Privacy Breaches In Code

28 Apr 2017

Engineering ethics is the set of rules and guidelines that engineers adhere to as a moral obligation to their profession and to the world. When ethics are not followed, disaster often occurs which not only includes large monetary costs and environmental repercussions, but may also result in the loss of human life. Due to the constantly changing nature of computer technology, it is difficult to assign a set of specific moral codes. Software engineering creates a set of ethical problems which include the theft of software involving the rights to products and the issue whether information on individuals stored in a computer constitutes an intolerable invasion of privacy.

In this modern society where virtually everything is encoded through code, ethical implications often arise through privacy breaches. Privacy can translate to unauthorized computer entry to steal secrets as this crime goes along with the idea of hacking. This activity deals with the ethical dilemma of who actually owns information and who has the rights to access that information. Therefore, a serious dilemma involving the amount of information gathered by computers puts people’s personal information in a vulnerable position as the issue of who owns the information once it is inside a computer is a grey area. Consequently, this dilemma is unclear as people have opposing viewpoints which further clouds the idea of privacy. Through computer technology, ethical issues are present but may be ambiguous due to the varying interpretations of privacy and ethics regarding computer software and information.

For instance, a case study involving Google Street View which displays searchable aerial and street view photographs of neighborhoods, city blocks, stores, and even individual residences is a debatable feature that comes with evident privacy concerns. From a software engineering perspective, this is a unique and inspiring feature but in the eyes of residents, this tool may seem invasive to one’s privacy. Thus as a software engineer, it is essential to balance and find compromise although at times this boundary may be unclear.

All considered, by understanding the impact of engineering solutions in a global context, software engineers will be aware that their solutions will have both positive and negative consequences on society. Thus through adaptation and open-mindedness to changing ideas in this technological world, we must acknowledge and evaluate the impact of software engineering as it pertains to privacy issues.