The advent of computers and the Internet has changed the way we communicate, learn, and do business with each other. It has created new dynamics and interactions and with it, new ethical dilemmas.
The first time ethics as in 'Computer Ethics' is mentioned was in 1976 by a professor at Bowling Green State University by the name of Dr. Walter Maner. However, the concept had existed as early as the 1950's, when MIT professor Robert Weiner published a book titled 'Cybernetics'.
It is a theory of practical philosophy that takes a look at what developers and users can do with computers, contrasted to what they should. It also analyzes the moral and social acceptability of actions that happen strictly online, but can also have offline repercussions.
For example, Google is known to keep a record of every search you have done, with a record of when you did that search, and what links you clicked. So, the ethical dilemma becomes if it is morally justifiable or socially tolerable that one company can have such access to something you consider being a private activity. Can the fact it may help identify and capture dangerous criminals make it acceptable?
Similarly, the download of music or other copyrighted media is a heavily contested issue of computer ethics. Is it acceptable for a person who owns a music track to permanently share it with a friend, or does it constitute theft as argued by the music industry? And if it does constitute theft, is the responsibility with the one who shared, the one who received it or the online servers that facilitated the transfer?
Computer ethics is not a clear cut set of values, by any stretch. While some organizations have published basic standards and codes of ethics, the field itself is more a branch of philosophical thought than a list of industry accepted principles.