• Introduction

    his week you will continue to learn about a range of issues that are important to Computing professionals. These are issues that you need to be aware of in your future career. You will also need to consider, later in the module, which issues may apply to the topic which you choose for your project proposal.

    This week we will look at the following:
    Legal Issues – privacy, intellectual property, risk and liability
    The nature of a Profession
    Professional bodies
    Codes of conduct
  • Privacy

    Information is valuable but can also be a liability. It is important to ensure that private information relating to persons or institutions does not become public without consent.

    The demand for information, and hence the importance of privacy in relation to that information, has been driven by:
    Increasing digitization of information
    Declining costs of digital communication
    Increased miniaturization of mobile computing devices and other communications equipment
    Greater public awareness of the potential abuse of digital communication

    Elements of privacy:

    Solitude: The right to be alone without disturbances
    Anonymity: The right to have no public personal identity
    Intimacy: The right not to be monitored
    Reserve: The right to control one’s personal information including the methods of dissemination of that information.

    Types of Privacy

    Although there are varied definitions of privacy, the several types of privacy we are going to discuss here are not influenced by the factors we have outlined in the previous section.

    Personal Privacy

    Prevention of anyone or anything that would intrude or violate personal space where those attributes are, including physical searches, video recording, and surveillance

    Informational Privacy

    Concerns the protection of unauthorized access to information, including:
    Personal information, e.g. religion, sexual orientation, political affiliations, or personal activities
    Financial information
    Medical information

    Institutional Privacy

    Privacy of data which is critical to business, e.g. research data, sales and product data, marketing strategies

    Privacy protection


    Through the use of software and other technically based safeguards and also by education of users and consumers to carry out self-regulation.


    Contractual protection against unauthorized reproduction or distribution - needs to be enforceable.


    Through the enactment of laws by national legislatures and enforcement of such laws by the law enforcement agencies. For example, the European Union has recently introduced the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which is the most important change in data privacy regulation in that region in 20 years.

    Useful link: 🔗 EUGDPR.org
  • Intellectual Property

    Creating or providing computer technology products, services, and software requires a considerable investment in both time and money. So the individuals who do this work should reap financial rewards for their efforts. This creativity must therefore be protected

    Intellectual property rights form a wide scope of mechanisms that include copyrights, patents, trademarks, protection of trade secrets, Unfortunately, some of these laws are not universal; they only apply in one country. And even within the USA, the same laws may not apply in all states. In particular, we look at intellectual property rights as they apply to computer products, services, and software.


    Copyright is a right, enforceable by law and accorded to an inventor or creator of an expression, which is an original work that has a tangible form and is fixed in a medium - can include creative works together with audiovisual and architectural works and sound recordings.


    Patents protect inventions or discoveries.

    Trade Secrets

    A trade secret is information that gives a company or business a competitive advantage over others in the field. It may be a formula, a design process, a device, or trade figures. Thus, there is no one acceptable description or definition of trade secrets.


    A trademark is a label that identifies a product or service, and attempts to distinguish itin the minds of the consumers. The label may be any word, name, picture, or symbol.

    Fair Use Doctrine

    Establishes a balance between the protection of rights of content owners to benefit from their works and the basic rights of the community to gain from each member’s contributions for the betterment of all. The use of copyrighted material is considered fair if it does not exploit the commercial value of the work.

    There are four ways to judge whether the use of an invention, discovery, or work is fair or not.

    Purpose of use, commercial or educational
    Nature of use
    Percentage of use
    The effect of use on the commercial value of the invention, discovery, or works

    There are so many exceptions and inclusions under the fair use doctrine that it is difficult to be sure what fair use is unless one talks to a copyright lawyer or other experts knowledgeable in copyright law.

    Protecting Computer Software Under IP

    Algorithms and ideas are not classified as intellectual property and, therefore, are not in any way protected. However, software, although it makes use of algorithms, is not considered to be an algorithm but rather a manifestation, an expression of that algorithm.

    Protection of Software under Copyright Laws

    Computer software, along with its documentation, can be protected under the copyright laws. The developer of a program thus has protective rights to authorize others of his or her choice to reproduce the format of the program, to update and upgrade the program and distribute it for free, or to sell or transfer ownership. The buyer of such a program has some protected rights also. The buyer has the right to make another copy as a backup, provided that a copy is not used on another machine. However by registering software for copyright, the developer is opening up the secrets of the whole project, and courts in some countries have taken the position that copyright registration precludes maintaining software as a trade secret.

