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Who Benefits?

By Susan J. Winter

Communications of the ACM, Vol. 62 No. 7, Pages 23-25
10.1145/3332807

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I am the incoming editor of the Communications Computing Ethics column. I appreciate what previous column editors have done since this column's inception in 2008 and intend to follow their lead, creating a space where computing professionals can raise good questions about ethics emerging from our work. This does not guarantee good answers but should elicit good discussions, which are always encouraged in the pages of this magazine.

For my inaugural column, I begin with perhaps the oldest ethics-related question of all: Cui bono, which means "who benefits?" People are known to be self-interested, out to improve their own welfare. The larger society sets ethical boundaries on improving one's welfare. Forbidden are theft, fraud, nepotism, bribery, violence, and a host of other behaviors. Asking cui bono starts us down the path to ethical issues. This column uses the case of smart cities to illustrate the ethical dilemmas created by an otherwise innocuous-seeming issue.

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