"Ethical questions inevitably arise with innovation. But they are often an afterthought. Simplistic justifications can often replace serious ethical consideration. For example, when the tension between privacy and security is perceived as zero-sum, privacy often takes the backseat. With clients demanding quick turnaround, and engineers often lacking a profound understanding of civil liberty concerns, privacy often falls through the cracks. While software requires us to consider both privacy and security, the two issues are still perceived as mutually exclusive. Take the Apple v. FBI fight last year, for example. To whom did Apple owe its allegiance? Its clientele, the government, or itself? Should the firm have prioritized national security or consumer privacy?
Engineers aim to improve the human condition and improve people’s livelihoods. If computer scientists do not consider the moral consequences of their inventions, they will always fall short of achieving this goal. Neither technology nor innovation exist in a bubble. Stanford ought to require computer scientists to study computer and information ethics. Giving students the tools to create harm, without giving them the tools to understand it, is itself unethical."