Course: CS 4873 Computing, Society, & Professionalism
Term: Spring 2020
Location: College of Business 100
Lecture Time: Monday and Wednesday 11:15am - 12:05pm
Section Times: Check Buzzport for your discussion section time and location
Discussion: Piazza
Office Hours: Wednesday 3pm-4pm
Head Teaching Assistant: Candice Butts

Learning Objectives

In this class, you will learn about:

  • Ethics: What do "right" and "wrong" mean anyway? How is "ethical" different from "legal"? We'll learn about several philosophical approaches to ethics including utilitiarianism, Kantianism, social contract theory, and virtue ethics. The goal is for students to be able to address ethical dilemmas with reasoned arguments, grounded in a combination of these ethical theories.
  • Professional Ethics: What special responsibilities do we have as computing professionals? What do the Software Engineering Code of Ethics and ACM Code of Ethics say, and how can we use these in our daily practice?
  • Computing and Society: In what ways does computer technology impact society? We'll talk about a host of issues including privacy, intellectual property, and freedom of speech.

Assignments and Grading

Lecture and Recitation Section Attendance and Participation - 15%
[Surprise] In-Class Quizzes (5 in all) [Quizzes 4 and 5 canceled due to change in campus operations in the light of the COVID-19 crisis] - 5%
Homeworks (4 in all) - 20%
[Homework 1 | Homework 2 | Homework 3 | Homework 4 [Optional; grade otherwise to be folded in the midterm grade.]]
Term Paper - 25%
[Term Paper Proposal | Outline | Full Paper]
Midterm - 15%
Final Exam - 20%

Sample midterm exercises are here, a sample final exam is here, and a sample term paper titled "Ethics of Worksplace Surveillance" is here (shared with the student's permission).

Attendance and Participation. Attendance and participation are core aspects of this course. Lecture classes will include five surprise quizzes, therefore the best way to make sure you don't miss them is to come to the class. You will be able to make upto one quiz.

Attendance in the recitation sections is required. Please remember to sign the attendance sheet each class. Please do not sign the attendance sheet if you are more than 15 minutes late to class. If you need to miss class for a legitimate reason, please send email to the Head TA and copy the TA of your section, preferably before class.

You may miss up to two recitation section attendances without it affecting your grade. Other legitimate reasons that are excused include illness/health emergencies, religious events, attending a professional conference, or a job interview. Career fair is not an excused absence as they are held all day.

Please note that exams are strongly based on material that is covered during the lecture and the discussions in the recitation sections, and being there is the best way to know what you need to know. If you do miss a class, please do get notes from a classmate.

Reference Format. Please use APA format for all references. APA format is described here.

ESL. If English is not your first language, you may request to not be graded on your writing for a particular individual assignment, including the term paper. This means you won't be penalized for bad writing, but you also won't get credit for good writing. To take advantage of this option, you must mark "ESL" (English as a Second Language) on the first page of your assignment/paper. This option is not available for group assignments. We still of course expect you to try to write in correct English, and will do our best to offer useful feedback on your writing.

Late Policy. Students need to submit all of their materials on or before the deadline to qualify for 100% credit. 24 hours delay will result in 25% penalty; 48 hours late submissions will incur 50% penalty. Materials submitted past 48 hours will not be accepted, and will entered a zero grade.

Honor Code. This class abides by the Georgia Tech Honor Code. All assigned work is expected to be individual, except where explicitly written otherwise. You are encouraged to discuss the assignments with your classmates; however, what you hand in should be your own work. We will be thoroughly checking for plagiarism issues and any instance will be dealt with the Institute's recommended protocol.

Mental Health: As college students, it can be hard to prioritize your health, especially when you are pushed to prioritize academics, work, and extracurricular activities. The instructor and Head TA are happy to talk to you privately if you need mental health related accommodations. Please also refer to the various campus resources to access timely, professional help as well as self-care tips.

Required Texts

  • Ethics for the Information Age, by Michael Quinn (You may rent an electronic copy rather than buying it; you will need 7th Edition or above)
  • Articles available online.

The GT Library's Web Localizer is useful for research you need to do for this class. You may also need it to access some assigned readings, such as those on the ACM Digital Library.

