Moral question: what would you do?

Where I am in Australia a law was passed about 3 years ago. TLDR: it allows the Australian government to force any computer programmer to put in a backdoor into software. All for “national security”. This demand would be a secret with severe penalties for revealing anything.

Today I read that the UK intends to introduce something similar in its “Snooper’s Charter”,.

My question: suppose that you are hired to work in IT or programming in such a country; would you tell the client or company that you are subject to these laws? The even more complex case is if you are in Country X that has such a law but are hired by someone in country Y that doesn’t. I have no idea what happens then. .

I used to want to be a computer programmer. But all this put me off any IT career. That and the extradition of the dutch Mega Upload programmer [NOT Kim Dot Com. One of the programmers who worked for him] That is a whole other discussion.

The only moral aspect here is do you follow the law of the land. Do you speed, fail to stop at stop signs?

This really is a legal question, is it not?

Perhaps you could add a little legal lingo to help the non Australians follow along.

Is a script a program? Does Australia have a backdoor into Signal? Can you own stock in a “program” that does not have a backdoor in China…

It’s public information. There’s nothing wrong with telling consumers these laws exist. However, I don’t really think most countries will implement these laws, and most privacy respecting projects will move development away from these countries.


I second @Perk1ns in that this is a legal question. But if you are a privacy-respecting company then what you may want to do is work on minimizing the amount of data permissions that your software collects so that less is at risk in the event of government backdoor access. This can then also be part of advertising as a way of saying the government decision sucks but we’re trying to protect you in spite of it.

If I was an individual programmer working at a company, this is what I would be advocating for internally. However, if management doesn’t see this as a concern, then you have a long-term career decision to make. In the end, this may be similar to other ways in which our digital privacy is already compromised from a legal perspective, and in those cases we just do our best. Not meant as a judgement for developers who are stuck in a bad situation.