In this ethical analysis I am going to focus on the topic number two referring to, “Back Doors on Network Hardware to Prevent Terrorism.” The analysis would touch the eleven points use to determine who and how the analysis is developed in the real-world situations. For the time being, I am going to introduce the topic in a briefly matter. The topic is pretty simple the title describes it but is something that could not only affect the corporations but pretty much anyone that has piece of network hardware. With this bring the question if such topic is ethical or not?
An ethical analysis has different point and steps. The first step we take is to analysis and find who is the moral agent on the case, if we put this on perspective the moral agent would be NSA. The NSA are the ones trying to implement a back door in the hardware of some devices to be able to spy and collect date to avoid and capture terrorist in any circumstances of danger. If we put this a perspective the solution, they are implementing is really good, but is it good for all of the hardware to have a bad door security opening? In this case we have one thing that is at stake and that thing is the security of the hardware for this companies’ databases, or for anyone that using any of the hardware manufacture from NSA. The moral agent is pretty much the one that is charge of making the moral decision if is right or wrong, we never say illegal, but sometimes depending the type of decision we can consider illegal.
As mention before, a stake is an object or action that is being affected, in this case in the manufacture and sending the routers with the back-door capability on the hardware. A stake in ethics refers to the action that is going to be taken, form the owner or from the person that is having the hard decision to make. In the article or this case, the NSA is the one that feels that the responsibility of implementing such hardware changes is for the great of good. The miss perception in this situation the danger of infiltration form different agencies. NSA feels that is moral right for them and the country to do such interventions, but they don’t realize that the damage can be huge for this companies that are consider stakeholders. At result of bit of analysis in the situation, privacy would be the main stake of the case.
The stakeholders are those who can be directly affected, indirectly or are involve in the resolution of such decision. In this case the stakeholder can be describe as the corporations they are the ones directly affected by such process, with that we have the CEO and the developing team can be affected by the design and the manufacture of the hardware. If we look at the big picture, the other stakeholder is going to be the companies that are using such devices and have to know that their security and database is in danger. Such companies would have to change the way they use their network, also such companies would have to double check their security procedures to avoid anyone to get access to the hardware they are using. At the end of the later we have regular customers, people that has bought the hardware to use it in their regular lives. The total conclusion of the usage and the stakeholders goes down as the way society uses such hardware todays day, with that most of the people would eb affected by such decision affecting the trust of the hardware and company’s security and liability.
Possible Course of Actions:
To be more analytical, the ethical analysis takes in consideration different solutions to decide what courses of actions can be taken. A course of action is a process where we analysis the situation and determine different course of actions that the company or the moral agent can take. After that it gets analyze to see how such course can affect the stakeholders, the moral agent and the rest of the people affected to it. In this case the Stake would be Privacy, meaning that one course of action can be:
- A possible course of action is the rejection of the principal stakeholders to the idea of having a backdoor to their hardware, this would include the companies as CISCO that is the one mention on the article. With this decision the company would have to deal with NSA to prevent their interference in their manufacture, but it may affect a direct relationship with NSA.
- Another possible course of action can be having a regulation form the companies to avoid and use their right to privacy and manufacture to ensure their customers safety and liability. With this the NSA would have to commit a policy on where they would have a way to be able to check and have a backdoor in every hardware to prevent such terrorist activities.
In both of the course of actions the stakeholders would affect it directly. The responsibility of making the decision comes down the NSA the ones that are proposing the backdoor and forcing the manufacture of such of it as rule. In both cases the decision come down to that, but the stakeholders have the responsibility to accept or to go against the decision of the moral agent. The courses or decision of the moral agent can influence in a good way but like in everything there are consequences, and they need to be consider before anything.
