Dept. of Computer Science, Portland State University. Spring 2014
1 April 2014 to 6 May 2014.

Instructor: Andrew P. Black (

Office Hours: By appointment — please ‘phone.  I'm normally in my office Monday thru Thursday.  It's fine to drop by without an appointment, and mostly, I'll be able to see you immediately.  However, if I'm busy, please be prepared to come back.  I've also reserved Mondays and Thursday from 13:00 to 14:00 as office hours.

Piazza Site: Please sign up here

Time and Location. Tuesday and Thursdays, 16:40–18:30 in FAB 150, except that there will be no meeting on 28th April.   The final class session will be on 6th May.

Text. A Gift of Fire (4th ed)
Sara Baase. Pearson, 2013. ISBN-13: 978013249267-6.
                of cover of "A Gift of Fire"

Course Objectives

After the completion of this course you should be able to:

  1. Identify the ethical issues that relate to computer science in real situations you may encounter.
  2. Decide whether a given action is ethical with respect to the ethics of the computer science profession, 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 the ethical, legal, or social implications of computer science.
  5. Research and write a professional-quality paper about a topic relating to the social, legal, and ethical implications of computer science.
  6. Recognize situations in which there may be legal issues relevant to your work in computer science and information processing, such as intellectual property and privacy, 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 situations in computer science.

Grading Policies and Procedures. 

Grades will be based on homework (25%), attendance and participation (15%), preliminary slides & abstract (5%), your presentation (20%), your evaluation of others’ presentations and papers (15%), and your paper (20%).  Because you will be graded on attendance, I will take attendance in class; if you have to be absent for an academic or health reason, please let me know (using a private message in Piazza), so that I can take this into account.  Written work will be graded according to a rubric that will be provided with the homework.  In evaluating others' work, I expect you  to discriminate between strong, weak and ineffective presentations and essays.


Presenting to the class is part of the requirments for this course.  You will be required to do your presentation in a group of 2.  Your presentation can either be at the end of the course, on the same topic as your term project, or it can be earlier in the quarter, on one of the following topics.

    •    User privacy and security (privacy, anonymity, authentication, secrecy, non-repudiation)
    •    Internet governance (Top-levl-domain control, IP address allocation, international cooperation)
    •    Conflicts with the law (net neutrality, intellectual property, freedom of speech)
    •    Disruptive influence on traditional businesses (media delivery, telephony)
    •    Evolution of the Internet as a social medium (netnews, bulletin boards, IRC, social networks
    •    Evolution of the internet as a publishing medium (blogs, Wikis, RSS, Mashups)
    •    Design flaws and vulnerabilities (spam, malware, DNS/route hijacking)

Working in a Group

You will be required to do your presentation in a group of 2.   If you have a partner you want to work with,let me know (on Piazza). Otherwise, I'll assign partners.

Academic Integrity.

You are expected to behave with integrity at all times. Cheating will result in a grade of zero on the assignment or project on which the student cheats, and the initiation of disciplinary action at the university level. Allowing another student to use your work as his/her own is also academic misconduct.

Tentative Schedule


Class Topic

Reading (before class)


Tuesday, 1 April

History of Computing, Ethical Theories — slides

HW 1 Assigned

Thursday, 3 April

Tools for the course — slidesNotes on citation

Tuesday 8 April

Professional Ethics & Privacy — slides

HW 1 Due
HW 2 Assigned

Thursday 10 April

Slides: Beamer.tex Beamer.pdf
How to give a talk — slides
Free Speech — slides

Tuesday 15 April

Guest Lecture by Joe Janda on Intellectual Property.

Thursday 17 April

Guest Lecture by Bart Massey on software licensing — slides

Preliminary slides due 20th April
Abstracts for term paper due 21st April

Tuesday 22 April

Zaynab Alattar & Chris Giossi on design flaws
Security and the Internet — slides
Baase Chapter 5: Crime

Thursday 24 April

Failures, Errors & Risks — slides
Baase Chapter 8: Failures

Tuesday 29 April: No class

Thursday 1 May


Rubric for Presenations
Final term papers due in Easychair

Tuesday 6 May


All paper reviews completed and submitted to Easychair