Class Schedule *

Week 1 6-Jan Welcome and Overview Lecture Slides
8-Jan Case Study: Therac-25 Lecture Slides
Section Handout
Section Discussion Guide
Week 2 13-Jan Do Artifacts Have Politics? Lecture Slides
15-Jan Utilitarianism Lecture Slides
Homework 1 Due Section Handout
Section Discussion Guide
Week 3 20-Jan MLK Day - No Class
22-Jan Deontology Lecture Slides
Section Handout
Section Discussion Guide
Week 4 27-Jan Social Contract Theory Lecture Slides
29-Jan Stakeholder Analysis Lecture Slides
Homework 2 Due Section Handout
Section Discussion Guide
Week 5 3-Feb Virtue Ethics Lecture Slides
5-Feb Professional Ethics Lecture Slides
Section Handout
Section Discussion Guide
Week 6 10-Feb Privacy I Lecture Slides
12-Feb Privacy II Lecture Slides
Section Handout
Section Discussion Guide
17-Feb Privacy and Governmental Surveillance Lecture Slides
Week 7 19-Feb The USA Patriot Act Lecture Slides
Term Paper Proposals Due Section Handout
Section Discussion Guide
Week 8 24-Feb Algorithmic Surveillance Lecture Slides
26-Feb Net Neutrality Lecture Slides
Section Handout
Section Discussion Guide
Week 9 2-Mar Midterm (In-Class)
4-Mar Intellectual Property (Software as IP; Piracy) Lecture Slides
Section Handout
Section Discussion Guide
Week 10 9-Mar Freedom of Speech and Networked Communications Lecture Slides
11-Mar Regulating Online Speech Lecture Slides
Homework 3 Due Section Handout
Section Discussion Guide
Week 11 16-Mar Spring Break - No Class
18-Mar Spring Break - No Class
Week 12 23-Mar No formal instruction
25-Mar No formal instruction
Week 13 30-Mar Pandemics and Ethics Lecture Slides
1-Apr Algorithmic Labor Lecture Slides
Term Paper Outline Due Section Handout
Section Discussion Guide
Week 14 6-Apr Future of Work and Automation Lecture Slides
8-Apr Algorithmic Manipulation and Control Lecture Slides
Section Handout
Section Discussion Guide
Week 15 13-Apr Algorithmic Bias and Fairness Lecture Slides
15-Apr Research Ethics Lecture Slides
Section Handout
Section Discussion Guide
Week 16 20-Apr Final Exam Review - No in-class meeting
Makeup Quiz
Homework 4 Due
Full Term Papers Due
27-Apr Final Exam (Take Home)

Weekly Readings*

Week 1 (Jan 6): Case Study: Therac-25
• Quinn Chapter 8.5
• Leveson, N. (1995). Medical devices: The therac-25. Appendix of: Safeware: System Safety and Computers. [pdf]
     - Radiation Offers New Cures, and Ways to Do Harm, The New York Times [link]
• Ganesh, T. (2014). Incident reporting and learning in radiation oncology: Need of the hour. Journal of Medical Physics/Association of Medical Physicists of India, 39(4), 203. [pdf]

Week 2 (Jan 13): Do Artifacts Have Politics?
• Winner, L. (1980). Do artifacts have politics?. Daedalus, 121-136. [pdf]
     - Planet Money episode 924: Stuck in China's Panopticon (time: 26:36) [link]
• Gillespie, T. (2014). The relevance of algorithms. Media technologies: Essays on communication, materiality, and society, 167, 167. [pdf]

Week 2 (Jan 15): Utilitarianism
• Quinn Chapter 2.1-2.3, 2.7-2.8

Week 3 (Jan 22): Deontology
• Quinn Chapter 2.6
• Rachels, J (2011). The Elements of Moral Philosophy (7th Ed), Chapter 9: “Are there absolute moral rules?” [pdf]

Week 4 (Jan 27): Social Contract Theory
• Quinn Chapter 2.9
• Doody, R (2015). Criticisms of Rawls' Principles of Justice. [pdf]

Week 4 (Jan 29): Stakeholder Analysis
• Quinn 2.12
• Gilligan, C. (1993). In a different voice. Harvard University Press, pp. 24-39 [pdf]

