A Question of Programming Ethics

From the ACM Code of Ethics:

It's hard to square that with the following hair-raising tale Dustin Brooks sent me via email:

This is a companion discussion topic for the original blog entry at: http://www.codinghorror.com/blog/2008/03/a-question-of-programming-ethics.html

I had a guy email me his Credit Report once in Electronic Form. He frantically emailed me and asked me to delete it, which I did. I called him and he was so happy that he sent me an Amazon giftcard for $25. I have had people email me their e-tickets for their flights, etc.

Thats really bad, and the problem is that only people like us (who knows what reflector is) realize of that kind of things and very often the law is short to punish this kinds of crimes.

Good Job Jeff! if you stop programming try to be a detective or a tv series writer.

I really enjoy your blog, thanks!

Goes to show how much you can trust websites which request your email user/pass to import contacts!

Trust is good, possibility to check is better. If anything, this story is the best warning against closed source software.

BTW, why is this software still linked to?

Funny, alot of people seems to be praising Jeff’s honesty. Althought I’m sure Jeff is honest, the hero of the story is John Terry, as Jeff himself clearly points out. Not sure where this misunderstanding is coming from

Actually, mwalts, it’s Dustin Brooks who is the curious programmer who figured this out. Though I don’t know why Jeff doesn’t link to the original source.

Actually John Terry is the antagonist in this story and Dustin Brooks, the protagonist, deserves all the praise.

“Trust but verify.”

KyleG, I agree, I love Jeff’s blog but sometimes I wish he would link better to the original source. If in this case it was sent to him privately in an email, he should at least point that out.

Surely the real hero is Dustin Brooks? John Terry is the villain of the tale.

Good will, but poor action:

“John Terry” had probably setup an email forwarding to a backup gmail account in case somebody decompile his code.

So he still has all the passwords.

So now, with everything deleted and the account password modified, how are we going to notify all these account that they should change their password ?

That’s why I don’t download programs from those shareware directories.

Check out the site of the g-archiver “author”: http://www.matemediainc.com

Looks like a spammy SEO site. Not surprised. There’s probably a lot of shareware out there like this, because most of the time the guys pulling scams like this are script kiddies who are trading “recipes” on private forums.

It’s great to see somebody talking about ethics in relation to programming. So often I think it’s easy to get caught up in an idea of “I’m just interacting with a machine, and it interacts with other machines, and I’m not responsible for anything…”.

It’s also unfortunate that there really are people out there who would violate those ethics, but it’s good to see that they are real–that’s something that does have to be confronted.

I think point 1 in that ACM code is also something to think about. I wonder how many people are working on software that really does not contribute to human well-being, and don’t think about it. It’s an unfortunate tradition, though–some of the first computers ever were used to aim missiles, and without some twisty logic it’s hard to say how that contributes to human well-being more than other things the same programmer could have spent their time doing.


“Actually, mwalts, it’s Dustin Brooks who is the curious programmer who figured this out. Though I don’t know why Jeff doesn’t link to the original source.”

I’m pretty sure this IS the original source. There are no other references to Dustin Brooks / John Terry / G-Archiver that I can find on the web.

Jeff’s usually really awesome about linking to sources.

You stopped FAR too short. This should be turned over to authorities. That must be some sort of CRIMINAL offense.

Wow. How incredible. I think this is a wake-up call… we shouldn’t automatically trust software.

You logged into my gmail account? And deleted the fruits of my hard work? Some people have no shame!

(sorry, couldn’t resist. – My name is Thomas, not J Terry)

mwalts: Dustin Brooks is the hero, not John Terry. John Terry is the inept coder.

This John Terry seems to email pawel lesnikowski and adityasonphavde (aditya rao) I would not trust these people either.