Social, Ethical, & Legal Implications of Computing

This course has moved entirely online for the Spring 2020 term.

If you are a student in the class, you can access all materials on Canvas.

If you are interested in prior offerings of this class, or want to get an idea of what it is usually like, you might like to browse the Winter 2020 offering.

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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. 1

Course 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.2

This Website is a Living Document

This website is a starting point for the course. It is subject to change as the term unfolds, in response to your feedback and my assessment of how things are going. I’ll be seeking out your feedback regularly. Some adjustments are likely. These adjustments may involve altering assignments or adding, removing, or modifying readings. Any changes will be discussed in class and announced via email, so attend class and check your inbox.


  1. This section is unedited text from: https://www.pdx.edu/computer-science/cs305 ↩︎

  2. This section is unedited text from: https://www.pdx.edu/computer-science/cs305 ↩︎