Ethical Behaviour -Computer-assisted systems

Being up to date on current ethical and legal issues with regards to the use of computer-assisted career information, advice and guidance systems.

CPD Assessments
Ethical Behaviour - Computer-assisted systems

Ethical Behaviour - Computer-assisted systems

Case Study

Simphiwe loves career development as he believes that he empowers each and every learner who walks through his doors. He normally keeps lots of print media so that students can read and take this information home with them. After Covid-19 hit the world, the effects of this pandemic have been far-reaching. Simphiwe had to adapt the way he interacted with students. The focus rapidly shifted to using online tools to facilitate information exchange. Simphiwe was concerned that students lacked fancy technology, but he did his best to use the tools available to learners. This meant that Simphiwe had to make use of cell phones to get his message across. He also had to ensure that learners' rights and privacy were maintained at all times. He bought a separate cell phone which was locked by pin codes and used this for his dealings with learners. He also sends out pdf documents using WhatsApp and arranges sessions with students via WhatsApp as this was much cheaper than regular calls. Simphiwe contacted the South African Career Development Association (SACDA) for more guidelines on using computer-assisted methods. SACDA was able to provide guidelines for computer-assisted interactions.


There is now a bigger need than ever for career development practitioners who can provide accessible information to individuals within South Africa. Our economy has seen many fluctuations coupled with the high unemployment rate.

There is unequal service delivery resulting from past discriminatory policies which still have not been fully eradicated by reprioritising of resources. Rural areas are especially under-serviced and geographical distance complicates service delivery further.

The increasing demand for career development practitioners needs to be met with a high level of innovation, resources and tools. Practitioners need to seize the opportunities that technology provides and use this to empower the learners of the country.

What is a computer-assisted career services delivery?

Computer-assisted career services delivery is a technology-based, individually-operated platform that encourages career choice and exploration. Computer-assisted service delivery can include:

  • A career assessment tool (with automated scoring).
  • Career-related information, for example educational videos or reading materials.
  • Decision-making guidance with paths relating to career.
  • Online information sharing sessions or online counselling sessions.

When learners have to make an important career choice, they might want to access university e-brochures and e-catalogues or might request an application form and financial aid materials. Some might require information about the nature of a particular job. Whatever the need, more and more people rely on technology to obtain information. 

The delivery of services using technology has a definite advantage in terms of its reach, however careful considerations need to be made when using electronic services. The most important consideration is that the service provides quality and aims to do no harm to the client. Practitioners need to constantly ensure that they maintain the best practice and ethical delivery of services.

The South African Career Development Association (SACDA) provides guidelines for best practices and ethical direction when using technology in Career Development Practice and this complements the Code of Ethics of SACDA.

Career Development Practitioners
The ethical guideline for the use of technology in career development is applicable to all practitioners in the field of career development. This includes the following categories: 
  • Career Information Officers
  • Advanced Career Development Practitioners
  • Specialist Career Development Practitioners

Other ethical codes and regulations may apply to the Advanced Career Development Practitioner and Specialist Career Development Practitioner, such as those registered under the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA).

1.2.  Career Development

1.3 Electronic Career Development
The Guidelines apply to the use of any electronic technology to provide information to the public, deliver services to clients, communicate with and about clients, manage confidential information and case records, and store and access information about clients.
Examples of the types of technological media include, but is not limited to:
  • Telephone (landline or cell phone)
  • Fax machine
  • Scanner
  • Printer
  • Photocopy machine
  • Email
  • Text messaging
  • Asynchronous text
  • Webcam/videoconferencing (e.g. Zoom, Skype, Meet, Jitsi)
  • Virtual reality/avatar
  • Online evaluation and assessment
  • Apps, such as Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter and LinkedIn
  • Content-sharing platforms such as YouTube and Instagram
  • Personal and professional blogs including email, SMS and electronic journals
  • Internet discussion forums
  • Comment section of websites
  • Wearable technologies
  • Photos
  • Videos such as podcast
  • Audio
  • Career Development online programmes
  • Electronic Self-directed/Narrative Assessment tools
  • Office management software, such as scheduling programs and client records


