"When doctors use their knowledge for torture, society is outraged. Why don't the same standards apply to engineers?"

#Opinion

Fri, Dec 6th, 2013 10:00 by capnasty NEWS

If what the NSA is able to liberally invade people's privacy in part thanks to engineers providing the technology to do it, The Guardian's Abbas El-Zein wants to know why when "doctors or nurses use their knowledge of anatomy in order to torture or conduct medical experiments on helpless subjects, we are rightly outraged" and yet, society doesn't "seem to apply the same standards to engineers."

At one point during the hearing, Mr. Rusbridger was One aspect of Edward Snowden's revelations in the Guardian about the NSA's surveillance activities has received less attention than it should. The algorithms that extract highly specific information from an otherwise impenetrable amount of data have been conceived and built by flesh and blood, engineers with highly sophisticated technical knowledge. Did they know the use to which their algorithms would be put? If not, should they have been mindful of the potential for misuse? Either way, should they be held partly responsible or were they just "doing their job"?

One could ask similar questions about engineers who build technologies of violence. Although in the west, we use the euphemism "defence" ? and weapons often do serve this purpose ? arms are just as likely to be used for furthering less-than-honourable goals, whether invading other countries, bombing rebellious populations or staging coups against democratically-elected governments. Engineers who see themselves as builders of the shelter and infrastructure for human needs also use their expertise in order to destroy and kill more efficiently.

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