Ethical Standard of the Month:
1.03 Informed Consent

Standard 1.03 of the NASW Code of Ethics was subject to significant revisions that were largely related to social workers’ policies and procedures concerning the use of technology in the provision of professional services. 

The revisions incorporate new standards that explicitly address the use of technology and the importance of offering consumers alternatives in the delivery of their services. Hence, this section, which previously included six standards, has now been expanded to include an additional standard.

In summary, clients should be informed about any technology being used, be presented with pros and cons related to its use, and given choices around how and when technology will be used.


  • Social workers who plan to use technology in service delivery should first take into account clients’ abilities and needs to determine clients’ suitability or capacity to both provide informed consent to the use of technology and benefit from this modality of service delivery. (1.03f and 1.03g)
  • Social workers should obtain informed consent before conducting electronic searches of clients. Exceptions may arise when the search is for the purpose of protecting the client or other people from foreseeable or imminent harm or for compelling professional reasons. (1.03i)