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Ethics in Software Development


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This presentation considers the Code of Conduct adopted by Association for Computing Machinery, and of raises a number of ethical questions related to the fields of IT and software development. We will discuss real-world cases of software producers facing ethical dilemmas, and how these dilemmas can be approached. The topics include considerations of privacy and information sharing, failing to deliver a service, security vulnerabilities and bugs, and building software that encourages evil behavior.

IT professionals wield a lot of power in today’s society. The ways technology influences society can be overt and subtle, immediate and long-lasting, bring out the best and the worst in people at large. We all need to be better informed to make ethical and moral choices in our work.

Published in: Technology
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Ethics in Software Development

  1. 1. ETHICS in software development Jane Prusakova @jprusakova
  2. 2. Professional Code of Conduct • What is right and proper? • Questions of morality • What should always or never be done?
  3. 3. Jeff Atwood, “Coding Horror”
  4. 4. Jeff Atwood, “Coding Horror”
  5. 5. Moral questions are hard • IT is truly global • Effects and results of a technology can occur far away and a long time after its development • Unintentional consequences can be significant
  6. 6. P: «The culture of any organization is shaped by the worst behavior the leader is willing to tolerate.» Gruenert and Whitaker
  7. 7. Technology and its consequences • Dispensing drugs • Testing automobiles • Emissions • Working brakes • Transforming users and their data into product
  8. 8. Technology and its consequences • Dispensing drugs • Testing automobiles • Emissions • Working brakes • Transforming users and their data into product
  9. 9. Technology and its consequences
  10. 10. Ethical concerns • Evil software • software that is likely to do harm • Data • what to keep, what to publish, how to use • Bugs • is it OK to not fix a bug or vulnerability • Quality • is it acceptable to deliver poor or untested product
  11. 11. Software and hardware bugs • What is the harm? • Who was harmed, if anyone? • What is the ethical course of actions?
  12. 12. Picking into private matters - Devices listen for specific word. - Record audio and send out. • Can this technology be trusted? • What is the harm, if any?
  13. 13. Ethics of software products • Does software add to the good of the people? • Is there “evil” software? • Who is responsible for software misuse leading to harm? • Should we, developers, be concerned about improper use? • Is it OK for software to extend privileges to some groups over others? • Programmers have the power to decide who is “worthy”
  14. 14. Video jail visitation - Leads to bans on in-person visits - Limits accessibility of visitation Encrypted communication makes It harder for authorities to detect Illegal and terrorist activities Allows to target real-life harm to people. Alt-right uses social networking sites to spread their message. Fake news Advertising Disseminates false information for financial or political gain
  15. 15. Software development industry ethics • Is where a trade off between productivity and diversity and inclusion? • Is it OK to fail? • Is it ethical to require a “death march” from the team? • Is it acceptable to keep a high-performing person who is a bully?
  16. 16. What ethical dilemmas are you facing?
  17. 17. ETHICS in software development Jane Prusakova @jprusakova