Computer Ethics, Summer 2018

Comm 010, 5:30-8:30ish Tuesdays and Thursdays
Class 1

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 about them.

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
  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).