Where does a software tester’s ethical responsibility begin and end in a world of all-powerful software?
A recent Business Insider article described a “huge” online discussion between programmers about “the unethical and illegal things they’ve been asked to do”. Chances are high that you as a tester will someday be asked to do something in your work that conflicts with your values.
Software runs the world.
Software exerts great power over our lives: in our cars, homes, banks, medical labs and hospitals, governments, civic and emergency infrastructure… Algorithms and “learning systems” are increasingly taking over critical decision making. The sheer pervasiveness of software means that we frequently ignore its impacts. Yet when decision-making systems fail—or even when they work “correctly”—they can do irreparable and invisible harm.
Even seemingly insignificant software can present ethical issues for the people who build and test it. Apps that track locations or collect apparently trivial personal data can be used by corporations or governments to invade privacy, influence elections and shatter human rights.
Testers need to talk about potential ethical issues and how we can manage them positively and with integrity.