CS 305 Social, Ethical, and Legal Implications of Computing

Credit Hours: 2
Course Coordinator: Wu-chi Feng
Course Description: History of computing, social context of computing, professional and ethical responsibilities, risks and liabilities of safety-critical systems, intellectual property, privacy and civil liberties, social implications of the Internet, computer crime, economic issues in computing.
Prerequisites: A course in computer science at the 300 or higher level. Sophomore inquiry or a course in public speaking and a course in writing a research paper.
Goals: The course has two goals: First, the usual goal of learning the material of the course as described in the catalog entry. A higher priority goal is to instill in you an inclination to use that knowledge. The use of the content of this course is optional in the real world and our primary goal is to motivate its use.

Upon the successful completion of this course students will be able to:

  1. Identify the ethical issues that relate to computer science in real situations they may encounter.
  2. Decide whether a given action is ethical as regards computer science professional ethics, and justify that decision.
  3. Look up relevant ethical standards as developed by the ACM.
  4. Prepare and deliver a short (8-10 minute) professional-quality talk on a topic relating to ethical, legal, and social implications of computer science.
  5. Research and write a professional-quality paper about a topic relating to social, legal, and ethical implications of computer science.
  6. Recognize situations in which there may be legal issues as regards computer science and related topics such as intellectual property, and know some legal principles to apply.
  7. State several important impacts of computer science and related fields on contemporary society.
  8. State several examples of important ethical principles as they apply to computer science related situations.
Textbooks: Ethics for the Information Age (4th ed.), Michael Quinn, Pearson, 2009. ISBN 0-13-213387-3.
References: Resources on the web.
Major Topics:

1. History of computing (0.3 hrs)

2. Social context of computing (0.3 hrs)

3. Professional and ethical responsibilities (3 hrs)

4. Product safety and reliability (3 hrs)

5. Intellectual property (3 hrs)

6. Privacy and civil liberties (3 hrs)

7. Social implications of the Internet (0.4 hrs)
    Laboratory Exercises: Students use the web to seek information on each topic.


    CAC Category Credits Core Advanced
    Data Structures N/A N/A
    Algorithms N/A N/A
    Software Design N/A N/A
    Computer Architecture N/A N/A
    Programming Languages N/A N/A


    Oral and Written Communications: Every student is required to submit ONE written report of typically 2,000 words. Every student is required to give ONE 8-10 minute oral presentation to a subset of the class.
    Social and Ethical Issues: All topics of the course, even those that are primarily legal, could be considered social or ethical. See MAJOR TOPICS above. Grades are based on homework handed in, a final exam, the oral presentation and the written essay.
    Theoretical Content: None.
    Problem Analysis: Students are asked to choose an issue related to one of the course topics and analyze it in a written paper and an oral presentation. They analyze the issue in the sense of decomposing it into its constituent parts ( for presentation to the class and the instructor.
    Solution Design: None.