For our final assignment we were asked to discuss the issue of privacy and such concerns as the issues engineers need to consider, the responsibilities companies such as google have to the public, dilemmas Google engineers might face if pressurised by shareholders to increase profits and the privacy issues that might arise if Google bought Facebook.
Individual (What did you know about this issue before?)
I was aware that online privacy was becoming an important issue for more and more people feel as though their privacy is being infringed upon by companies such as Google. I was also aware that for any searches we make online using Google they can record the cookie ID, IP address and via you IP address they can figure out exactly where you live and even have satellite images of your home via Google Earth. I was also aware that social networks such as Facebook have their default profiles set to public so that anyone can view and pictures or posts your may have made and many employers have used this as a tool when decided whether or not to hire a potential employee. What I wasn’t aware of was the Google had the ability to read our emails and has plans to add medical records, location-aware services and could soon, if they were so inclined could soon compile dossiers on specific individuals.
Contextual (Why is knowledge of this issue important for an engineer?)
This issue is clearly important to the engineer, it is likely that engineers will be the people with vast access to this personal information and must act appopietly and responsibility with such information as the issue of privacy is covered in the code of ethics, the code of ethics states that engineers shall not give out any confidential information regarding the business affairs, technical processes or financial standing of their clients or employers without their consent.
Relational (What did you learn from this problem?)
From this case study I’ve learnt that Engineers have a very important role in ensuring that a clients’s private information isn’t disclosed without the clients consent. I’ve learnt that companies such as Google are even more powerful than I originally thought and have a worryingly vast degree of access to information many users would not be comfortable disclosing, I was unaware that Google had access to any email that was sent or received via Gmail and was quite surprised and this degree of access to user information is only likely to increase even more with time. Google are continually expanding they have already acquired YouTube and if they were to acquire Facebook which is currently the most popular online social networking site then Google would have the means to harvest even more personal information about users, which it can then leverage to sell more advertising at higher prices.
4. Developmental (How will I take this learning forward? What specific things will I do in the future based on what I’ve learned?)
From a engineering perspective I intend to keep the code of ethics in mind if I find myself in a situation where I have access to information that people would not wish to be disclosed and also to be aware of these ethics if asked to take part in a project that develops a piece of software that can be used to exploit this information against the users consent for personal gain or any other kind of unethical motivation. From a personal perspective I intend to ensure I do not disclose any information online that I wouldn’t be willing to share with potential employers or the the public in general.