    Protection of Software under Patent Laws

    Unlike copyright laws, patents protect the processing of the idea; they also protect the implementation of the idea as a machine, a manufacturing process, or a composition of matter or materials. Under these conditions, computer hardware components, by their very nature, are protected under the patent laws. Software also may be protected under the patent laws under certain circumstances. However, issues around patenting software are not fully settled, and it can be very difficult to apply successfully for patents, particularly as much software is created by smaller ventures that lack the resources required to do so.


    Software is usually protected by licences. When a developer licences his or her work, this does not mean giving away any rights. The developer still holds the original copyright (or patent) on that work. What a license does is grant specific permissions for others to use that work.

    Open-source software

    Open-source software is software that is released under open-source licences. These make it easy for others to contribute to a project without having to seek special permission. They also protect the original creator and help to prevent others from claiming the work as their own.

    The terms open-source software and free software mean almost the same thing, but have a somewhat different philosophy. Open-source is related to how software is developed, whereas free relates to a social movement. The Free Software Foundation (🔗 https://www.fsf.org) states that "Free software is software that gives you the user the freedom to share, study and modify it. We call this free software because the user is free."

    There are a number of open-source licences which differ in the conditions they specify, for example:
    The GNU General Public Licence (GPL)
    Link 🔗 https://opensource.org/licenses/gpl-2.0.php
    The MIT licence
    Link 🔗 https://opensource.org/licenses/mit-license.php
    The Apache licence
    Link 🔗 http://www.apache.org/licenses/

    Digital Rights Management

    Digital rights management (DRM) refers to any scheme that controls access to copyrighted material using technological means. DRM removes usage control from the person in possession of digital content and puts it in the hands of a computer program.

    Digital rights management tries to solve the problem that the ease of distribution of digital content over the Internet has made traditional copyright law obsolete in practice. However, many consumers consider DRM to be overly-restrictive.
  • Risk

    Risk is a potential problem with causes and effects.

    Causes of software risks include:
    Poor software design
    Mismatch of hardware–software interfaces,
    Poor support, and maintenance
    Personnel shortfalls
    Unrealistic schedules and budgets
    Developing the wrong functions and properties
    Developing the wrong user interface
    Continuing stream of requirement changes

    Effects of software risks can include:
    Loss to the customer
    Loss of reputation or harm to society
    Monetary losses
    Legal actions against the seller
    Catastrophic events

    Consumer protection

    Software products may not work as expected because the buyer has unrealistic expectations about the product, the environment in which the product is supposed to work is inadequate, the seller exaggerated the capacities of the software, or the software is simply faulty. Legal protection for the consumer can come from a number of legal frameworks or agreements.

    Buyer and Provider Rights
    Service-Level Agreements (SLA)
    Customer-based SLA: An agreement with an individual customer group, covering all the services they use.
    Service-based SLA: An agreement for all customers using the services being delivered by the service provider
    Multilevel SLA: The SLA is split into the different levels, each addressing different set of customers for the same services, in the same SLA.
    Service Provider–User Contracts
    Express Warranties - affirmation of a fact, a promise, or a description of goods, a sample, or a model made by the seller to the buyer relating to the goods and as a basis for payment negotiations.
    Implied Warranties - enforced by law according to established and accepted public policy.


    Producers try to control their liability losses by putting limits on warranties via disclaimers. Through disclaimers, producers preempt lawsuits from buyers by telling buyers in writing on the contracts the limits of what is guaranteed. Whether these disclaimers are recognized in courts depends on a number of factors including the belief that the disclaimers were made in good faith.
  • Being a Professional

    Build Trust: ethical, customer satisfaction, expertise, extra mile

    Communicate effectively : slowly, clearly, attentively, carefully

    Be Generous: praise others, share, say thank you, smile

    Computing Professional Societies

    Professional bodies, or societies, play a number of important roles, including:
    Establishing codes of conduct for members
    Establishing mechanisms for dissemination of good practice and new developments
    Setting standards for entry to the profession
    Advising governments about matters within the society's area of expertise

    Professional societies may represent members in:
    Different specialisms within a discipline
    Different geographical regions

    The following list includes societies which represent the broad computing profession in a number of regions/countries:

    United Kingdom
    British Computer Society (BCS) - 🔗 www.bcs.org
    Institute of Engineering and Technology - 🔗 www.theiet.org/

    United States of America
    Institute of Electrical & Electronic Engineers (IEEE) - 🔗 www.ieee.org
    Association of Computing Machinery (ACM) - 🔗 www.acm.org/

    Computer Society of India - 🔗 www.csi-india.org

    China Computer Federation 🔗 www.ccf.org.cn

    Brazilian Computer Society - 🔗 www.sbc.org.br

    South Africa
    Institute of IT Professionals South Africa 🔗 https://www.iitpsa.org.za/

    International Federation for Information Processing - 🔗 www.ifip.org/
    IFIP is a multinational body with representatives in many countries worldwide, including a number of African countries.

