11 January, 2017
Should Software Developers Have A Code Of Ethics?
First, do no harm. This is the underlying message of the Hippocratic Oath historically taken by physicians to show they will abide by an ethical code of conduct. Plumbers, construction workers, law enforcement — almost any professional whose work impacts the public must abide by some sort of ethical code of conduct.
There’s one fairly notable exception: technology. While there are organization– and company-specific codes of conduct — like these guidelines from the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers – Computer Science (IEEE-CS) joint task force on software engineering ethics professional practices, there’s no one all-encompassing set of standards that includes the entire industry.
But maybe there should be. In 2015, independent tests revealed that Volkswagen engineers programmed cars to cheat emissions standards. In the wake of the 2016 U.S. presidential election, Facebook — among others — is grappling with an epidemic of fake news. The nation is struggling to come to grips with alleged Russian hacking and interference in our elections. And the current president-elect campaigned on the promise to build on the existing (or build a new) Muslim registry to track members of that faith.