Explain the current ethical, legal and environmental impacts and risks of digital technology on society. Where data privacy issues arise these should be considered.
Exam questions will be taken from the following areas:
Students will be expected to understand and explain the general principles behind the issues rather than have detailed knowledge on specific issues.
Students should be aware that ordinary citizens normally value their privacy and may not like it when governments or security services have too much access.
Students should be aware that governments and security services often argue that they cannot keep their citizens safe from terrorism and other attacks unless they have access to private data.
Therac-25 was released on the market in 1983. In 1987, all treatment with the eleven machines in operation was suspended. Those machines were refitted with the safety devices required by the FDA and remained in service. No more accidents were reported from these machines. At about that time, the division of AECL that designed and manufactured Therac-25 became an independent company.
The major innovations of Therac-25 were the double pass accelerator (allowing a more powerful accelerator to be fitted into a small space, at less cost) and the move to more complete computer control. The move to computer control allowed operators to set up the machine more quickly, giving them more time to speak with patients and making it possible to treat more patients in a day. Along with the move to computer control, most of the safety checks for the operation of the machine were moved to software and the hardware safety interlocks removed.
At age19, Richard Machado was the first individual to be convicted of a federal electronic mail (e-mail) hate crime. The Machado case is one example of a handful of similar incidents that have occurred since the advent of the Internet.
The Texas Legislature has been exploring various electronic media for delivery of textbooks to elementary and secondary students. In 1989, the 71st Texas Legislature expanded the definition of "textbook" to include CD-ROMS', diskettes, audio and video-cassettes, and laser discs. The 75th Texas Legislature initiated a pilot test in several school districts so that updated supplements to the "textbooks" would be delivered through computer networks. This large-scale effort to supply students with laptop computers, or even adequate access to computers, presents a wide range of ethical issues. The presentation of the case focuses on funding dilemmas in education, the complexity behind computer supported learning, and the interweaving interests (publishers, technology companies, parents, taxpayers) that face decision makers in educational technology. We include information from interviews done in Puerto Rico with people involved in a similar effort to incorporate technology into education.
Biomatrix was a publicly traded pharmaceutical company that developed a treatment (Synvisc) for osteo-arthritis. Three individuals posted disparaging remarks about the company and Synvisc on Yahoo! message boards for almost a year. Biomatrix sued the three individuals and won. This was the first time online material has been found capable of containing libel. Presentation of the case focuses on the decisions that message board operators had to make as the case came to light, but also include design issues, legal issues, and ethical issues in online message board systems.
Traditional wiretaps are usually placed on the suspects’ phone line in hopes of capturing a spy or a criminal. These methods have always occasioned discomfort in the civil liberties community. With the advancement in communications technology and encryption, privacy threats may overbalance the utility of crime-surveillance technology. This case explores the delicate balance between these two values and the use of an FBI device called Carnivore, a "wiretap" for internet traffic that is placed directly on the internet service provider’s (ISP) server. The case concentrates on the balancing of these values, on the complexities that the Internet has brought to privacy concerns, and on the balancing of values in surveillance after the PATRIOT act.
Toysmart.com was a Disney-owned company that had been advertising, promoting, and selling toys on-line since January 1999. On May 22, 2000 Toysmart.com announced that it was going out of business and sought the help of a consulting firm, The Recovery Group, to confer in selling its assets. It was also on this date that advertisements began appearing in the Wall Street Journal and the Boston Globe in which Toysmart.com offered to sell its customer’s personal information including consumers’ names, addresses, billing information, and family information. This case provides an invaluable tool for looking at privacy issues in computing because it sets a precedent for other failing on-line companies -- they must maintain the rights of their consumers even if they are forced to file for bankruptcy. The Toysmart case also brings into question issues of honesty and deception in that toysmart.com was a licensee of TRUSTe, an organization that ensures that the privacy policies of on-line companies are maintained, and displayed its seal and trademark stating “Your information is safe with us!” on its website while advertising to sell its consumers’ private information only months later as the company was forced into bankruptcy.
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