Comp 317-001/417-002

Social, Ethical and Legal Issues in Computing

Peter Dordal, Loyola University CS Dept

Summer 2020: Tuesdays and Thursdays. We're scheduled for 5:30-8:45. However, the Comp 317 and 417 groups are in the process of being split into two sections. I still have not decided (even though it's been almost two hours since the split was announced to me) whether we'll meet all as a group, or whether we'll split it with 3:17 meeting 5:30-7:00 and 417 meeting 7:15-8:45. We might do a combination.

On Tuesday May 19 everyone will meet together, via Zoom, at 6:45 pm.

Because there are asynchronous class video lectures, we will NOT be meeting the full 3 hours 15 minutes.

Our synchronous meetings are now as follows:

Online videos: For 317, these are accessed via the Panopto tab at the left side of Sakai. For 417, a list of links is maintained in the "Videos" file in the Sakai Resources folder.

Initially there are two ("pip" here refers to the picture-in-picture format):

You should watch the filesharing video before the first class. (You can also just read the filesharing section of the "Filesharing and Ethical Theory" notes below.)

Zoom: Each of 317 and 417 now has its own Zoom link, found under the "Zoom Pro" tab at the left-hand side of Sakai. You'll need to "register" (that should be straightforward; use your Loyola credentials). You'll also need a class Zoom password, which I'll email out.

Text: The textbook will be A Gift of Fire, 5th Edition, by Sara Baase and Timothy Henry, Prentice-Hall, 2017. This is also available in an e-book format.

There will be three writing assignments during the semester; the first writing assignment will have a rewriting component, as you resubmit your first draft. Each of these will be ~1000 words or so.

There will also be small assignments each class to either post something on the Sakai discussion board, or to write a short answer to a current question.

There will be a final exam on Sakai. It should be pretty straightforward.

My general course groundrules are here. Loyola's academic integrity rules are here.

You are expected to be familiar with the rules for quoting other sources in papers.

Notes and Readings

Notes Organized by Topic

Filesharing and Ethical Theory classes:  1 and 2

Copyright Laws and Lawsuits: classes 3 and 4

Privacy and the government: class 5

Privacy and others: classes 6, 7

Free Speech and the Internet: classes 8, 9

Software Patents: classes 10, 11

Computer Crime and Hacking: class 12

Trust and Licensing: class 12?

Tech and Antitrust: class 12

Course notes

Most content is now in the files above.

Class 1: May 19
Class 2: May 21
Class 3: May 26
Class 4: May 28
Class 5: June 2
Class 6: June 4
Class 7: June 9
Class 8: June 11
Class 9: June 16
Class 10: June 18
Class 11: June 23
Class 12: June 25 


Before the Week 1 class, read 1.1-1.3 and at least 4.1 (preferably 4.2 as well)

Before the Week 2 class, read all of chapter 1 and 4.1-4.3.

Paper topics

Paper 1: Music Sampling or Sci-Hub, due Friday May 29. Editable Word-type formats (.odt, .docx, .doc, .rtf, ...) only; no pdf!

Paper 2: Facebook data export or 230 revisions, due Wednesday June 17. Word-type formats are preferred. No .pages!

Paper 3: Software patents or Computer Crime, due Saturday June 27.

Two brief (one-paragraph) examples of essay writing (good and not as good) are here.

We will consider some of the topics listed below.

Learning outcomes:

Understanding of laws and issues in areas such as privacy, encryption, freedom of speech, copyrights, patents, computer crime, and computer/software reliability and safety; understanding of philosophical perspectives such as utilitarianism versus deontological ethics and basics of the U.S. legal system.

Articles, references, and links


Don't Talk To Cops, Part 1, James Duane, Regent University Law School

And an interesting followup: Reminder: Please Shut Up (advice from an attorney)

Don't Call Yourself A Programmer, by Patrick McKenzie


Association for Computing Machinery -- The professional organization for computer professionals (oriented towards programmers). See their USACM subgroup for public-policy issues. See also the ACM Code of Ethics.

Electronic Frontier Foundation -- Founded to fight for citizens' rights in the areas of privacy, cyberspace freedom (specifically, freedom of speech), copyrights, and encryption.

American Civil Liberties Union -- Not specifically concerned with cyberspace law, but nonetheless very involved in the fight against the Communications Decency Act. The ACLU has long fought against censorship in any form, and for personal liberties in general.

Electronic Privacy Information Center -- They are concerned with both government surveillance (directly and by searching your records), the scope of government databases, and encryption.

Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility -- "CPSR is a public-interest alliance of computer scientists and others interested in the impact of computer technology on society." Includes privacy issues but also professional responsibilities of programmers and workplace empowerment issues.

Ethics Center for Engineering and Science A useful compendium of ethics case studies and other information pertaining to science and engineering.

US Copyright office home page All sorts of information on copyright legislation, including the Digital Millenium Copyright Act.

2600, the Hacker Quarterly, leader in the fight for DeCSS.