2.1 General Responsibility

All practitioners have an ethical responsibility to clients. They have to abide by the following ethical guidelines at all times:

  • Practitioners must respect the dignity, human worth and autonomy of each client when using electronic technology. 
  • Clients participate fully in the career development process and their right to make their own choices is respected. 
  • Clients are treated impartially and in a fair and just manner.
  • Career Development Practitioners always act in the best interest of the client.
  • Career Development Practitioners display a tolerant attitude to all individuals and respect that they may hold different values, attitudes, beliefs and opinions.
  • Career Development Practitioners acknowledge and take full responsibility for the legal and ethical risks involved in the electronic provision of Career Development.
  • In practice, Career Development Practitioners often experience dual loyalty situations where they have simultaneous obligations. This causes a conflict of interest or an ethical dilemma. Ethical dilemmas in electronic Career Development are solved through a process of considering the problem, listing options or solutions, assessing consequences of options, duties and rights involved in these options, consulting with other professionals and discussing the impact of options with the people involved. 

2.2 Boundaries

  • Professional boundaries must be kept between Career Development Practitioners and clients to ensure the avoidance of conflict of interest, negative influences on professional decision-making and ethical dilemmas, which can happen when they become personally involved with clients. 
  • Career Development Practitioners should not become 'friends' or 'follow' clients on Facebook and other social media platforms and they must apply their minds when they post publicly, since clients may search them (the practitioner) on the internet. 
  • They should use a separate address for email and separate Apps for professional and personal use. Communication on the internet has an effect on the relationship with the client, which is critical for the success of the Career Development process. 
  • Career Development Practitioners take cognisance of their scope of practice when using electronic tools. They consult with the owner of the electronic tool to make an informed decision under which conditions an electronic intervention/tool can be used by them, for example qualification and training required.
Consider the following:
  • What will the costs and benefits of posting information on blogs, comments, tweets be in terms of the professional relationship or own professional status?
  • Will communication affect the relationship with the client?
  • Does the disclosure threaten professional credibility?
2.3 Confidentiality
South Africa has laws that govern which information is collected, stored and disclosed, as well as the rules under which this must be done. These are the Protection of Personal Information Act, 2013, Promotion of Access to Information Act, 2002, the Electronics Communications and Transactions Act, 2002, the National Health Act, 2013, the Health Professions Act, 1974 and their Regulations. The South African Career Development Association Code of Ethics, HPCSA Booklet 4 on Informed Consent and HPCSA Booklet 5 on Confidentiality also provide Guidelines on the protection of the client's privacy. Career Development Practitioners need to know the content of these laws and their applications.
  • A website carrying Career Development content must carry basic security information, such as the privacy of the client's information and whether the information transmitted will be encrypted. 
  • A disclaimer is provided that although all security measures are taken to protect private information, there might be unforeseen circumstances for which the organisation cannot be held responsible.
  • The client must sign an acceptance of the waiver.
  • Once an organisation collects sensitive data, that organisation is fully responsible for the security of the data.
  • Career Development Practitioners are also individually responsible for the security of data. Users can be traced via an IP address and held accountable for their communications.
  • A Privacy Policy is critical when practicing online. Guidelines on the content of a Privacy Policy can be found in Appendix A. Consideration must be given to do a Privacy Impact Assessment on each technology used - see Appendix B for Guidelines.
  • The stronger the level of sensitivity of the information, the stronger the security needs to be. Client information is the most sensitive information and must have the strongest security measures in place.
  • Clients must be identified by means of code words, numbers or other non-descriptive identifiers and end-to-end encryption is advised in all communication.
  • Career Development resources and tools must be protected by copyright.
  • Developers of Career Development resources and tools must indicate the level of sensitivity of their resources and tools, who should have access to them and use them, as well as qualifications and training required.
  • They must also indicate the level of access to resources, for example, type of licences, open access and acknowledgement to author/developer.
  • The Career Development Practitioner must obtain permission from the client before interviews/group sessions are recorded via video.
  • Clients should be informed about possible risks and implications thereof and debriefed afterwards.
Informed consent
  • Client information must be handled with the utmost security. 
  • Informed consent must be obtained before any electronic intervention, such as career assessments, self-exploration exercises and life skills programmes are performed on clients.
  • The Career Development Practitioner must ensure that the client has the capacity to consent, inform the client about the nature, risks and benefits of the anticipated services, the types of electronic transmissions (for example appointment scheduling) that will be done, confidentiality aspects of electronic Career Development and affirm that participation is voluntary.
  • Informed consent must also be obtained for the purposes of research, education and training, and publishing information in the media, in which cases the client must be portrayed anonymously.
  • Client information that must be sent electronically to a third party is only sent to recipients with secure sites. These third parties have the right to and need for the information and have been alerted to the confidentiality clauses and the consequences of breaching confidentiality. Such information is only released with written informed consent by the client for referral purposes, to other Career Development Practitioners assisting, upon the instruction of a court of law or in the case of public interest.
  • Sharing of information with a significant other of the client, also electronically, must be discussed with the client and agreement reached on what should be kept confidential. 

