Medical professionals have professional ethical codes. For instance, the psychologists who (it is argued) helped devised improved torture methods for the U.S. government are accused of violating the ethical code of their profession.
Do software engineers and others who write software have professional ethical duties?
Might one of them be to do one’s best to create secure software (rather than intentionally releasing software with vulnerabilities for the purposes of allowing people in the know to exploit), and responsibly disclosing any security vulnerabilities found in third party software (rather than keeping them close so they can be used them for exploits)?
If so, are the software developers at the NSA (and, more likely, government contractors working for the NSA) guilty of unethical behavior?
Of course, the APA policy didn’t keep the psychologists from doing what they did, and there is some suggestion that the APA even intentionally made sure to leave enough loophole, which they potentially regret. And there have been similar controversies within Anthropology. There’s no magic bullet to ethical behavior from simply writing rules, but I still think it’s a useful point for inquiry, at least acknowledging that there is such a thing as professional ethics for the profession, and providing official recognition that these discussions are part of the profession.
Are there ethical duties of software engineers and others who create software? As software becomes more and more socially powerful, is it important to society that this be recognized? Are these discussions happening? What professional bodies might they take place in? (IEEE? ACM?). The ACM has a code of ethics, but it’s pretty vague, it seems easy to justify just about any profit-making activity.
Are these discussions happening? Will the extensive Department of Defense funding of Computer Science (theoretical and applied) in the U.S. make it hard to have these discussions? (When I googled, the discussion that came up of how DoD funding effects computer science research was from 1989 — there may be self-interested reasons people aren’t that interested in talking about this).