In this information age Application software are used to modern decision making, including data/information storage and manipulation, data availability, and selection. A good software development decision requires an awareness of both the technical and the ethical dimensions.
This is regarding issues in a software development project for a government linked company. After the demonstration of the software management felt that easy access for files is not that much good. But also they felt that some information should be able to view by out side people when they required. Chief development officer has to do necessary changes for the system to fulfill those requirements. So as he has to identify all the issues dealing witch stakeholders such as employees, clients, partners or other government organizations. This research is to analyze ethical, social, professional and legal issues associate with design and development of an IT project.
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Ethics, ethical issues, ethical principles and ethical theories should be taken into account by chief development officer according to the management requirements. Ethics is the study of value concepts such as ‘good,’ ‘bad,’ ‘right,’ ‘wrong,’ ‘ought’, applied to actions in relation to group norms and rules.( Alan J. Thomson, Daniel L. Schmoldt, 2001) So ethics plays a special role in practical decision making. Ethical principles and theories should be considered in any IT project as they engaged in a research for the project design and development.
When involving with the human participants of an IT project mainly there are ethical principals to consider. Respect for person is necessary when dealing with people. When gathering project requirements, participant should have the right for their choice and they should be informed about the research .Beneficence is another principle to consider in an IT project. All the participants should important than the benefit of the research. Risks for the participants should be minimized. Justice is another ethical principal which gives the priority to the equality. Top management to lower level employees should be treated equally distribute risks and benefits equally. (Dr. Penny Duquenoy, 2010)
When gather the requirements and analyze for necessary changes Chief development officer should consider these ethical principals. Higher management may ask to hide information from their stakeholders or to disclose their sensitive personal data or hide key issues from stakeholders. But as an ethical software engineer decisions should be taken ethically. In order to show more benefits for the vulnerable groups, it should not be violate vulnerable groups. There should be less harm & fewer risks for all the stakeholders by the decisions of chief development officer.
If the accessibility is high for information in the system it makes many privacy issues. An invasion of privacy can be made by any unauthorized access to information. When it comes to privacy it is needed to consider about what information should be required to know about oneself to another, what are the conditions what are the strict information of an individual. In this case system contains many communication data like emails, letters and so on. It is unethical to access personal sensitive data such as political opinions, persons’ religious beliefs, memberships of trade unions, their sexual life, about criminal offence and medical details without concern of the owner.
The recent developments of the internet and Computer-mediated communication are also facing many new privacy issues. For example, though the cookies mechanism is intended for harmless uses such as a server remembering a client’s last visit, Netscape “cookies” use as a software mechanism through which World-Wide Web servers to store information on the computer of the visiting client browser. In the design of this mechanism they didn’t give any control for user. It is unethical to hide this feature from the user, if it may involve privacy risks (Mr. Prem Sharan Sah, 2006).
The rights ethical theory defines “The rights set forth by a society are protected and given the highest priority”. According to the rights theory rights get the priority from ethical decision making. (Catherine Rainbow, 2002) So every individual have the right of their privacy. Also as mention in the Universal declaration of Human Rights “No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy”(Universal declaration of Human Rights). As the software is prone to involve privacy risks, software designers should be consider about those issues.
Utilitarianism ethical theory says that “The greatest benefit to the most people is the choice that is ethically correct”. According to that theory if some information are accessed for a purpose of which makes more benefits it cannot be consider as unethical. (Catherine Rainbow, 2002) Though people have the right of privacy it also some details can be accessed by another organization to prevent from financial, cultural, political and social problems. So when developing systems for organizations developer should consider those issues.
There are codes of conducts by professional bodies for IT professional. In the ACM (Association for Computer Machinery) code of ethics it contains some codes as follow.
“1.3 – Be honest and trustworthy”
“1.7- Respect the privacy of others (includes substantive responsibility for data integrity”
“1.8- Honor Confidentially”
(Robert A. Schultz, 2006)
Code 1.3 is stands for eliminate developers to hide any information, that stakeholders should informed. Code 1.7 is act as guidelines for handling data to protect from privacy issues. Code 1.8 mentions that confidential data should be protected.
The software engineering Code of Ethics and Professional Practice (SEC) they mention Software engineers should ensure the heights professional standards for the product and in an IT project, development and maintenance should manage ethically. (Robert A. Schultz, 2006)
British Computer Society (BCS) which is the professional body of computer practitioners in the UK, also mentioned it’s code of conduct that members should not disclose or authorized to be disclose personal gain or benefits to a third party, confidential information except with the permission of the relevant authority, or at the direction of a court of law. (Frank Bott, October 2004)
So as a software developer when manage a project these professional issues should be considered. It makes them to provide an effective standard product according to the correct requirements.
When we discuss from the individual’s point of view who deal with the system, Can they file a lawsuit against this unauthorized access of their personal data? In UK, 1998 data protection Act, there are several principles which control all threats for personal data. It says in the second data protection principle that personal data cannot be use for any other purpose than which they are being collected. (Frank Bott, October 2004). So it becomes a legal issue for the development if unauthorized person access sensitive data from the system.
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But still some countries do not have proper data protection legislation for information systems. So when design a system which also access by the another country which doesn’t have proper data protection, it may cause legal issues. One of the example is the Middlsex University in student recording system cannot be accessed by another countries like Sri Lanka which they provide their internal degree programs as they don’t have proper data protection Act.
When it comes to freedom of information there are legislations in many countries. According to the Freedom of information Act in UK is to provide clear rights of access to information held by bodies in the public sector. This legislation applies to parliament, government, departments, local authorities; health trusts schools and etc. For example FBI may access any information regarding people or organizations to catch up criminals. (Frank Bott, October 2004).
So in an IT project, if some freedom of accessing relevant information by authorized person it becomes a legal issue also. So as a software developer software design should be done according to those requirements.
Legal issues related with ethical issues. Legally wrong activities can be ethically wrong as well. But in the other hand legally right activities can be ethically wrong. Violating a law will be a cause for punishments. In contrast violating an ethical theory or principal will not be a cause for punishments. Some times in UK the freedom of information Act and data protection Act may overlap with each other. But according to the situation it can be matching with any of them.
When considering social issues with an IT project, in the designing phase all the decisions should be made with lesser harm to the society. If the system has less security personal data and company data accessed by unauthorized people or use of personal information for purpose other than it was collected such as marketing purposes it may cause many problems for the society. And also trade secrets of the company for the competitors and crashes may occur. In the other perspective hide information from stakeholders of the system also makes many social issues. If the analysis and design is not done by ethical decisions the wrong data can be sending to the wrong person. If the system handling communication data such as emails, letters, that kind of mistake will make the society disappointed.
Here, it is discussed ethical, legal, professional and social issues in an IT project. This guides to ethical software development in the IT industry. According to the estimation the failure rate of software development projects is as high as 70%. An inability or unwillingness to understand the human context makes the failure software projects. (Alan J. Thomson, Daniel L. Schmoldt, 2001). It shows that greater attention to ethics will result successful software.
Through an ethical approach to system design and development, calling the issues discussed above, high standard successful software can be expected after the changes. Chief development officer can use CATWOE model to approach the analysis and design rather than using traditional SSADM .SSADM focus more on technical issues than on ethical issues. But CATWOE discuses ethical, social, professional and legal issues while development in progress (Alan J. Thomson, Daniel L. Schmoldt, 2001). When design accessibility of the system it is needed to think about all of these aspects according to the management requirement. In this case this system can use data controllers and provide data subjects. For that better to decide what kind of information is needed for each and every stakeholder. According to that system can have authentication levels for each kind of person interact with the system.
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