Ethics

The Ethical principles which apply to everyday community life also apply to computing. Every member of Carnegie Mellon has two basic rights: Privacy and a fair share to resources. It is unethical for any person to violate these rights.


  • On shared computer systems, every user is assigned an ID. Nobody else should use an ID without express permission from the owner.
  • All files belong to somebody. They should be assumed to be private and confidential unless the owner explicitly made them available to others.
  • Messages sent to other users should always identify the sender.
  • Network traffic should be considered private.
  • Records relating to the use of computing and information resources are confidential.


  • Nobody should deliberately attempt to degrade or disrupt system performance or to interfere with the others.
  • Loopholes in computer security systems or knowledge of a special password should not be used to alter computer systems, obtain extra resources, or take resources from another person.
  • Computing equipment owned by departments or individuals should be used only with the owner's permission.
  • University resources are provided for university purposes. Any use of computing for commercial purposes or for personal financial gain must be authorized in advance. Many of the agreements the university has specially forbid this activity.
  • Computing and information resources are community resources. Theft, mutilation, and abuse of these resources violates the nature and spirit of community and intellectual inquiry.

System Administration

  • On rare occasions, computing staff may access others' files, but only when strictly necessary for maintenance of a system.
  • If a loophole is found in the security of any computer system, it should be reported to the system administrator immediately and not be used for personal gain or to disrupt the work of others.
  • The distribution of programs and databases is controlled by the copyright laws, licensing agreement and trade secret laws. These laws must be observed.

This code of ethics lays down the general guidelines for the use of computing and information resources. Failure to observe the code may lead to disciplinary action. Offenses which involve academic dishonesty will be considered particularly serious.

For Carnegie Mellon University's full Computing Policy, visit

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