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Re: The Ethics of Webbots

by dragonchild (Archbishop)
on Sep 17, 2004 at 18:47 UTC ( #391874=note: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??

in reply to The Ethics of Webbots

All the above advice is absolutely on-point. Some advice for when your boss doesn't listen:
  1. Get the request in writing, if you haven't already done so.
  2. Get your objections in writing, if you haven't already done so.
  3. Get his overruling of your objections in writing, if you haven't already done so.
  4. Go talk to HR, if you feel you can without endangering your job. Let them handle it.
  5. If all else fails, you can do one of two things:
    1. Contact the site you're being asked to scrape and let them know the position you're in.
    2. Do the job anyway while actively searching for another job.

The idea is to have your ass completely covered. That's what the paper trail is for. You can term it as "I just want to know exactly what you want and be able to refer to it without bothering you." Signatures are best, but email is often good enough.

I cannot emphasize this part strong enough - Make hardcopies of all email and photocopies of all signed documents, then store them offsite. These are your only protection when the company gets sued and the $h!t starts to roll downhill.

If you're absolutely paranoid, you might even want to talk to a lawyer, just to make sure the jurisdiction you're in doesn't have some crazy laws that would skew the issue.

We are the carpenters and bricklayers of the Information Age.

Then there are Damian modules.... *sigh* ... that's not about being less-lazy -- that's about being on some really good drugs -- you know, there is no spoon. - flyingmoose

I shouldn't have to say this, but any code, unless otherwise stated, is untested

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Re^2: The Ethics of Webbots
by Your Mother (Archbishop) on Sep 18, 2004 at 03:36 UTC

    I'll add, from a personal work experience that ended up in a multi-million dollar lawsuit, that dragonchild's advice above is excellent and should be heeded.

Re^2: The Ethics of Webbots
by Rhys (Pilgrim) on Sep 18, 2004 at 16:39 UTC
    I'll second the above endorsement of dragonchild's method. This method has prevented many a lawsuit and/or grievance where I work, and has drastically shortened several others. You may also find that, once you put your objections - backed up by the ToS from the site - in writing, that the original request magically disappears. :-)

    Get it in writing. Get it in writing. Get it all in writing.


Re^2: The Ethics of Webbots
by radiantmatrix (Parson) on Sep 22, 2004 at 16:40 UTC
    All of the parent poster's thoughts are valid, and I agree.

    A few additional thoughts, though:

    • Bring the ToS violation issue up with the objection "due to potential legal risk to the company, this should be run past the legal department." Cc: the legal department on that memo. That will come off as concern for the company and not a refusal to do the work. If your boss is angry, you can always claim "I'm looking out for both our jobs", and legal will likely agree. Not only that, it will CYA against being personally named if someone does sue, because you were acting on legal counsel.
    • Hardcopies of e-mail aren't enough. Bcc: yourself on all communication so all is properly threaded. Take snapshots of your mail folder daily, and digitally sign and encrypt them before moving them offsite. Cryptographically sign all of your outgoing messages. If possible, request your boss do the same.
    • If your boss inists on doing something you feel might be illegal (or at least likely to get you or the company sued), make an appointment with your legal department. They are required, in most places, to keep your identity sealed. Your boss is also unlikely to mess with them. :)
    • If the concern is ethical, make an appointment with your boss' direct manager. Explain that you don't want to get your boss in trouble, but explain that you "have a difference of opinion" over the ethics and ask his/her help in resolving it. Get the resolution in writing. Not only does that CYA to another level, if done tactfully it will be noted positively.
    Some of these actions are a small risk to your job if you have a vengeful boss. However, most of them allow for recourse of "wrongful termination", since you have a clear paper-trail showing that you were not refusing but raising ethical and legal concerns. Depending on where you live, you might be further protected by "whistle-blower" legislation.

    IANA Attorney, so please check with one if you're interested in what your precise rights under the law may be.

    $me = rand($hacker{perl});

    All code, unless otherwise noted, is untested
    "All it will give you though, are headaches after headaches as it misinterprets your instructions in the most innovative yet useless ways." - Maypole and I - Tales from the Frontier of a Relationship (by Corion)
Re^2: The Ethics of Webbots
by EvdB (Deacon) on Sep 21, 2004 at 16:46 UTC
    This is good advice but remember that an illegal act is illegal regardless of who told you to do it. To take it to the extreme: Yes officer, I shot him but my boss told me to. I have a letter here prooving that I did not want to and that he overuled me...

    The paper trail may get you out of trouble inside your company, but would be an admission that you knew you were wrong if the other company got hold of it. Tread with care - stay legal.

    --tidiness is the memory loss of environmental mnemonics

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