Skip to main content
Markkula Center for Applied Ethics

Misinterpretation Mishap

Jocelyn Tan

Tony is a project leader at a company frequently subcontracted to produce code for various U.S. government entities and affiliates. Traditionally, code that was developed for one federal department could be reused for another if approval was obtained by the former.

One day, Tony’s company was contacted by a privately-owned commercial corporation, FlyHigh, to create code for an avionics-related image processing effort. Since the code requested was almost identical to one used for a past project, Tony’s team decided to, once approval had been obtained from the government, reuse the code.

After permission was granted through email, however, Tony realized the approving party, a law agency that was contracted by the government, lacked complete understanding of who would benefit from the reused code.

Tony wanted to contact the government directly to ensure it had been informed of all vital aspects of the contract, but realized doing so could mean having the initial approval revoked, having to re-code the requested code, and increasing the contract bid up to two million dollars.

Understanding the contract between his company and FlyHigh was on the line, should Tony move forward with clarifying the situation to the appropriate party?

Jocelyn Tan was a 2014-2015 Hackworth Fellow in Engineering Ethics at the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University.

August 2015

Aug 26, 2015