Software engineering and development are professions with a direct impact on people’s lives. It is important to take into account ethics in software development to ensure that the products we create are safe, reliable and respect users and society in general. In this article, we’ll analyze why ethics is so important for software development companies. Also, we’ll discuss how we can help users neutralize potential threats that may arise while using our apps and programs.
Ethics in software development is often overlooked. It is not something you can put on the back burner and hope will go away. It must be actively monitored for your team to produce high-quality work. Software development is a complicated and intricate process. Developers are responsible for creating products that will be used by other people. This means that they need to take ethical considerations into account in their projects.
With the advancement of security measures used by companies, ethical concepts are increasingly present. It is essential for software teams to know the best practices in ethical behavior. Let’s analyze together the essential concepts of ethics and how to implement them in your software development projects.
Why ethics in software development?
Ethics are the moral principles that govern the behavior of a person or organization. This concept can be defined as a set of socially accepted considerations about what is right and what is wrong. In a software development context, ethics refers to the standards, conditions, and rules developers shall consider when creating their programs and apps.
Information and communications technology allow new possibilities for user behavior and interaction. In this sense, development teams and software factories must consider certain basic ethical concepts. Some of them we consider important at Huenei are:
- Responsibility. Organizations are responsible for the actions they take. This responsibility represents a moral obligation (and, in many cases, also a legal one!).
- Accountability. While companies must act ethically, it is often unavoidable that users will be affected by the operation of our software products. As a company, we must recognize these situations, take action to resolve them, and take the opportunity to learn and prevent the issue from happening again in the future.
- Mandatory nature. There are regional laws that allow obtaining compensation if damages are caused to users.
- Respected process. These laws are generally known and understood. Users can contact authorities to enforce them. In this sense, taking preventive actions before having any type of legal inconvenience is key.
Privacy: The main ethical dilemma of software development.
Lawyers define privacy as the moral right to be alone, without surveillance or interference from other people. In information technology, information privacy refers to the fact that individuals should be able to control the use of information about themselves.
Personal data represents information of any kind referring to individuals or organizations. Within these, we find sensitive data, which are those that could affect the image of a person or institution if they were made public. The line that determines what is and what isn’t sensitive data is sometimes difficult to identify and represents a potential inconvenience for software factories. It is important to understand that this type of data can only be collected when there are reasons of general interest authorized by law, or for scientific and statistical purposes if they are dissociated from the owners.
How to protect data privacy?
The main threats to privacy come from the process of collecting and storing information (personal data, sensitive company information, etc.). It is a moral and ethical obligation for software developers to ensure that they structure the functioning of their products in a way that protects against these threats. To address them and try to reduce them, we must focus on three key areas of privacy protection.
- Legal protection. Take into account the laws and government regulations of the country or territory where the program or app will be used.
- Self-regulation. Consider the uses, customs, and general preferences of the industry. In other words, regardless of the law, what does the end-user prefer and need to feel safe?
- Technological solutions. Remind users to take security measures, such as the use of secure email providers, the choice of reliable passwords, and the management of browsing cookies, among others.
In conclusion, we can understand that ethics is a set of moral principles that govern the way people and organizations behave. In software development, it is important that we work considering the needs of users, but with an ethical perspective. We have already discussed what we should consider to respect their privacy and help them be less vulnerable to external threats. You should always try to understand the user’s perspective; not only to understand how you will use the product you are developing but also to help you maintain your personal and professional privacy.