Have you ever fought back against a task on the basics of ethics?

Michael Tharrington on June 10, 2019

Has there ever been a time where you had to push back against something you were tasked to do because of ethical concerns?

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Yes. Told my back then employer that I’d rather resign. They didn’t want that, but since this happened on more than one occasion I eventually left anyway.

 

Can’t say I have but... working in a seemingly heartless online casino, hiding the gambling problem behind gamification; it just didn’t work out for me.

I understand the business. It is brutal, everyone and his/her grandmother is trying to rip you off and find exploits. You slowly build a company culture with hearts of stone. It was the most fun I have had for some time but eventually the ethics caught up with me and I had to leave the company.

It is still a really awesome company. Super forward thinking, amazing people but I just couldn’t motivate myself after a while.

 

I feel you on that.

After a while certain industries just kind of get to you. I could totally see designing online casino games as something that would wear on my guilt despite working with nice folks at a cool company. Cool that you pulled yourself outta there though; it's tough to leave a place when things are (mostly) going good!

Great example and appreciate you sharing that - it's definitely not easy talking about these sorts of things!

 

Same thing happened to me with Army-related work, luckily it was just an internship.

 

I’ve never dealt with an overly difficult ethical situation but I’ve definitely stopped working with folks based on the feeling that if I continued, I’d face ethical arguments all the time. Some people just don’t care.

 

Side question - those who have had formal training in CS/SE, did you ever have training in safety or ethics? I got my degree in a completely separate engineering discipline and we had dedicated courses for it. There are sometimes professional licensing boards and committees that handle ethics issues, depending on what you do. I don't think I've ever seen something like that for developers. I'd be curious to see if there is something out there and what it looks like.

 

Did not have any required course for it in my CSSE department. :( I decided on my own to take one in the Humanities and Social Sciences department, but it wasn't tech-focused. It was a general engineering ethics course. What I would personally love to see is an ethics class that has a whole section on designing/creating with accessibility in mind.

 

Always. Change it or quit if it goes against your morals.

If you don't, you will become that person. Others will see it quietly & one day it comes back.

Never accept it. Destroy it first, even if it means sacrifice.

Save enough to be able to push back constantly.

A lot of people in tech in the last decades didn't do that & the bill is coming due.

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