    Benefits of Membership

    Continuing Professional Development (CPD) Planning Frameworks

    Career Advice


    Discounted training opportunities

    Formal recognition using post nominals e.g. MBCS, FBCS, FIEEE
  • Examples of Codes of Conduct

    IEEE Code of Ethics
    UK Flag  UK engineering Council Statement of Ethical Principles
    UK Flag  IET Rules of Conduct
    UK Flag  Institute of Mechanical Engineers Code of Conduct Regulations
    UK Flag  Institute of Civil Engineers Code of Professional Conduct
    US Flag  IEEE Code of Ethics
    US Flag  ACM Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct
    US Flag  National Society of Professional Engineer Code of Ethics

    British Computer Society Code of Conduct

    Professional Competence and Integrity
    only undertake to do work .. .that is within your … competence.
    not claim any level of competence that you do not possess.
    develop your .. knowledge, skills and competence
    ensure that you have the knowledge and understanding of Legislation
    respect and value alternative viewpoints
    reject and not make any offer of bribery or unethical inducement.

    DUTY to Public Interest
    have due regard for other’s public health, privacy, security, wellbeing
    have due regard for the legitimate rights of Third Parties conduct
    your professional activities without discrimination
    promote equal access to the benefits of IT

    DUTY to Relevant Authority
    carry out your …. responsibilities with due care and diligence …. not disclose or authorise to be disclosed, or use for personal gain or to benefit a third party, confidential information

    DUTY to the Profession
    accept your personal duty to uphold the reputation of the profession
    seek to improve professional standards

  • Why Adopt Standards?

    To transfer ’good practice’
    To benchmark against “good practice”
    To meet contractual demands of clients
    To meet the demands of a certifying body
    To have a political safety net
    To ensure Product & Service integration
    To adhere to requirements of other standards (ISO9000 and similar) or software process improvement initiatives.

    Example: ISO 14915

    Software ergonomics for multimedia user interfaces — Part 1: Design Principles and framework

    Part 1: Design principles and framework
    Provides design principles for multimedia user interfaces and provides a framework for multimedia design.

    Part 2: Multimedia navigation and control
    Provides recommendations for media control and navigation in multimedia applications. Media control is mainly concerned with functions for controlling dynamic media such as audio or video. Navigation refers to the conceptual structure of the multimedia application and the user's interactions needed in order to move in that structure. It also includes recommendations for searching multimedia material.

    Part 3: Media selection and combination
    Provides recommendations for the selection of media with respect to the communication goal or the task, as well as with respect to the information's characteristics. It also provides guidance for combining different media. It includes recommendations for integrating multimedia components in viewing and reading sequences.

    European Space Agency: System Requirements Document Structure

    1 Introduction
    2 General Description
    2.1 Relation to current projects
    Describe the relationship to other projects
    3 Specific Requirements
    List the specific requirements, with attributes. Subsections may be regrouped around high level functions.
    3.1 Functional requirements
    3.2 Performance requirements
    3.2 Interface requirements
    3.3 Operational requirements
    3.5 Resource requirements
    3.6 Verification requirements

    IEEE Standards Themes

    Instrumentation & Measurement
    National Electrical Safety Code
    Nuclear Power
    Power & Energy
    Power Electronics
    Smart Grid
    Wired & Wireless
    Aerospace Electronics
    Antennas & Propagation
    Computer Technology
    Consumer Electronics
    Electromagnetic Compatibility
    Green & Clean Technology
    Healthcare IT
    Software & Systems Engineering
    Industry Applications
  • Developing Standards

    Developing Standards

    Tailoring Standards

    Need for Customisation
    Adoption to project of different size
    Integration with standards demanded by different procurers – Integration with standards used by different developers

    Good Standards leave space for tailoring

    Good Standards provide guidelines about
    mandatory and optional practices
    the customisation process itself

    Client Standards


    UK Govt Code of Technology Practice
    (🔗 https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/technology-code-of-practice/technology-code-of-practice)

    Define user needs, aims and capabilities
    Make things interoperable
    Make things open
    Make things secure
    Adopt cloud first
    Make things accessible
    Share and reuse
    Use common government solutions
    Meet the 🔗 Digital Service Standard for digital services
    Comply with the 🔗 Greening Government ICT strategy
    Define your sourcing strategy
    Demonstrate an end-to-end service
    Use common government sourcing routes
    Enter into sensible contracts