Data protection

  • Career Development Practitioners must plan the security aspects of their data to be cyber safe. A risk management plan must be developed to protect hardware and software. 
  • There is always a risk that information can be disseminated, even in so-called "invisible" groups, for example through internet browsers that use cache and cookie systems. Even if a post is deleted, it may have already been copied by other users before it has been deleted.
  • Data protection can be ensured through anti-virus and anti-malware software, such as Bitdefender, McAfee, or Norton; updated browsers and operating systems; encrypted discs and portable storage devices.
  • All devices must be locked and password protected. Use a data removal app in cases where devices are stolen and lock up printouts of passwords and client data.
  • Hardware, such as computers and tablets, can be recycled if they have sensitive information on them. The hard drive should be removed before recycling.
  • All information on cell phone devices must be stored on SIM cards before recycling the phone. Unless the SIM card is transferred to a new phone, the SIM card must be destroyed.

Verifying client identity

When obtaining the biographical details of clients, identity must be verified against another source either through checking against their identity documents, student numbers or employee numbers. This becomes very important, especially when working with clients' assessment results. The assessment results must be relevant to the person assessed. The case notes of one client can also not be used to continue with another client. The correct information must be used when referring a client to a third party, such as an employer.  Verifying the identity of a client can improve the reliability and validity of the service provided. The protection of identity is also compulsory in terms of legal and ethical requirements. A password and second-level authentication are, in all cases, essential to protect and verify identity.

Choosing a Technology or Modality
  • In choosing the technology or modality, the Career Development Practitioner must consider the needs of the client, their education level, cultural aspects, gender, age and computer literacy, to establish whether the technology is appropriate.
  • Consideration must be given to the client's familiarity with the technology/program/app used. 
  • The Career Development Practitioner must also consider the organisational environment, such as needs of the organisation, competency level of Career Development Practitioners and training required, platform or program required, implementation methodology, copyright issues and storing of records, computer and funding availability. 
  • The advice of an Information Technology practitioner must be sought around the compatibility of the resource's technical requirements as opposed to the technology available in the organisation, adaptations required and cost implications. 
  • Software media such as assessment questionnaires might for example require pay per use, which can become very expensive. The number of users that may access the resource is important and has an impact on costs.
  • Another pertinent issue is whether the technology can be adapted for differently-abled persons. Consider evidence-based data regarding the technology in question and its application to the specific Career Development content. 
  • Possible negative impact on clients and the organisation must be considered. 
Other considerations for choice of technology include:
  • The functionality of the software (degree of performance against purpose).
  • Reliability - ability to provide functionality under given conditions.
  • Usability - ease of use.
  • Efficiency - the ability of the program to be managed effectively.
  • Maintainability - the ease with which modifications can be made.
  • Reliability – means the number of times the program fails.
  • Portability - the ease with which software can be transferred to another platform.
  • Robustness - the degree with which the program can function despite invalid data throughput.
  • Integrity - the degree to which unauthorised access can be prevented.
The choice of technology to suit career advice is dependent on a few factors such as the purpose of the career advice, impact on the relationship between practitioner and client, type and length of the message to be conveyed, the turnaround time of service delivery required and circumstances impacting service delivery. Examples are:
  • Webcam - delivery of career information sessions over a distance when face-to-face delivery is impossible (for example during Covid-19 lockdown)
  • Telephones - helplines for career information (quick turnover of service)
  • Internet - online practice, using email for online practicing and self-help workbooks to teach CV-writing and interviewing skills
  • Internet - Career Information websites and fact sheets, which are lengthy and content-loaded
  • Web-based or standalone computers - self-directed questionnaires for accuracy of results
  • Email/SMS - follow-up and referrals to jobs (flexibility of access in terms of time when service can be accessed)
  • Twitter - micro career advice such as tips on study methods
  • Instagram - motivational messages about careers
  • Apps – LinkedIn
Technology often creates an impersonal relationship with the Career Development Practitioner, whilst relationship qualities such as empathy, warmth and respect, promote the transfer of Career Development content.  Electronic Career Development can cause social disinhibition or over-familiarity in a professional relationship, leading to disrespect, because both the Career Development Practitioner and the client can obtain private information about each other through apps such as Facebook. The Career Development Practitioner should carefully reinstate professional boundaries, should a breach occur. Personal and professional social media accounts must be separated to maintain appropriate boundaries.

