Friday, 09 October 2015 01:26

ICT professional body wants ban on emissions ‘test cheating’ software

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The global body for ICT professionalism – the International Professional Practice Partnership (IP3) - has denounced the actions of software engineers who designed and implemented the solution which allowed Volkswagen to distort the results of emissions tests carried out in the United States.

In the wake of the VW emissions scandal now affecting many countries, including Australia, IP3 - a project of the International Federation for Information Processing (IFIP) - on Thursday called for technologists and programmers working in the automotive industry to refuse to be associated with unethical software or systems.

The Acting Chair of IP3, Moira de Roche, said ICT professionals have a clear responsibility to operate ethically and to hold the best interests of consumers at the centre of what they do.

“Living as we do in a world where software runs everything, from the computers and phones we use to communicate and process information to the cars we drive, consumers must have confidence that these systems are trustworthy and will not harm them.”

de Roche cites newspaper reports suggesting the level of nitrogen oxide pollutants generated by the VW diesel engines was up to 40 times more than the US standard, suggesting real potential for health issues amongst drivers and commuters, and reports in the New York Times revealing that between 40 and 106 people could have died as a result of exposure to the fumes.

“ICT professionals must operate according to a Code of Ethics and should be willing to challenge or even report any order from management that risks the safety of that organisation’s customers or staff. DieselGate is as much an indictment of the software industry as it is of the VW executives who issued the order for the software to be installed,” de Roche said.

To emphasise the point, de Roche quotes the co-creator of the Internet, Vint Cerf, who famously said, “I think with the degree of software that we’re surrounded by everywhere, that at some point we may be called to task for failing to do something that protects people’s interests and there may be liability, and as soon as that happens I think that some point of accreditation will be inescapable.”

de Roche was speaking at the IP3 AGM, which was timed to coincide with the IFIP World Computer Congress 2015 in South Korea, and which endorsed plans to align its social value projects and the directives of the 2008 IFIP IP3 Milan Declaration to the Sustainable Development Goals, which were ratified by the United Nations just last month.

de Roche points to the fact that when the Sustainable Development Goals replaced the Millennium Development Goals earlier this year, they included far greater focus on technology as an enabler to achieve progress in reducing poverty, improving access to communication and education, as well as addressing environmental issues and concerns.

She said the Milan Declaration, which promotes the ethical and professional application of technology with particular focus on the elements of competence, integrity, responsibility, accountability and public obligation, remains highly relevant to the new Sustainable Goals.

“We plan to map the Milan Declaration and our various activities to the 18 Sustainable Development Goals and their 11 Action Lines. This will allow us to easily track our progress against the goals as we contribute to the beneficial development and use of ICT in third world countries and in driving positive outcomes around the world.”

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Peter Dinham

Peter Dinham is a co-founder of iTWire and a 35-year veteran journalist and corporate communications consultant. He has worked as a journalist in all forms of media – newspapers/magazines, radio, television, press agency and now, online – including with the Canberra Times, The Examiner (Tasmania), the ABC and AAP-Reuters. As a freelance journalist he also had articles published in Australian and overseas magazines. He worked in the corporate communications/public relations sector, in-house with an airline, and as a senior executive in Australia of the world’s largest communications consultancy, Burson-Marsteller. He also ran his own communications consultancy and was a co-founder in Australia of the global photographic agency, the Image Bank (now Getty Images).

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