The ensuing passage is to put forward my deliberations on an
article that was published by Sharon Florentine titled ” Should software
developers have a code of ethics?”
I concur that some sort of code of ethics should exist for
software developers to call upon in case of a moral predicament, but the
following points should also be taken into consideration:
Code of Ethics vary from person to person.
The merit and importance of good ethics is
something that is taught and ingrained in a person from his upbringing and from
his experiences and their impact on their and other’s lives.
Every company has faced some problems with
ethical conduct, on part of their employee’s known or unknown actions, and this
has helped them grow and learn from their own demerit. Similarly, the employees
too grow by making mistakes and learning from them.
The article gives us several examples that indicates towards
the absence of a code of ethics for software developers. It goes on to mention
the incident of Volkswagen engineers programming their cars to cheat emission
standards in 2015, the recent ‘fake news’ debacle which was synonymous with Facebook
and the consequent Russian hacking and interference in the 2016 presidential
elections. This makes it look like there should exist some codes of ethics,
blanketing the entire software industry but an important point in each of these
cases is that behind each of this event some human beings with their own set of
ethics and beliefs were responsible.
This brings me to my main argument: ethics are taught by two
ways, the education that one receives in a professional environment and from
experiences in life which effect and shape a person’s beliefs. In the present
technological environment, where knowledge of software development is so readily
and freely available, people not bound by good morals and ethics are bound to
use their knowledge to create unfair and unethical situations. For example, Russian
hackers will not think of ethics when their motives are politically fueled and
there’s no organization to check or firewall their activities. But similarly, a
person with good ethics, based on their experiences, will doubtfully indulge in
unethical actions and work for the betterment of the society and towards his
company’s success. He will only fall into an ethical trap unknowingly and will
probably learn and grow from his mistakes.
In the present scenario Knowledge is Power. Companies are
always on the lookout for candidates who can use their knowledge base to
integrate into a company’s target and help in their ongoing projects. They
generally tend to overlook ethics as a parameter as they expect it to be taught
to the person eventually through the company’s dealings and workings and their
experience in the company. In a working environment, it’s very important for
the people in charge to value and enforce good ethics as by leading by example,
their subordinates can learn from their actions. For example, when Mr George
Polisner, a senior executive in at
Oracle, resigned due to bad ethical decisions, it must have affected the minds
of people and made them think of ethics. In this competitive world, where
employees are in constant fear of losing their job due to underperforming,
sometimes, ethics take a backstage. Then it again falls on their superior’s
shoulders to lead by example.
I believe every company has dealt with some sort of ethical
conundrums sometime or the other. For example, our company, Google was itself
at the center of a big ethical mistake when it came under international criticism
for it’s invasion of the privacy of Wi-Fi users with it’s street-view mapping
cars. Though unintentional, the cars mistakenly collected samples of payload
data sent over Wi-Fi networks. Google got in much hotter water for using a tracking cookie
with a known security exploit to snoop on users of Apple’s Safari browser. When
the news broke, it was a major scandal with possible criminal implications.
Google ended up settling for $22.5 million; it faced a potential fine of
$16,000 per violation, per day, which for the size and span of this operation
could have totalled hundreds of billions of dollars. My inference from these
cases is that Google recognized and learned from it’s mistakes and as a result
positioned their own code of conduct to prevent such ethical malpractices from
occurring again. This shows that while it would be beneficial to make an
umbrella code of ethics for software developers but it would be more beneficial
for each company to have their ever updating code of ethics to follow.
So my suggestions to resolve the issue are as follows:
We should keep in mind that having a uniform
code of ethics will not fix the situations created by unethical malpractices of
some users. But still an ever updating blanket code of ethics and an
organization to enforce it would be beneficial for upcoming companies.
Companies should focus on teaching their
employees good ethical conducts too along with software development skills.
They should lead by example.
Each company should have their own ever updating
code of conduct so that employees can learn from it and also the company can
grow from their mistakes and never commit them again.
Google Blunders into WI-Fi Privacy Issues – John
D Copeland , Kallman fellow at the Center for Business Ethics at Bentley
University in Waltham, Mass.
Faces a Fresh Privacy Class Action Suit Over Tracking iPhone Safari Users –
David Meyer -November 30,2017 – Fortune.com