Electronic Career Development practice
  • Career Development can be practiced in either a private or organisational environment. 
  • In all practices the scope, deliverables and resource requirements for the electronic Career Development services should be outlined in detail. This will assist in determining the security requirements in the deliverables and resources more precisely.
  • Information Technology Practitioners can advise on which technological aids can be utilised to meet practice needs and how to secure data.
  • Minimum technology required in practice is usually a computer/laptop, a printer with printing, scanning, faxing and photocopying facilities and software as needed.
  • Legal advice must be obtained to ensure the service is compliant.
  • It is advisable to develop a security/risk plan with the probability of risks and ways to mitigate these around People, Technology, Operations, Data and Logistics (location of technology).
  • Content on an electronic Career Development system should include:
    • A security disclaimer.
    • A notice on technology failure and alternative measures.
    • A waiver for security breaches.
    • An informed consent acceptance note for information distribution, when necessary.
    • A registration system for clients according to biographic details.
    • Costing structure per service/item if applicable, bearing in mind not to overcharge clients who are learners or unemployed and have no income.
    • Scheduling system for individual and group sessions/assessments.
    • Case notes for individual clients, including dates of interviews, notes of interviews, assessment results, positive and negative outcomes of each interview.
    • A solution for recording practice notes for group sessions include the date of the session, type of session, clients who attended, what content was shared, assessment results, challenges that occurred and positive outcomes.
    • Assessment instruments.
    • Career Information.
    • Self-help aids and fact sheets.
    • Referral options, for example lists of organisations where assistance can be obtained, financial aid for further studies or social support, educational and training institutions, employers, other professionals and their speciality areas, advice and aids for clients from special groups, such as youth, persons with disabilities or ex-offenders.
    • Office management requirements, such as referral and account management system if required, reporting systems, as well as back-up records for seven years on a separate server. (Unauthorised people can access the normal server). A second back-up must be kept if possible or a data retrieval system must be in place.
    • Electronic career development must be supported by policies and procedures to cover several issues. These are issues such as legal adherence, competencies required for service, turnover times, which enquiries are suitable for electronic response and which content is too sensitive, periodic update of resources, aspects on record-keeping, follow-up, monitoring and reporting.
    • Other more practical aspects can cover how to identify clients, registering them on the system, booking sessions, booking of venues, setting up technology if required, delivering the session and reporting (the service flow).
    • Career Development Practitioners must also adhere to the organisation's policies around Information and Communications Technology.
    • When conducting an online practice, technology must not be used in isolation of personal contact with clients. Online practice requires much stricter privacy measures.
    • Career Development Practitioners use their own computers for responses to clients and do not share their passwords. They take care not to forward personal information to unintended third parties accidentally. Practitioners also need to be familiar with current phishing scams and be on the lookout so as not to fall victim.
    • Career Development Practitioners indicate their names and surname, telephone numbers, office address, qualifications and registration category at the bottom of their advice on all electronic communication.
    • Workshops scheduled on the website must indicate the objectives, presenter(s) and fees involved if any. Comparative remarks are not made between their own service and that of other organisations/professionals.
    • Career Development Practitioners must realise that personnel who have access to electronic client information and records and who are not trained in ethics, can cause security breaches. It is their responsibility to train them and control the use of the data. Electronic equipment must be kept in good working order.
    • Career Development Practitioners must ensure that their clients are intellectually, physically and emotionally capable of using electronic Career Development Services.
    • The client must also be able to access the technology in a safe and comfortable environment.
    • Wi-fi use is particularly prone to security breaches. Do not use free wi-fi in public places such as internet cafés or coffee shops – instead use your own data. Home wi-fi's should be secure if protected by a password.
    • If Career Development advice is shared online, it must be evidence-based and scientifically verifiable. Information published on the internet may be quoted out of context and consideration should be given to clarity of writing and communication. The same applies to communication between a Career Development Practitioner and client.
    • The provision of Career Development online can be regarded as direct evidence of the services rendered, with the result that Career Development Practitioners must consider all language in responses very carefully before they are sent off, to prevent legal risks regarding negative, poor or unethical service.
    • Negative and derogative remarks about clients, organisations and other practitioners in social media should be avoided and no prejudiced comments must be made, for example racist, disability or homophobic comments.
    • Career Development Practitioners must learn acceptable terminology around disability issues. The ability of other professionals is not reflected on negatively in electronic communication.
    • No fraudulent claims are made on electronic technology regarding education and credentials, services provided or degree of success thereof.
    • The registration Certificates of Career Development Practitioners allow them to practice in South Africa only. Should a client in another country be serviced electronically the jurisdiction of that country and the jurisdiction of South Africa will apply. 
Resources and copyright
  • Career Development is based on the use of resources to convey occupational information and life skills content such as decision-making, job-hunting, work ethics, adjusting to a learning and work environment and study methods. 
  • Assessment tools can be used in addition to identifying career interests and skills.
  • Electronic Career Development resources and tools are usually protected by: 
    • Copyright laws.
    • Rules about which category of professional (linked to the level of education), should use them.
    • Training required to use them. Developers of Career Development resources and tools must indicate the level of sensitivity of their resources and tools and who should have access to them in terms of qualification, as well as training programmes available to use them. 

