Computer Ethics, Fall 2023

Monday Sept 18

Class 2 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 3, finish reading chapter 1 and read the first three sections of chapter 4.

The Google Trial

The Bork standard for anticompetitive behavior is that a company must have been able to raise prices because of it higher than they would be otherwise. Robert Bork argued that large corporations are relentlessly efficient (that's why they are so quick to lay people off). Price increases that are not fully justified by rising expenses will allow competitors to be able to grab more customers. So to prove anticompetitive behavior, you have to prove that prices are artificially high.

That's hard when the price is zero.

However, one of the government's stronger arguments, that Google pays billions to make sure they are the default search engine in Firefox, Safari and others, took a serious hit when Google points out that Microsoft forces Bing to be the default search engine on Windows, and nobody uses it anyway. So maybe Google is wasting its money?

My own theory is that the government will have a very hard time with this case.

New Google Tracking

If you're a Chrome user, Google has just rolled out a new tracking system, called Topics, no longer relying on third-party cookies. The first time you use Chrome 115, you see something like this:

Enhanced ad privacy in Chrome

We’re launching new privacy features that give you more choice over the ads you see. Chrome notes topics of interest based on your recent browsing history. Also, sites you visit can determine what you like. Later, sites can ask for this information to show you personalized ads. You can choose which topics and sites are used to show you ads.

Sites can ask Chrome for information to help personalize the ads you see. Chrome notes topics of interest based on your recent browsing history.
Sites you visit can also determine what you like based on your activity on the site. For example, if you visit a site that sells long-distance running shoes, the site might decide that you’re interested in running marathons. Later, a site you visit can ask for this information — either your ad topics or ads suggested by sites you’ve visited. Chrome auto-deletes topics and sites that suggest ads within 30 days. Or you can block specific topics and sites you don’t like.

To measure the performance of an ad, limited types of data are shared between sites, such as the time of day an ad was shown to you.

Chrome, of course, tracks all the sites you visit (unless you switch to Firefox!). So when a site "asks Chrome" about your browsing history, there it is. Chrome doesn't supply lists of URLs, however; it sends the advertiser a list of "topics" in which you have expressed recent interest.

Once a site gets your Topics, it will probably use Google to place the ads you will see. This isn't necessarily a conflict, though.

Is this worse than cookie tracking? Is it bad enough to try to stop?

Does this list of topics make you worry?

Here's a tentative list of the Topics hierarchy: Here are most of the top-level topics:

No Topics for health, or religion, or sexuality, or drinking, or political beliefs.

Chrome does let you turn this off. But if you're concerned about privacy, Firefox is probably a better bet.


(Ironically, that site wouldn't load at all, at least at first, using Firefox.)

Here's a more developer-oriented article, including the basics of how to query the Topics list using Javascript:

Cariou v Prince, Goldsmith v Warhol Foundation

Paper 2

Google v Oracle

Authors Guild v Google

RIAA lawsuits

Copyright cases


did not get to Viacom v YouTube