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Crime Government Software The Courts

Are Programmers Responsible For the Actions of Their Clients? 222

Posted by timothy
from the ok-now-let's-talk-tortkey dept.
Bobfrankly1 writes "Robert Stuart and his company Extensions Software are being charged by New York authorities, claiming he is promoting gambling in New York because of the actions of his clients. They are charging him after he rejected a plea agreement that would have him plead guilty to lesser charges, adding backdoors to his software, and using said backdoors to gather details on his clients and their customers." Another article on the case at Salon.
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Are Programmers Responsible For the Actions of Their Clients?

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  • Re:No. (Score:2, Informative)

    by SomePgmr (2021234) on Thursday January 03, 2013 @07:48PM (#42469167) Homepage

    [No.] There's no need to elaborate, is there?

    I want to agree, but according to the linked articles, it sounds like they're making headway on proving that wrong.

  • Re:Wrong headline (Score:0, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 03, 2013 @08:32PM (#42469617)

    Not true. The government is not allowed to perform unreasonable searches, but if a private citizen just happened to perform an unreasonable search, and handed over the information to the government, then that is admissible evidence.

  • Not the same logic (Score:4, Informative)

    by DragonWriter (970822) on Thursday January 03, 2013 @08:35PM (#42469639)

    So by your logic, anyone who writes FTP clients/servers, or Web Browsers, or ANYTHING that could be used for Illegal activity, then they should be held accountable?

    Your strawman doesn't represent GP's logic because GP said that the programmer should be held responsible if he "knows that the client will use said feature/software for illicit activity." That's different than knowing that the software could be used for illegal activity, even for something so widely used that that knowledge also implies knowledge to a statistical certainty that some user, somewhere will eventually end up using for criminal activity.

    And, frankly, it is pretty much the standard that, decades ago, when I worked in retail (at Radio Shack) we were trained to apply: if a customer told us something that made us believe they were going to use the product they were seeking to purchase for criminal activity, we shouldn't sell it to them, otherwise the we (the company and potentially the sales person) could be held culpable.

    There's the case where a purchaser goes on to use a product illegally and the seller is innocent, and then there is a case where a criminal purpose known to both the seller and purchaser is the whole point of the sale. Obviously, the seller, when charged, has a vested interest in portraying the latter case as if it was the former; there's a reason we have trials with evidence rather than just deciding criminal cases based on public statements by either the prosecutor or the defendant.

  • The actual charge (Score:5, Informative)

    by DragonWriter (970822) on Thursday January 03, 2013 @08:44PM (#42469725)

    Good question, did he or did he not know what it will be used for?Or should I put, are there any evidence that he did know?

    The actual charge (rather than Stuart's characterization of it) is that Stuart and his employees "knowingly advanced and profited from unlawful gambling activity by engaging in bookmaking to the extent that they received and accepted in any one day more than five bets totaling more than five thousand dollars."

    Not that they provided software which the purchaser of the software used (with or without their knowledge) to accept bets, but that Stuart and his employees actually received and accepted bets.

    If Stuart is to be convicted, they will need to prove that charge to a jury.

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