Copyright must be respected in the use of resources and the development of derivatives. As a guideline, the following Creative Commons licenses are used commonly:

    • Exclusive right licence means that the licensee use the copyrighted work exclusively.
    • Limited use licence means the use of work only in a specific way.
    • Open access resources are free of charge and can be duplicated freely.
    • Creative Commons licences which are in the public domain for the purposes of making resources more openly available, but carry different copyright rules, such as:

      • CC BY means read, print, download, redistribute, download for text and data mining purposes, re-use portions in other works, sell or re-use for commercial purposes, as long as the author is attributed.
      • CC BY NC means to read, print, download, redistribute, translate, download for text and data mining purposes, re-use portions in other works, as long as the author is attributed. Not to be used for commercial use.
      • CC BY ND means attribution must be provided to the author and no derivatives may be made.
      • CC BY SA means the work can be tweaked, remixed for commercial purposes, as long as the original author is credited and the new derivative carries the same licence as the original. Derivatives will allow commercial use.
      • CC BY NC ND means to read, print, download, redistribute, translate, download for text and data mining purposes, re-use portions in other works, but not for selling or re-use for commercial purposes.
      • CC BY NC SA permits only non-commercial use of the work, and the author must be cited. A modified or adapted version of the work must carry a share-alike licence (same licence as the original work).
      In cases where Career Development Practitioners develop resources for their organisation, they must ensure that the materials are continuously updated and that they perform version control. Quality control is done regarding issues such as content, language, common layout and attractive appearance.
      Career Development Practitioners must note the registration level required to work with the resource, for example psychometric assessments which are classified by the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) must be used by registered Psychometrists, Counsellors and Psychologists only. 

