• Turn in your edited Assignment 2 drafts to the front of the
• Make sure your draft includes both your name and the
names of your editor!
ICS 139w
A reminder:
• Mutual Respect
• No wrong answers
• (though some answers are more socially acceptable than others)
• (Close your laptops)
Goals and Outcomes
The goal is to develop your
ethical perception and imagination
Students will be able to…
• Recognize the existence and basis of ethical issues
• Consider an ethical situation from a variety of
perspectives and views
• Apply ethical tests and codes to the analysis of a situation
An example:
• Ethics are principals for how to do the right thing
• From Greek word ēthos meaning “custom”
• Study of morality—distinction between right and wrong
• Ethics are Normative
• what people should do instead of how people do behave.
• Professionals held to higher ethical standards
Computer Ethics
• Technology is a force multiplier
• Computers adds new ethical concerns:
• New entities (software, web sites, mass communication, etc)
• New levels of complexity and unreliability
• New domains of action (virtuality)
Some Topics in Computer Ethics
• Privacy
• Security and information integrity
• Ownership and accountability
• Free speech and censorship
• Online etiquette
• Cybernetics and virtuality
• Green computing
• Professionalism
• … and more!
“The greatest good for the greatest number of people”
• Does an action cause more good than harm?
• If everyone followed a rule, would it lead to greater overall
Were BART’s actions ethical from a utilitarian perspective?
“Treat everyone equally”
• How equally does an action distribute harm/benefit among
members of a group?
• What are morally justifiable reasons for treating people
• Need, merit, effort, fault, etc.
• Consistency
• Equality as a American social value
Natural Rights
• “Inalienable Rights”
• e.g., right not to be killed
• Given by nature?
• Are morals universal? (Kant)
• c.f. Relativism
• each person decides for themselves (moral relativism)
• decided by social believe structure (anthropological relativism)
Ethical Tests
• How do we tell what is right or wrong? How do we make
these decisions?
• Ethical tests: heuristics we can use to think about whether
an action is ethical
Ethical Tests
• Harm/Beneficence Test
• “Does it do less harm and more good than alternatives?”
• e.g., Institutional Review Board
• Publicity Test
• “Would I want this choice published in a newspaper?”
• Presentation of self to others and self (consistency)
• Reversibility Test
• “Would I think it was a good choice if I were affected by it?”
• Empathy
• (also a good skill for design!)
• Code of Ethics Test
• “What do the rules of my profession say?”
ACM Code of Ethics
• Association for Computing Machinery
• Why have professional organizations?
• 8-principle code of ethics for software engineers
• Notes:
• Should not be used in isolation
• Not exhaustive, but illustrative
• A guide, not an algorithm—give thought to the principles
Reviewing the Code
• Divide into 8 groups
• Review the clauses for your principle:
• Anything that is ambiguous?
• Anything you disagree with?
• Redundancies or discrepancies? If so, what is the difference?
• How might this principle be applied (i.e., in the BART case?)
• Your goal is to make sure everyone in your group is an
expert on your principle!
Reviewing the Code
• Jigsaw! (regroup)
• Explain (teach) your principle to your new group
• How is your section different from theirs?
• Do you have any overlap?
• Does everyone agree on the principles?
• Which principles seem most important?
• Come up with 2 observations/opinions to share with the
ACM Code of Ethics
PUBLIC - Software engineers shall act consistently with the public interest.
CLIENT AND EMPLOYER - Software engineers shall act in a manner that is in
the best interests of their client and employer, consistent with the public
PRODUCT - Software engineers shall ensure that their products and related
modifications meet the highest professional standards possible.
JUDGMENT - Software engineers shall maintain integrity and independence in
their professional judgment.
MANAGEMENT - Software engineering managers and leaders shall subscribe
to and promote an ethical approach to the management of software
development and maintenance.
PROFESSION - Software engineers shall advance the integrity and reputation
of the profession consistent with the public interest.
COLLEAGUES - Software engineers shall be fair to and supportive of their
SELF - Software engineers shall participate in lifelong learning regarding the
practice of their profession and shall promote an ethical approach to the
practice of the profession.
Midterm Evaluations
• Midterm evaluations of me (in email and EEE)
• What can I do to improve the class?
• What can I do to better help you learn to write?
• Is there anything I am missing?
Case Studies
• Shuffle one more time
• Discuss your case study as a group
• Who are the decision makers? What options are available to them?
• What is the ethical course of action? Why do you say that?
• Use the ethical tests in your evaluation of the situation
• Harm/Beneficence Test
• Publicity Test
• Reversibility Test
• Code of Ethics Test (which principles apply here?)
Case 1: George and the Jet
George Babbage is an experienced software developer working for Acme Software
Company. Mr. Babbage is now working on a project for the U.S. Department of
Defense, testing the software used in controlling an experimental jet fighter. George
is the quality control manager for the software. Early simulation testing revealed
that, under certain conditions, instabilities would arise that could cause the plane to
crash. The software was patched to eliminate the specific problems uncovered by
the tests. After these repairs, the software passed all the simulation tests. George is
not convinced that the software is safe. He is worried that the problems uncovered
by the simulation testing were symptomatic of a design flaw that could only be
eliminated by an extensive redesign of the software. He is convinced that the patch
that was applied to remedy the specific tests in the simulation did not address the
underlying problem. But, when George brings his concerns to his superiors, they
assure him that the problem has been resolved. They further inform George that
any major redesign effort would introduce unacceptable delays, resulting in costly
penalties to the company.
