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The dark side of programming

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By: Rachel Laura M

November 24, 2016

programmingEven though the average person might not be aware of it, software is everywhere in our daily lives. Everything from online transactions, buying a smartphone, to driving a car involves software. As consumers, we assume and take for granted that the software used to take care of things in our daily lives will not only work as we need it to, but that it is safe. But this is the reality?Disturbingly enough, software programmers are often asked to perform illegal and unethical tasks that can have serious consequences. Examples include:
  • People being killed as a result of defective software in cars and jets
  • Causing pollution from cars due to the car’s software (e.g., Volkswagen America emissions scandal)
  • Wall Street investment firms using software in order to manipulate stock quotes
  • Writing code to target people even after they have opted to unsubscribe from company mailing lists
  • Lifting code from a competitor website and building on it
  • The alteration of backups of company financial data then re-running end of year report with the altered copy
The scary thing is, even when a developer refuses to do these tasks for ethical reasons, It is all too easy to find someone willing to simply take orders. Many developers are either self-trained or learned to code via a coding boot camp and more often than not, their priority is to produce code as quickly as possible without any thought of responsibility or ethics.Can anything be done to draw attention to this issue and keep a serious disaster from happening? One solution is along with computer programming classes is to teach ethics courses, which are a requirement in every program. Programmers can also educate themselves and learn by reading books such as "A Gift of Fire: Social, Legal, and Ethical Issues for Computing Technology."  by Sarah Baase. Finally, coding boot camps and online training programs need to do their part and begin talking about the ethical responsibilities that come along with being a programmer.  Information adapted from Business Insider.
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