Course: CS 4873-A Computing, Society, and Professionalism
Term: Spring 2021
Location: Virtual (See course Canvas for details)
Lecture Time: Asynchronous with pre-recorded lectures
Section Times: Check Buzzport for your discussion section time; all sections held virtually
Discussion: Piazza
Office Hours: Wednesday 11:00am - 11:50am
Head Teaching Assistant: Candice Butts
Teaching Assistants: Akhila Ballari, Parsa Hassanipak, Neha Khandavalli, Zhaoran Ma, Nilay Mehta, Ashleigh Nyazema, Neeraj Sabapathy, Freya Wang, Dong Whi Yoo

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

Recitation Section Attendance and Participation - 15%
Homework Assignments (5 in all) - 25%
      Homework Assignment I | Homework Assignment II | Homework Assignment III | Homework Assignment IV | Homework Assignment V
Term Paper - 25%
      Term Paper Proposal | Term Paper Outline | Full Term Paper
Take-Home Midterm - 15%
Take-Home 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. Attendance in the recitation sections is required and will be recorded by your section TA. If you need to miss a recitation section 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.

Please note that exams are strongly based on material that is covered in the pre-recorded lectures and the discussions in the recitation sections. Since the lectures will be pre-recorded, you are welcome to view them any time at your conveience, prior to your recitation section. Discussions in the recitations in a particular week will be based on the material covered in lecture videos in the same week. If you do miss a recitation section, please do get notes from a classmate and follow along based on the recitation section class exercises made available on the course website.

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 in the middle of an ongoing pandemic, COVID-19. 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 of Jan 14 (#0) Welcome and Overview
Lecture Slides
No Sections
Week of Jan 18 (#1) Case Study of Therac-25
Lecture Slides
Section Exercises
Section Discussion Guide
Week of Jan 25 (#2) A) Do Artifacts have Politics? B) Utilitarianism
Lecture Slides
Section Exercises
Section Discussion Guide
Homework 1 Due (Jan 29)
Week of Feb 1 (#3) A) Deontology; B) Social Contract Theory
Lecture Slides
Section Exercises
Section Discussion Guide
Week of Feb 8 (#4) A) Stakeholder Analysis; B) Virtue Ethics
Lecture Slides
Section Exercises
Section Discussion Guide
Homework 2 Due (Feb 12)
Week of Feb 15 (#5) Professional Ethics
Lecture Slides
Section Exercises
Section Discussion Guide
Week of Feb 22 (#6) Privacy
Lecture Slides
Section Exercises
Section Discussion Guide
Term Paper Proposals Due (Feb 26)
Week of Mar 1 (#7) A) Privacy and Governmental Surveillance; B) The USA Patriot Act
Lecture Slides
Section Midterm Prep and Discussion
Homework 3 Due (Mar 5)
Week of Mar 8 (#8) Take-Home Midterm
No Lecture
No Sections
Week of Mar 15 (#9) Algorithmic Surveillance
Lecture Slides
Section Exercises (Weeks #7 + #9)
Section Discussion Guide (Weeks #7 + #9)
Week of Mar 22 (#10) Intellectual Property
Lecture Slides
No Sections
Homework 4 Due (Mar 26)
Week of Mar 29 (#11) A) Freedom of Speech; B) Regulating Online Speech
Lecture Slides
Section Exercises (Weeks #10 + #11)
Section Discussion Guide (Weeks #10 + #11)
Term Paper Outline Due (Apr 2)
Week of Apr 5 (#12) A) Technology and Pandemics (Privacy and Surveillance); B) Technology and Pandemics (Algorithmic Labor)
Lecture Slides
Section Exercises
Section Discussion Guide
Week of Apr 12 (#13) A) Algorithmic Manipulation; B) Future of Work and Automation
Lecture Slides
Section Exercises
Section Discussion Guide
Homework 5 Due (Apr 16)
Week of Apr 19 (#14) A) Algorithmic Bias and Fairness; B) Research Ethics
Lecture Slides
Section Exercises
Section Discussion Guide
Term Papers Due (Apr 23)
Week of Apr 26 (#15) Final Exam Review
Lecture Slides (review only; no video)

Weekly Readings*

Week 1: 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 2A: 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 2B: Utilitarianism
• Quinn Chapter 2.1-2.3, 2.7-2.8

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

Week 3B: Social Contract Theory
• Quinn Chapter 2.9
• Doody, R (2015). Criticisms of Rawls' Principles of Justice. [pdf]

Week 4A: Stakeholder Analysis
• Quinn 2.12
• Gilligan, C. (1993). In a different voice. Harvard University Press, pp. 24-39 [PDF on Canvas>Files]

Week 4B: 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: 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: Privacy
• 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]
• 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 7A: 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 7B: 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 9: 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 10: Intellectual Property
• Quinn Chapter 4.1-4.10

Week 11A: 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 11B: Regulating Online Speech
• Chandrasekharan, E., Pavalanathan, U., Srinivasan, A., Glynn, A., Eisenstein, J., & Gilbert, E. (2017). You can't stay here: The efficacy of reddit's 2015 ban examined through hate speech. Proceedings of the ACM on Human-Computer Interaction, 1(CSCW), 1-22. [pdf]
     - Reddit bans 'Fat People Hate' and other subreddits under new harassment rules, The Verge [link]
• 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]
• Nott, L (2019) Does the First Amendment Protect Speech Made By Artificial Intelligence? Freedom Forum Institute [link]

Week 12A: Technology and Pandemics (Privacy and Surveillance)
• 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 12B: Technology and Pandemics (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 13A: Algorithmic Manipulation
• 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]
• Vosoughi, S., Roy, D., & Aral, S. (2018). The spread of true and false news online. Science, 359(6380), 1146-1151. [pdf]
• Bessi, A., & Ferrara, E. (2016). Social bots distort the 2016 US Presidential election online discussion. First Monday, 21(11-7). [pdf]

Week 13B: 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 14A: 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 14B: Research Ethics
• 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]
• 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]
• Chancellor, S., Birnbaum, M. L., Caine, E. D., Silenzio, V., & De Choudhury, M. (2019, January). A taxonomy of ethical tensions in inferring mental health states from social media. In Proceedings of the Conference on Fairness, Accountability, and Transparency (pp. 79-88). 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.