Computer Ethics, Summer 2018
Comm 010, 5:30-8:30ish Tuesdays and Thursdays
Class 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
This Friday (May 25) the EU's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)
goes into effect. It is legally binding only in the EU, but most websites
that collect user information must either comply or else find a way to
block European users.
Pros: People are entitled to some control over what data is gathered
Cons: Many large sites operate with an understanding that the service is
free so long as you give up some personal information to be used for
advertising. GDPR threatens that understanding. Also, compliance is
complicated and costly for small sites.
The Supreme Court should release their decision on Carpenter v
US in June 2018. Timothy Carpenter was convicted of armed
robbery, based in part on cellphone records tying Carpenter's phone (and
by assumption Carpenter himself) to specific cellphone towers. These
records were obtained by the police without a warrant, and covered 127
days. (Generally, GPS location data requires a warrant while nearest-tower
records are considered to be business records of the cell-phone providers,
but in Carpenter's case the location data covered over four months.)
Should the police be able to look up your location history without a
warrant? If so, for how long?
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
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.
- We need a strong DMCA takedown process to protect copyright holders
- Mass communications monitoring should be abolished; no government
agency should be able to access even communications metadata without a
finding of probable cause.
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?
- understanding traditional ethical theories in the context of computing
- understanding legal theories of computing & information
- understanding some of the social consequences of computing technology
- Should we still use the word "stealing"
- Is it as bad as physical theft?
Overview of some of the issues we will discuss this semester:
- copyright (ch 4)
- whether there is such a thing as "intellectual property"
- DMCA: Digital Millennium Copyright Act
- privacy (ch 2)
- matching / fraud prevention
- personal profiles
- web tracking
- from employers
- from copyright holders (RIAA lawsuits, ISP actions)
- per-use content management
- software patents (ch
- what is the purpose of
software patents? To enforce ownership rights, or to improve
- computer crime
- software licensing
- legal issues regarding "click" contracts
- trust and the web
- security: phishing, certificates, etc
- antitrust issues
- professional issues
- responsibilities and liabilities
- talking to your supervisor
Michael Eisner's June
2000 statement to Congress (edited, from Halbert & Ingulli 2004).