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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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  • No. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Threni (635302) on Thursday January 03, 2013 @07:23PM (#42468885)

    There's no need to elaborate, is there? The analogies you conjur up in your mind are sufficient to tell you just how stupid an idea this is.

  • Perhaps (Score:4, Insightful)

    by CmdrEdem (2229572) on Thursday January 03, 2013 @07:35PM (#42469009) Homepage

    IMHO it all depends if the programmer knows that the client will use said feature/software for illicit activity. If the programmer doesn't know them he`s not to blame. Otherwise he is a partner and should be prosecuted as so, specially if the feature in question has the only possible purpose of illegal action.

  • Re:No. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by NFN_NLN (633283) on Thursday January 03, 2013 @07:37PM (#42469029)

    I found a similar story on another obscure website:

    "An anonymous reader points out the case of Saeed Malekpour, an Iranian-born permanent resident of Canada who worked as a web developer. In 2008, during a visit to Iran, Malekpour was arrested and detained by Iranian authorities on charges that he designed and moderated "adult content websites." In 2009, he was sentenced to death for "acting against the national security, insulting and desecrating the principles of Islam, and agitating the public mind." Malekpour wrote photo-uploading software, and in a letter he sent from prison, he said it was used by porn sites without his knowledge."

    http://yro.slashdot.org/story/12/01/22/0354253/web-developer-sentenced-to-death-in-iran [slashdot.org]

  • Round 'Em Up (Score:4, Insightful)

    by l0ungeb0y (442022) on Thursday January 03, 2013 @07:41PM (#42469085) Homepage Journal

    Seems that the DAs office in NYC should be busy issuing Arrest Warrants for manufacturers of Guns, Knives, Automobiles, Hammers, Crowbars and Household Cleaning Products.

    Ahh fuck it -- just arrest anyone who has ever made anything.
    We can't be too sure.

    I'm sure Duct Tape has been used in many abductions and murders.
    And arrest everyone at Google too -- how many murder suspects have been found to have used their site to help them commit their crimes?

  • Next up (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 03, 2013 @07:42PM (#42469101)

    Gun manufacturers held responsible for how their clients use their guns.

    The liberals up there in New York know this is a perfect test case to get all those Religious Right Republican biddys nodding their head yes along with them up until the time it's too late to say "wait! no!"

  • Re:No (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Synerg1y (2169962) on Thursday January 03, 2013 @07:46PM (#42469139)
    Are gun makers responsible for how their guns are used? :)
  • by Aviation Pete (252403) on Thursday January 03, 2013 @07:48PM (#42469171)
    just wait until we have the first fatalities with civilian UAVs or autonomous cars without permanent supervision. The weasels in management and politicians craving recognition will point all the way down to the poor soul who failed to write perfect code in too little time. This discussion is similar to the one about who is responsible for shootings - shooter or gun manufacturer. Only that at some point there will not be an identifiable person holding the gun, and still people get killed.
  • by jcr (53032) <jcr@@@mac...com> on Thursday January 03, 2013 @07:55PM (#42469285) Journal

    Asinine shit like this is why we need to maintain our right to trial by jury. If you're ever called to serve on a jury, please remember that when you do so, you are directly exercising the people's sovereign power to determine a just verdict of the case before you. A jury has the right to return a not guilty verdict if they so choose, even though the prosecutor and the judge will lie to you and tell you otherwise. Remember, you OUTRANK the entire government when you're a jury.

    -jcr

  • Re:Wrong headline (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Cowpat (788193) on Thursday January 03, 2013 @08:40PM (#42469699) Journal

    from the last paragraph of the first page of the article:

    “They made it clear that they would do nothing. I was expected to do everything, to modify the system to allow myself to get in to get the information they wanted,” he says. “Their whole intention was for me to retrieve information from those databases that were located in foreign countries. They were going to use me to get to the clients. But I’m not a hacker, I’m a software developer.”

    They want him to do it and give them the information, not create a backdoor for them to use. That way it's not illegal.

    Unbelievable. The correct response is for the countries in which the gambling sites in question, who are having their lawful business interefered with, reside to start taking retaliatory action - trade embargoes, expelled ambassadors, moratorium on extradition, closing airbases, etc.

  • Car Analogy (Score:3, Insightful)

    by chuckymonkey (1059244) <<moc.liamg> <ta> <notrub.d.selrahc>> on Thursday January 03, 2013 @08:42PM (#42469711) Journal
    Are car designers responsible for drunk drivers?
  • by FoolishBluntman (880780) on Thursday January 03, 2013 @09:19PM (#42470093)
    I think the plea bargain agreement(http://www.wired.com/images_blogs/threatlevel/2012/12/Robert-Stuart_Plea-Agreement.pdf) should land Manhattan Assistant District Attorney James Meadows in Federal Jail.
    He is asking the software vendor to commit theft on a large scale.
    I'm not sure of the exact change, something like conspiracy to commit grand theft.
  • by ducomputergeek (595742) on Thursday January 03, 2013 @09:22PM (#42470139)

    The 4 boxes of liberty are the Soap Box, Ballot Box, Jury Box, Ammo Box to be used in that order. Right now we're at the Jury box stage...

  • Re:No. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Shoten (260439) on Thursday January 03, 2013 @09:26PM (#42470171)

    There's no need to elaborate, is there? The analogies you conjur up in your mind are sufficient to tell you just how stupid an idea this is.

    Actually, yes...if you know in advance that what you're doing is actually facilitating a criminal act. It's called "being an accessory," or even falls under conspiracy, given the level of involvement needed to write software specifically to do certain things. Here's the difference:

    1: Being a gunsmith, making a gun, and putting it up for sale in accordance with all laws. Some guy you don't know buys it and then uses it to commit murder; the first time you learn of his intent to do so is when you find out that he did it. Okay, you aren't accountable.

    2: Being a gunsmith, and being approached by someone to make him a firearm with no serial number that wouldn't be traceable because it'd have no records. He pays you in cash, and tells you he intends to commit murder with it when you give it to him. Yeah, you're responsible in that case.

    Gambling in New York isn't legal. Writing software to be used in New York for gambling is therefore committing a crime. Slashdot just gave this a stupid title, is all..the crux of the question is not whether "programmers are responsible for the actions of their clients," but whether programmers who knowingly and willfully contribute to the commission of a crime can be prosecuted. And they can.

  • by Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) on Thursday January 03, 2013 @09:36PM (#42470293)

    The plea bargain is the most disturbing element for me. Apparently anyone can be charged with anything, and then forced to do whatever in exchange for a plea bargain for lesser punishment. The US is a very dangerous place to be right now.

  • Re:No. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by anagama (611277) <obamaisaneocon@nothingchanged.org> on Thursday January 03, 2013 @09:52PM (#42470439) Homepage

    Why not address the larger issue of why the government has to be everyone's mom? People will gamble. Some people enjoy it. Some people get hurt. The identical thing can be said for anything: mountain biking, ice cream, jogging, or french fries.

    How's the saying go? Canada got the French. Australia got the cons. And we got the Puritans.

    fucking puritans.

  • Re:No. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by russotto (537200) on Thursday January 03, 2013 @10:05PM (#42470569) Journal

    Gambling in New York isn't legal. Writing software to be used in New York for gambling is therefore committing a crime.

    This does not follow. It's not particularly unusual to build something "for export only" -- to use a car analogy, cars which aren't street legal in the US but are street legal in other countries. And if you prefer booze, the Jack Daniels distillery is located in a county where it is unlawful to sell alcohol.

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