Computer Ethics, Spring 2018

Comm 013, 4:15-6:45 Thursdays
Class 1

Week 1 Readings

Read the first three sections of Baase chapter 1 and at least the first section of chapter 4, especially:
    Video sharing in §1.2.1
    Cellphone case-study in §1.2.2
    What is intellectual property?: §4.1.1

Before class 2, finish reading chapter 1 and read the first three sections of chapter 4.

The main course notes are in the Notes Organized by Topic section on the main web page. Reading assignments, comments on the class discussion and occasional special notices are in these week-by-week notes.

A couple questions

1. There are machine-learning systems used by the police and the judicial system to predict risk of future criminal behavior. How accurate should these be? What do we do if they are not accurate? What should we do if the predictions appear to be improperly correlated with the suspect's race? See Mortgage-lending firms have for years used machine-learning credit-scoring systems that often have hidden biases, but have largely gotten away with it on the grounds that the biases are not "intentional".

2. Who is Anna-Senpai? Do any of you play Minecraft? In September 2016, the blog was forced off the Internet for four days due to a 0.6 Tbit/sec [!] DDoS attack. Krebs had recently written about an Israeli "booter" firm vDOS; just before the attack its two founders were arrested. Simple retaliation? The Krebs attack used the "Mirai" botnet; vDOS used the competing Qbot. There's money to be made in selling booter services, but apparently the biggest customers are operators of Minecraft servers, who want to knock other Minecraft servers offline, and then steal their customers. Anna-Senpai is the codename of the author of the Mirai botnet; Brian Krebs discusses this person's likely real identity in who-is-anna-senpai-the-mirai-worm-author/.


There will be three papers. For the first paper, you will be given an opportunity to rewrite it.

Plagiarism rules: be sure ALL quotations are marked as such, and also cited.

When you write, be sure you organize your points clearly and address the question. Grammar and style count for MUCH less!

You will each participate in one or two "debates". I will publish a list of topics soon, and create a sign-up site. Topics will be in the form of declarative sentences; topics based on the examples above might be
  1. We need a strong DMCA takedown process to protect copyright holders
  2. Mass communications monitoring should be abolished; no government agency should be able to access even communications metadata without a finding of probable cause.
At the start of class on the designated day, you'll present either the for position or the against position. Your presentation should take 3 to 5 minutes. Someone else will then take the opposing position.

The catch is that you won't know which position you'll have until the actual start, so you'll have to think about both sides.

You may use notes. At the end of the debate the rest of the class will vote as to the winner; your goal should be to try to convince your classmates.

We will not have exams.

Example: is file-sharing stealing, if nobody lost anything?

Overview of some of the issues we will discuss this semester:

Michael Eisner's June 2000 statement to Congress (edited, from Halbert & Ingulli 2004).