Information Technology and Ethics/Software Quality

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Software Quality and Liability


The quality of software is important to users as well as businesses. Businesses use software as part of a business information system. Business information systems and safety-critical systems. Business information systems are a combination of hardware, software databases, networks, people and procedures. They collect and process information and disperse it into the proper departments. Since this software is essential to the business, if it fails the company may sue the manufacturer of the software.

In safety-critical systems, failure of this system may cause injury and/or death. In order to ensure the quality of such software IT professionals may have to test and reprogram systems many times over in order to work out the problems in the system. Safety-critical systems require more measures to identify and remove errors. To ensure the quality of the software, managers may appoint a project safety engineer. Project safety manager’s tasks may include system analysis, design, coding, fault analysis, testing, implementation, and change control. The software needs to be rechecked often; this means safety-critical systems take longer to complete. The cost of making quality software may lead many project managers to rush the product to completion in favor of revenue. This type of thinking may lead to product liability suits by consumers.

Product liability is not covered under federal law. Instead, it is covered by common law which is decided by state judges and the UCC (Uniform Commercial Code). In regards to software, Article 2 of the UCC states that if any defects cause injury or loss to purchasers, or users of the product, the victims may sue. There are several types of software liability claims:

  • Strict Liability is when the defendant is held strictly liable for injuring another person regardless of intent or negligence.
  • Negligence is the failure to do what a reasonable person would do, or doing something that a reasonable person would not do.
  • Breach of Warranty occurs when manufactures fail to meet the terms of the warranty.
  • Intentional Misrepresentation is when a seller or lessor misrepresents the quality of a product and/or conceals defects.