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Questions of Ethics in Software Development

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Software has a lot of power to influence people’s lives and to encourage social change. With great power comes great responsibility. It is up to individuals involved in building software to decide what is right, ethical and moral, and these are not easy decisions.
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.

Published in: Software
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Questions of 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 never be done?
  3. 3. 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
  4. 4. Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) • Contribute to society and human well-being. • Avoid harm to others. • Be honest and trustworthy. • Give proper credit for intellectual property. • Respect the privacy of others. Honor confidentiality.
  5. 5. Technology and its consequences • Dispensing drugs • Testing automobiles • Emissions • Working brakes • Transforming users and their data into product
  6. 6. Technology and its consequences
  7. 7. 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
  8. 8. Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) • Contribute to society and human well-being. • Avoid harm to others. • Be honest and trustworthy. • Give proper credit for intellectual property. • Respect the privacy of others. Honor confidentiality.
  9. 9. Software and hardware bugs • What is the harm? • Who was harmed, if anyone? • What is the ethical course of actions?
  10. 10. Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) • Contribute to society and human well-being. • Avoid harm to others. • Be honest and trustworthy. • Give proper credit for intellectual property. • Respect the privacy of others. Honor confidentiality.
  11. 11. Smart Listening devices - Devices should “wake up” on specific word. - Record audio and send out. • Should this technology be trusted? • What is the harm, if any?
  12. 12. Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) • Contribute to society and human well-being. • Avoid harm to others. • Be honest and trustworthy. • Give proper credit for intellectual property. • Respect the privacy of others. Honor confidentiality.
  13. 13. Quiz: Cost of software piracy $0 Millions of dollars Poor developers’ livelihood
  14. 14. What is ethical? • Pay attention to and give credit publicly to authors • Learn and abide by licensing terms • Challenge licensing terms through contract negotiations or in court • Contribute to the community • through open source, • free closed source or • proprietary software for purchase
  15. 15. Ethics of software products • Does all software add to the good of the people? • Is there “evil” software? • Should we be concerned about software misuse leading to harm? • Are we, developers, responsible for improper use? • Is it OK for software to extend privileges to some people over others? • Programmers have the power to decide who is “worthy”
  16. 16. 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 Alt-right uses social networking sites to spread their message.
  17. 17. Ethics of software development practice • Is it OK to fail and learn from mistakes? • Is it ethical to require a “death march” from the team? • Is it acceptable to keep a high-performing person who is otherwise hurting the team?
  18. 18. What ethical dilemmas are you facing?
  19. 19. ETHICS in software development Jane Prusakova @jprusakova

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