Saturday, December 13, 2008

Software That Kills

In the latest installment of his monthly IEEE Software column, Philippe Kruchten asks about the relevance of licensing software engineers. In this article, he states:

The only purpose of licensing software engineers is to protect the public.

He then details the reasons why it makes sense to license people who write or certify “software-that-kills”.

Even if I am not licensed (and may never be), I fully agree with his positions. In fact, I feel compelled to ask why limiting licensing only to software that kills people. What about software that kills businesses? What about software that kills privacy?

Except when human lives are in jeopardy, software developers are basically free to do whatever they want when they build an application. Businesses and end users are left to goodwill and luck when it comes to receiving from software developers the professional standards they can legitimately expect from them.

Should licensed software engineers be engaged to at least review the design and architecture of software that can kill businesses or privacy? Would it be enough to restore trust in a profession from which the common wisdom is to expect so few?