There is a great deal of pressure on George to sign off on the system and to allow it
to be flight-tested. It has even been hinted that, if he persists in delaying the
system, he will be fired. What should George do next?
Case 2: ToyTime’s Security
Leikessa Jones owns her own consulting business, and has several people working
for her. Leikessa is currently designing a database management system for the
personnel office of ToyTimeInc, a mid-sized company that makes toys. Leikessa has
involved ToyTimeInc management in the design process from the start of the
project. It is now time to decide about the kind and degree of security to build into
the system.
Leikessa has described several options to the client. The client has decided to opt
for the least secure system because the system is going to cost more than was
initially planned, and the least secure option is the cheapest security option.
Leikessa knows that the database includes sensitive information, such as
performance evaluations, medical records, and salaries. With weak security, she
fears that enterprising ToyTimeInc employees will be able to easily access this
sensitive data. Furthermore, she fears that the system will be an easy target for
external hackers. Leikessa feels strongly that the system should be more secure
than it would be if the least secure option is selected.
Ms. Jones has tried to explain the risks to ToyTimeInc, but the CEO, the CIO, and
the Director of Personnel are all convinced that the cheapest security is what they
want. Should Jones refuse to build the system with the least secure option?
Case 3: The Best Choice for the Job
Juan Rodriguez is a private consultant who advises small businesses about their
computer needs. Juan examines a company's operations, evaluates their
automation needs, and recommends hardware and software to meet those needs.
Recently, Juan was hired by a small, private hospital interested in upgrading their
system for patient records and accounting. The hospital had already solicited
proposals for upgrading the system, and hired Juan to evaluate the proposals
they'd received. Juan carefully examined the proposals on the basis of the systems
proposed, the experience of the companies that bid, and the costs and benefits of
each proposal. He concluded that Tri-Star Systems had proposed the best system
for the hospital, and he recommended that the hospital should buy the Tri-Star
system. He included a detailed explanation for why he thought the Tri-Star bid was
the best.
Juan did not reveal to the hospital that he is a silent partner (a co-owner) in Tri-Star
Systems. Was Juan's behavior unethical? We will assume for our discussion that
Juan evaluated the bids in good faith, and sincerely believed that Tri-Star had given
the best bid.
Case 4: Intersections
Alison Turner, a highway safety engineer, has to prioritize projects in a
county with diverse traffic patterns. She considers two intersections that
need safety improvements. One is an urban intersection that handles
about 2400 cars per day. The other is a rural intersection that handles
about 600 cars per day. The annual number of fatal accidents at each
intersection is virtually identical (approximately 2), but the number of
minor injury accidents and the amount of property damage at the urban
intersection are substantially greater. There is just enough money left in
this year's budget to improve one of the intersections. The result of the
improvement at either intersection will be to cut the number of annual
fatalities roughly in half. There will be a significant reduction in minor
injury accidents and property damage if the improvement is made at
the urban intersection.
To which improvement should Alison give priority? There may not be
any room in the budget to improve the other intersection in the future.
Case 5: Dinner
Jack Strong is seated between Tom Evans and Judy Hanson at a dinner meeting of
a local industrial engineering society. Jack and Judy have an extended discussion
of a variety of concerns, some of which are related to their common engineering
interests. At the conclusion of the dinner, Jack turns to Tom, smiles and says, "I'm
sorry not to have talked with you more tonight, but she's better looking than you."
As a younger engineer, Judy is anxious to be recognized first and foremost as a
good engineer. She is well aware of the stereotypical view that women are not as
well suited for engineering as men. She did not often encounter open
manifestations of this attitude while in college. More than 20% of her engineering
classmates were women, the faculty were supportive, the male students did not
make her feel she had chosen the wrong profession, and she graduated near the
top of her class. However, matters quickly changed on her first job. She found that
she was the only woman engineer in her division. Now, even after a year on the job,
it seems she has to struggle to get others to take her ideas seriously. So, she
enjoyed "talking shop" with Jack at the dinner. But she was stunned by his remark
to Tom, however innocently it may have been intended. Suddenly she saw the
conversation in a very different light. Once again she sensed that she was not being
taken seriously as an engineer.
Was Jack's remark appropriate? How should Judy respond? How should Tom?
Assignment 3
• Write a personal response to one of these case studies
• Discuss the different decision makers and options
• Weigh the ethical pros and cons of particular actions
• Consider the situation from different view points
• Include personal opinions (they will not affect your score)
• Polished copy due to EEE on Friday Midnight
Assignment 4
• Write a document that makes an argument
• Should be about the system or topic of Assignment 2
• Thesis or argument can be:
• A change to the system
• An argument for adoption
• An argument for a complex interpretation or analysis
• some other argument (check with us).
• Details on syllabus
• Bring a complete draft of the paper to class on Monday
• Due Tuesday Midnight
Note on Assignments
• Assignment 3 due Friday,
• Assignment 4 due Tuesday
• Assignment 5 draft on Wednesday, due next Friday
• You will need to be working on multiple assignments at
once, so don’t put it off!

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