Week 5 (Feb 3): Virtue Ethics
• Quinn Chapter 2.10-2.11
• Hursthouse, Rosalind and Pettigrove, Glen, "Virtue Ethics", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2018 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.) [pdf]

Week 5 (Feb 5): Professional Ethics
• Quinn Chapter 9
• ACM Code of Conduct
• Anderson, R. E., Johnson, D. G., Gotterbarn, D., & Perrolle, J. (1993). Using the new ACM code of ethics in decision making. Communications of the ACM, 36(2), 98-107. [pdf]

Week 6 (Feb 10): Privacy I
• Quinn Chapter 5
• Acquisti, A., Brandimarte, L., & Loewenstein, G. (2015). Privacy and human behavior in the age of information. Science, 347(6221), 509–514. [pdf]

Week 6 (Feb 12): Privacy II
• O'Hara, K. (2013). Are we getting privacy the wrong way round?. IEEE Internet Computing, 17(4), 89-92. [pdf]
     - Zuckerberg: I know that people don't want privacy, CNet [link]
• Ohm, P. (2009). Broken promises of privacy: Responding to the surprising failure of anonymization. UCLA l. Rev., 57, 1701. [pdf]
     - "Anonymized" data really isn't and here’s why not, Ars Technica [link]
• The Solace of Oblivion: In Europe, the right to be forgotten trumps the Internet, The New Yorker [link]
     - Google wins landmark right to be forgotten case, BBC [link]

Week 7 (Feb 17): Privacy and Governmental Surveillance
• Quinn Chapter 6 (except 6.6)
• Botsman, R. (2017). Big data meets Big Brother as China moves to rate its citizens. Wired UK, 21. [pdf]
• The NSA's Secret Role in the US Assasination Program, The Intercept [link]

Week 7 (Feb 19): The USA PATRIOT Act
• Quinn Chapter 6.6
• Wikipedia articles: “The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act” and “National Security Letters”
• Asinari, M. V. P., & Poullet, Y. (2004). The airline passenger data disclosure case and the EU-US debate. Computer Law & Security Review, 20(2), 98-116. [pdf]

Week 8 (Feb 24): Algorithmic Surveillance
• Tufekci, Z. (2014). Engineering the public: Big data, surveillance and computational politics. First Monday, 19(7). [pdf]
     - Facebook Increasingly Reliant on A.I. To Predict Suicide Risk, NPR [link]
     - Policing the Future: In the aftermath of Ferguson, St. Louis cops embrace crime-predicting software, The Verge [link]
     - Colleges are turning students’ phones into surveillance machines, tracking the locations of hundreds of thousands, Washington Post [link]

Week 8 (Feb 26): Net Neutrality
• Van Schewick, B., & Farber, D. (2009). Point/counterpoint network neutrality nuances. Communications of the ACM, 52(2), 31-37. [pdf]
     - What Everyone Gets Wrong in the Debate Over Net Neutrality, Wired [link]

Week 9 (Mar 4): Intellectual Property
• Quinn Chapter 4.1-4.10

Week 10 (Mar 9): Freedom of Speech and Networked Communications
• Quinn Chapter 3.2, 3.5-3.8; skim the rest of the chapter
• Warf, B. (2011). Geographies of global Internet censorship. GeoJournal, 76(1), 1-23. [pdf]

Week 10 (Mar 11): Regulating Online Speech
• Banks, J. (2010). Regulating hate speech online. International Review of Law, Computers & Technology, 24(3), 233-239. [pdf]
• Chancellor, S., Pater, J. A., Clear, T., Gilbert, E., & De Choudhury, M. (2016, February). #thyghgapp: Instagram content moderation and lexical variation in pro-eating disorder communities. In Proceedings of the 19th ACM Conference on Computer-Supported Cooperative Work & Social Computing (pp. 1201-1213). ACM. [pdf]
     - Reddit bans 'Fat People Hate' and other subreddits under new harassment rules, The Verge [link]
• Nott, L (2019) Does the First Amendment Protect Speech Made By Artificial Intelligence? Freedom Forum Institute [link]

