Science and Engineering Ethics

, Volume 2, Issue 1, pp 25–42

Accountability in a computerized society

  • Helen Nissenbaum

DOI: 10.1007/BF02639315

Cite this article as:
Nissenbaum, H. Sci Eng Ethics (1996) 2: 25. doi:10.1007/BF02639315


This essay warns of eroding accountability in computerized societies. It argues that assumptions about computing and features of situations in which computers are produced create barriers to accountability. Drawing on philosophical analyses of moral blame and responsibility, four barriers are identified: 1) the problem of many hands, 2) the problem of bugs, 3) blaming the computer, and 4) software ownership without liability. The paper concludes with ideas on how to reverse this trend.

Key Words

accountability bugs computer ethics liability moral responsibility standard of care 

Copyright information

© Opragen Publications 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • Helen Nissenbaum
    • 1
  1. 1.University Center for Human ValuesPrinceton UniversityPrincetonUSA

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