Cloud Computing

The Cloud Native Computing Foundation is offering free training on how to make ethics a part of your process

Actually, it’s about ethics in software development
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Francis Scialabba

· 3 min read

Good news for those in the business of programming who might be wary of accidentally contributing to a dystopian future: the Cloud Native Computing Foundation has launched a new course specifically designed to help you, well, not do that.

The free online training course, titled Ethics in Open Source Development and produced in partnership with Linux Foundation Training and Certification and AI firm Ethical Intelligence, hopes to impart participants with tools to help avoid causing harm in software development. “Considerations like how a piece of code may be used by a malicious actor, whether a hardware design could be modified for a nefarious purpose, or simply how an algorithm might affect different classes of person differently are not always top of mind,” wrote the CNCF in its announcement of the training course. “However they should be.”

“You hear ethics and you think, ‘philosophers,’ maybe, right?” Clyde Seepersad, SVP and GM of training and certification at the Linux Foundation, told IT Brew in an interview. “But in a very real sense, people make ethical decisions, whether it’s privacy-related decisions, whether it’s transparency-related decisions, whether it’s decisions about how this impacts the community—they make those every day when they’re developing apps and developing infrastructure...The things you work on have implications out in the wild.”

Seepersad said the two-to-three-hour course focuses on three major ethical factors in software development—privacy, transparency, and the potential impact on overall well-being of a product.

“It’s a part of how you think about developing these services, because it should inform every step of the way right as you go through it,” Seepersad told IT Brew. “And I think that’s [what] the challenge is, we’re dealing with an audience that’s used to really locking in on a problem or solution and industries, solving it, right. What’s the most technically elegant way to solve it? And what we’re seeing as well, [is that] there’s a bigger canvas out there...We want folks to at least stop and think about the implications of those choices that they are making.”

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The website notes that the target demographic for the course is product managers aiming to integrate ethics by design into their process and developers who seek to use “critical-thinking techniques and proven mental frameworks” developed by ethics experts in their work. Other related courses offered by CNCF offer tips on inclusivity, secure development, open-source licensing, and software bills of materials.

Seepersad pointed to racially biased facial-recognition algorithms and apps that failed to consider whether young users could truly give informed consent as examples of software that likely didn’t center ethics, to their detriment.

“I think it has been a blind spot. For obvious reasons, a lot of the focus is on your technical competence, right? What languages do you know? What frameworks have you built? How many GitHub commits do you have?” Seepersad said. “I think of this as stepping back and realizing that the technical skills are necessary, but not sufficient, right, you need a little bit more, especially now that we've seen some of the unintended consequences kind of out in the wild.”—TM

Top insights for IT pros

From cybersecurity and big data to software development and gaming. Our IT Brew newsletter delivers the latest news and analysis of trends shaping the IT industry, like only The Brew can.