The Good IT guy

3 minute read

You get to the office. Like every day, you turn on your computer, check the emails, the Pull Request on your team, and finally, what task you have to do today. The project, a messaging system between employees of a large company.

Include administrator role to view and manage private messages between users. (1 Day)

You ask yourself, how is it possible that the Product Owner has forgotten to include a detailed description, 1 Day? I don’t think so.

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Ryan, he used to hunt with his father when he was young. It was something he enjoyed. The mixture of nature in its purest form, with the union he achieved in those few hours he enjoyed with his father, gave him a great deal of serenity and self-confidence. Although he was living in the city now. A few months ago he got his gun permit to be now the father, enjoy with his son those moments he had when he was a child. By the way, he could use the weapon to protect his home from any assaulter who wanted to take peace away from his family, thanks to the Second Amendment.

Rudolf, he’s a 16-year-old gang member. He lives in a less than recommended Chicago suburb, and together with his childhood best friend, he has been tasked to steal as many drug packages as possible from a rival gang’s warehouse. In their work, although there should be no one in the area, they meet mob members from the gang they were going to rob and get caught in a gunfight in which they kill their best friend.

The United States has almost all of its modern history with a strong debate on weapons. In a country where having a gun is a right, but every hour, there are three deaths by firearm, we come to a clash in areas of society and politics that are difficult to accept.

You start doing your assigned work. After asking the Product Owner, your teammates…. You’re finally clear on what you need to do, and with a day’s delay you finally have the functionality ready.

You are about to test the new functionality before making a Pull Request to the develop branch.

As an administrator, you see several private messages between users complaining about their salaries, as many about overtime, and a few with insults to the people in charge above them, including the head of the company.

A “click” resonates in your head. A glimpse of the past with Cambridge Analytica and Facebook. People who, because they have special treatment, have access to data that they may not have to.

What will happen to those employees the day that someone in charge gets to look at these “private” messages?

You talk to the team. Variety of opinions.

  • Ethically, it shouldn’t be done. You’re putting the work and reputation of the company’s employees at risk.

  • We should do this. Employees should not write this type of content on the tool. In addition, the client pays for our services and we should not worry about whether it is ethical or not.

Perhaps more importantly. What happens if it is used improperly? Whose responsibility is it? Yours for developing it? From the client? The whole team?

If you think about it, it’s not far from the stories I’ve told a few paragraphs above. The application now includes a functionality or tool that can be used for illicit purposes. But we come up against the same argument as owning a gun.

A gun is nothing but a tool. It can be used for a variety of purposes, many of them unethical. You have created a functionality or tool that can be used for the same purposes. It may seem insignificant. But you’re playing with the jobs of people and their families. It is possible that the example I have given may not be very serious, but what about the computer scientists in charge of programming weapons for the army? We’d be entering a very thin line that was difficult to draw.

The conclusion, as with the weapons debate in the United States, and with the soldiers on the battlefield, I think it’s in everyone’s conscience. What I hope is that at least as a developer, you will be concerned about these issues, you will ask yourself how your work ethic affects other people, and you will do your best to follow your convictions. That alone will make you a better person and a better computer scientist.

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