GUEST EDITORS’ INTRODUCTION
new services that should be designed to be attractive to theconsumer. However, there are concerns that the eatures o online gambling sites, or instance, that make the gamingexperience enjoyable are also the ones likely to cause harmto those at risk o gambling addiction. Similarly, there areconcerns that online role-playing games or shoot ’em upsimulations encourage violent behavior—a concern thathas been raised or a long time. Sotware designs or suchsystems must account or both an individual’s reedom tomake choices and the notion o common good.
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Ethical considerations are oten subject to, and perhapsdriven by, geographical, cultural, ethnic, religious, andeven historical standpoints. Taking images o nude chil-dren as an example, there are cases that would obviouslybe classied as child abuse or exploitative while otherswould be considered innocuous—or instance, amily pho-tographs o children playing in the bath. However, thereare cases where the boundary is not clear. For example,Tearney Gearon’s photographs o her children nude on thebeach wearing masks during a amily holiday led to anintense debate about whether these were pornographic.The cases where the ethical distinctions are clear areeasy to tackle, but where the boundaries are uzzy, subjectto the interpretation o specic communities, sotwareengineers ace a nontrivial challenge. How can these otenconficting interpretations be eectively managed in thedesign o relevant sotware systems?These challenges cannot be met by sotware engineersalone. Close collaboration is required with ethicists, law-makers, and social scientists. Good engineering practicescan solve some problems, but more diverse expertise isrequired or others. Perhaps this collaboration is yet an-other challenge.
eThiCs-aware soFTware enGineerinG
It is not clear that those developing sotware systemsor the digital world in act worry too much about anyharmul consequences their products might have, but it isour contention that true proessionals must be concernedabout these issues. As such, we advocate the notion o ethics-aware sotware engineering, where ethical con-siderations are explicitly taken into account across thesotware development lie cycle and are an integral parto risk assessment and acceptance criteria.Consider again Google Street View. At one level, the ben-ets o Street View seem rather trivial. We can alreadygo house hunting, plan holidays, and work out where tomeet riends without too much trouble. Despite Google’sclaim that it “believed it was acting within the law and thatthe benets o the service outweighed concerns about itsintrusiveness. The reason we are doing it is because wethink it has a lot o benets,” these benets hardly out-
eThiCal ChallenGesFor soFTware enGineers
The cases we have highlighted and the legislation de-scribed in the “Examples o Ethically Challenging Contexts”sidebar pose three key challenges or sotware engineersdesigning systems or the digital world.
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There are increasing concerns over the use o the Inter-net to organize criminal activities such as the grooming o children by pedophiles, terrorists recruiting impression-able youths, and online credit card raud, to name a ew.This requires sotware-based solutions to aid police andother law enorcement agencies. The UK government’sCommunications Data Bill is one such eort. However,such “blanket monitoring” is seen by many as an invasiono the individual’s right to privacy. Sotware engineers de-veloping such systems must balance the need to saeguardthe privacy o the individual against the need to protectvulnerable user groups—or example, protecting childrenrom predatory advances.
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The ubiquitous access to the Internet has also providedopportunities or businesses and the general public to oer
he UK government’s Communication Data Bill will requireISPs to log all e-mails and website accesses or all users or upto one year. The key motivation behind this is to improve publicsaety in a changing communication environment by aiding lawenorcement agencies in tackling online criminal activity. Privacycampaigners, on the other hand, have raised serious concernsabout privacy and personal reedoms.A law recently passed in France will allow a special agencyto cut o the Internet connection o users who download ille-gal content via P2P networks based on a three-strikes rule.Oending users will receive an e-mail ater the rst strike, get aletter upon the second oense, and have their connection cuto on the third. While the law saeguards digital copyrights, italso aects legitimate users o P2P content, or instance, thecontent provided by Norwegian broadcaster NRK, which usesBitTorrent to share material.The High Court o Australia ruled that a deamation casecould be heard in the State o Victoria even though the oend-ing material was on a server in the US. A prominent Australianbusinessman, Joseph Gutnik, argued that the case should beheard in Victoria on the grounds that that is where the materialwas read and his reputation harmed. The company, nancialpublisher Dow Jones, argued that because the material was ona server in the US, that is where the trial should be held. Thedigital world not only spans the online-physical world dividebut also crosses geographical and jurisdictional boundaries.
examples of ethically challeNgiNg coNtexts