Tuesday, March 22, 2005

IT Developers Need to Consider Privacy Implications of Systems

Privacy Digest points to this ComputerWeekly.com article reporting a debate among senior representatives from IT user companies, suppliers, government and universities about how IT designers' need to be aware of privacy concerns when designing their systems.
IT can have a major impact on personal privacy even if system developers do not plan any deliberate intrusion, so IT specialists need to think more widely about the potential uses of their systems.
IT people should start to think beyond engineering and take account of the need to respect and protect privacy. They should not consider themselves as mere tool developers, use of whose tool is someone else's concern, the debate heard.

At system development level, IT professionals need to think about the privacy and security implications of what they are developing, how to minimise leakage, and how to enable individuals to check personal information handled by their systems. Security professionals need to be included in the design of systems, not just at the deployment stage.

At a broader professional level, IT people need to think about privacy, spread awareness of the issues, and consider social needs and how they are met in systems. IT professionals at this level have a duty to share awareness of what a system implies for the overall context, involving IT and human processes, the debate heard.
This concern is central to my research, as indicated by our Values In Design project website:
How do we ensure a place for values, alongside technical standards such as speed, efficiency, and reliability, as criteria by which we judge quality and acceptability of computer and information systems and new media? How do values such as privacy, autonomy, democracy, and social justice become integral to conception, design, and development, not merely retrofitted after completion?
It is encouraging to hear IT professionals disucssing how they can be proactive in influencing the design of their systems in a value-sensitive way.

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