      • The most important rule in record-keeping is to document all communications. These are handwritten and electronic notes of career development advice provided during first and follow-up sessions, all electronic communications such as emails and SMSs', referral letters, assessment results and audio-visual records/photos. 
      • The intake interview report should contain at least personal particulars of the client, the time, date and place of every interview, the proposed career advice plan, details of referrals, assessment results and proof of informed consent.
      • The information should eventually form a full historical case record of all personal and electronic contact with the client.
      • Practice records must be kept for seven years and databases must therefore be big enough to carry the data.
      • The purpose of record-keeping is to ensure continuous career advice service, to promote teaching and research for possible litigation purposes, for enquiry purposes and statistical purposes. Copies of records may be made available to clients in accordance with the Promotion of Access to Information Act, 2002.
      • Records can be stored on a computer compact disc, provided that protective measures are in place. Only CD-ROM technology is used that is designed to record data once, so that old information cannot be overwritten, but new information can be added. CDs and copies thereof must be encrypted and password-protected; a copy of a CD-ROM kept in the practitioner's room must be in read-only format; a back-up copy of the CD-ROM must be stored at a different site; effective security measures must be put in place to prevent unauthorised use.
      • Confirm the location of servers - records must be stored in South Africa. If the organisation or Information Technology provider changes, read the new Terms of Use to ensure security measures are still in place. Make sure that a back-up does not automatically back-up everything on the computer. Electronic Career Development records must be kept on a separate server. Establish whether the back-up is encrypted and who has access to it. "Zero-knowledge" back-up systems mean they cannot decrypt data, which means it can ensure confidentiality. Take extra care not to lose the password to decrypt these.
      Competencies of the practitioner
      Apart from appropriate qualifications to provide a certain level of depth of Career Development service or use specific tools and techniques, Career Development Practitioners must also have training in the particular resources they use, for example facilitation skills for the delivery of life skills programmes, as well as being familiar with the content of the life skills programme itself (for example work ethics).
      Venturing into electronic Career Development, there must be precise knowledge of legal and ethical issues around electronic provision, computer skills and how to encrypt messages. Basic competencies related to the use of technology include:
      • Encryption: How to access encrypted services to store records and deliver communication.
      • Back-up systems: How to securely store records and data on own/a separate secure encrypted system.
      • Password protection: How to create strong passwords, use different passwords for each website and changing a password regularly.
      • Firewalls: The function of firewalls.
      • Virus protection: How to protect your system from viruses.
      • Hardware: Understand the running platform of your computer.
      • Software: Electronic programs available and how they are implemented, advantages and disadvantages as well as applicability.
      • Third-party services: Where the data is stored, how it is used and who has access.
      • Internet: Basic understanding of how the internet works.
      Career Development Practitioners must continuously strive to increase their knowledge of relevant issues to electronic Career Development, such as the provision of distance advice, online advice, online mentoring and supervision, online peer supervision/support, cyber-advice, text-based advice, tele-advice, social media, mixed reality, online relationships, second life, SMS text messaging, virtual worlds and reality and technology. 

      The benefits of technology to further the aims of career development seem to outweigh the potential dangers of using this platform. Practitioners need to be especially mindful of the harm that could be caused if the technology is not used appropriately and in a way to safeguard the interest of people. 

      Shared under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 2.0 South Africa (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 ZA) 

      This means you can share and adapt this work but not for commercial purposes. You will only need to include the following reference to the original content in all shared works.

      Kindly attribute as follows:

      Beukes, C. J., Mahadave, K., & Kanhai, K. (2022). Professional Development Portfolio for Career Development Practitioners (1st ed.)CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 ZA, 


      Karuna Mahadave

      Christopher John Beukes

      Assessment Reward

      You can earn 2.00 CPD point/s by completing and passing the self-assessment questionnaire for this article.

      Take the Assessment