Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Ghost in the Machine - secondary, tertiary, etc.side effects

Was listening the the This Week in Tech podcast and caught a comment by Kara Swisher. The statement dealt with the Wall Street Journal article Google's iPhone Tracking: Web Giant, Others Bypassed Apple Browser Settings for Guarding Privacy where she felt that the Google was not honest in their claim that the code applied to bypass Safari Web Browser settings was not to steal user information. Here is where someone who has not been involved in the development of software systems of any size fails to realize that when you have several coders working on a system, some pieces of code have side affects that have not nor could not be anticipated, period.

Yes Google has some brilliant software engineers. However, even the best minds cannot foresee all or most secondary and tertiary effects of a piece of code. To simply say that they knew all ramifications of the code is not to consider the complexity of their systems.

I am not saying that Google is always ethical. I have submitted previous posts that clearly state that I understand the danger of user data potentially being misused. I am not so naive to think that they are not interested in making money. But I am not sure that this case, that stemmed from code added that was designed to make different web browsers consistent which is a better experience for the user, is the result of malevolence to steal user information. It is certainly possible for it to be used in that way but again, this really could be a case of an unintended side effect or what is commonly termed, the ghost in the machine.

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