For every course of action there are consequences that can affect the stakeholders in a direct or indirectly. Some main consequences of producing and adding backdoors in the hardware of this companies (CISCO,etc) products are the following, the main one would be the interchange of information between competitors, most of this companies compete with another companies to have a supremacy in the market. Their databases and secrets would be out to the public and the other competitors. Taking such factor as consideration the hackers and open entities that out there to damage the company would have an advantage. That would be another consequence, if the NSA is trying to avoid terrorist attacks, they would have to think in something more indirectly. Another consequence would be a backfire of their own creation the companies that are manufacturing such backdoors can be attack by cyber terrorism infecting their hardware and stealing any important information the hardware was connected to.
In this part of the analysis we going to use the different theories to evaluate the case in different perspectives of ethics and morals.
The first theory we going to use first is the Act of Utilitarianism, this act uses and compares the consequences in a short term versus the long term. In this case the consequences in the short terms is the gain of access to what it can be a way to prevent terrorist attacks, in the other hand the long-term consequences would be security breaches from different companies, hacking if the hackers get in possession of the hardware. The prediction of just consequences is more likely to be true some of the consequences in the short term can be useful for the government touching incrementing their happiness, but the long-term consequences can be predicted and catastrophic for both companies and the NSA.
This theory explains that if is rule there is nothing wrong with the outcomes, meaning if we put this in this case if the NSA makes this rule of manufacture the consequences would be always positive. There are no exceptions meaning there is no other solution more than following the rules.
Social Contract Theory/Rawls’ Principles of Justice:
This theory touches the personal rights of the individuals or entities that are being put on the line. In this case we have the corporations and the individuals that have a use of their hardware. If we touch the direct stakeholders, we can see that their privacy rights would be violated by the NSA. The theory also touches the fact that for some of this people involved in the contact it may be injected for the ones that have no control over the decision, the secondary stakeholders like workers in the company and developers are the ones that may have no saying in the final decision, for that the contract see such actions an injustice. Also, in the contact that the company and the NSA is never actually sing in this case the signature would be the great of good or the moral action behind the case. To determine an action there are many ways, there is not only one way to characterize.
The virtue theory is a theory that takes us back to the main essentials of ethics from Aristotle’s codes of ethics. The theory pretty much covers the fact of the influences of the human being knowledge on ethics and with that would bring the right answer or response to the problem that they are facing. In this case if we put this concept on perspective to the case, we are analyzing the main entity or individual would be the NSA they are the moral agent and with that the ones taking the decision, is it moral or not to have such the backdoors on the hardware from the companies that produce them. All come down to the morals of the NSA, their interpretation of morality would be the key of the course of action they would take.
ACM Code of Ethics and Software Engineering Code of Ethics:
Clause 3.6 Use care when modifying or retiring systems, this clause touches an important part of the dilemma that is getting analyze. If the hardware is getting modify without notification to the companies or the direct consumers, is a violation of the code of ethics in the ACM with this we have correlation with software code of ethics where this resolution would be resignation or termination. If the NSA take such decision, they may be in trouble for violating or try to violate that part of the code of ethics.
In my opinion, the best course of action that the NSA can take is to be able to settle an agreement or a policy with this companies to find a way to have a backdoor in the devices, but the best way to such process would be in the software. Even though both can bring similar consequences a software back door or an administrative entrance can be easier and would be better to regulate than having a physical back door in the hardware. At the end, the decision come down to, if the NSA are open to have the risk of getting back fire by the own creation, must of this changes would have to be public to no go against the code of ethics, that would be a dangerous move too. They are right ideals but a bad way to make it work in society.
"The Code Affirms An Obligation Of Computing Professionals To Use Their Skills For The Benefit Of Society.". Acm.Org, 2020, https://www.acm.org/code-of-ethics . Accessed 23 Feb 2020.
Gallagher, Sean. "Photos Of An NSA “Upgrade” Factory Show Cisco Router Getting Implant". Ars Technica, 2014, https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2014/05/photos-of-an-nsa-upgrade-factory-show-cisco-router-getting-implant/ . Accessed 23 Feb 2020.
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