Week 13 (Mar 30): Pandemics and Ethics
• Guariglia, M., and Schwartz, A. Protecting Civil Liberties During a Public Health Crisis, Electronic Frontier Foundation. [link]
     - How Surveillance Could Save Lives Amid a Public Health Crisis, Wired [link]
• Servick, K. Cellphone tracking could help stem the spread of coronavirus. Is privacy the price? Science Magazine. [link]
• Brewster, T. Two Million Guinea Pigs And Counting: The Remarkable Rise Of Self-Monitoring In The Time Of Coronavirus, Forbes. [link]
• Raskar, R., Schunemann, I., Barbar, R., Vilcans, K., Gray, J., Vepakomma, P., Kapa, S. et al. "Apps Gone Rogue: Maintaining Personal Privacy in an Epidemic." arXiv preprint arXiv:2003.08567 (2020). [pdf]

Week 13 (Apr 1): Algorithmic Labor
• Rosenblat, A., & Stark, L. (2016). Algorithmic labor and information asymmetries: A case study of Uber’s drivers. International Journal of Communication, 10, 27. [pdf]
• Mateescu, A., & Elish, M. C. (2019). AI in Context: The Labor of Integrating New Technologies. Data & Society Report. [pdf]

Week 14 (Apr 6): Future of Work and Automation
• Rotman, D. (2013). How technology is destroying jobs. Technology Review, 16(4), 28-35. [pdf]
     - Imagine Discovering That Your Teaching Assistant Really Is a Robot, The Wall Street Journal [link]
• Goldhahn, J., Rampton, V., & Spinas, G. A. (2018). Could artificial intelligence make doctors obsolete?. Bmj, 363, k4563. [pdf]
     - AI Will Change Radiology, but It Won’t Replace Radiologists, Harvard Business Review [link]
     - The Watch Is Smart, but It Can’t Replace Your Doctor, New York Times [link]

Week 14 (Apr 8): Algorithmic Manipulation and Control
• Bessi, A., & Ferrara, E. (2016). Social bots distort the 2016 US Presidential election online discussion. First Monday, 21(11-7). [pdf]
• Starbird, K. (2017, May). Examining the alternative media ecosystem through the production of alternative narratives of mass shooting events on Twitter. In Eleventh International AAAI Conference on Web and Social Media. [pdf]
• The Cambridge Analytica Files, The Guardian [link]

Week 15 (Apr 13): Algorithmic Bias and Fairness
• Edelman, B., Luca, M., & Svirsky, D. (2017). Racial discrimination in the sharing economy: Evidence from a field experiment. American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, 9(2), 1-22. [pdf]
• Kay, M., Matuszek, C., & Munson, S. A. (2015, April). Unequal representation and gender stereotypes in image search results for occupations. In Proceedings of the 33rd Annual ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (pp. 3819-3828). [pdf]
    - When It Comes to Gorillas, Google Photos Remains Blind, Wired [link]
    - Supposedly ‘Fair’ Algorithms Can Perpetuate Discrimination, Wired [link]
• Wang, Y., & Kosinski, M. (2018). Deep neural networks are more accurate than humans at detecting sexual orientation from facial images. Journal of personality and social psychology, 114(2), 246. [pdf]
    - Researchers use facial recognition tools to predict sexual orientation. LGBT groups aren’t happy, Washington Post [link]

Week 15 (Apr 15): Research Ethics II
• Kramer, A. D., Guillory, J. E., & Hancock, J. T. (2014). Experimental evidence of massive-scale emotional contagion through social networks. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 111(24), 8788-8790. [pdf]
• Fiske, S. T., & Hauser, R. M. (2014). Protecting human research participants in the age of big data. [pdf]
• Vitak, J., Shilton, K., & Ashktorab, Z. (2016, February). Beyond the Belmont principles: Ethical challenges, practices, and beliefs in the online data research community. In Proceedings of the 19th ACM Conference on Computer-Supported Cooperative Work & Social Computing (pp. 941-953). ACM. [pdf]

* Topics to be covered and the corresponding readings are subject to change. Please always check the online schedule and the list of class readings.

Acknowledgments: Class materials adapted from the offering by Amy Bruckman.