On the Engineer's Responsibility in Protecting Privacy

by Paul Baran

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A discussion of the engineer's responsibility to protect privacy in an age of increasingly automated personal and business documentation. Computer systems could be designed more carefully than they are at present, but safeguards that provide the protection of privacy are expensive. As the engineer has been trained to focus his attention on carrying out the task assigned to him in as inexpensive a manner as possible, concern for privacy has been too often ignored. In the absence of an organizational structure to enforce a code of ethics, a restructuring of the profession at the engineering school level is indicated. The engineering school curriculum must be modified to cope with large systems in which the citizenry are an integral part of the system, and a new curriculum be devised that would provide course material on the behavior of individuals and of organizations to balance the weight given to training in quantitative methods.

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