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|1||Unwrapping the Gift||1|
|2||Privacy and Personal Information||35|
|3||Encryption and Interception of Communications||97|
|4||Can We Trust the Computer?||135|
|5||Freedom of Speech in Cyberspace||192|
|8||Computers and Work||328|
|9||Broader Issues on the Impact and Control of Computers||364|
|10||Professional Ethics and Responsibilities||400|
|The Software Engineering Code and the ACM Code||439|
Many universities offer courses with titles such as "Ethical Issues in Computing" or "Computers and Society." These courses vary in content and focus. Some focus primarily on ethical issues (issues the student might face directly as a computer professional), whereas others address the wider social, political, and legal issues related to computers. The bulky subtitle of this book gives a hint of my preference. I believe it is useful and important for students to learn about the social, legal, philosophical, political, constitutional, and economic issues (and the historical background of those issues) related to computers—issues they might face as members of a complex technological society, not just in their professional lives. The issues are relevant to being a responsible computer user (professional or personal) and member of the public who could serve on a jury, debate social and political issues with friends, or influence legislation. Thus, for example, I think it is important to cover the implications of censorship laws for the Internet, the problems of protecting intellectual property in cyberspace, the risks of new technologies, and so on.
The last chapter focuses on ethical issues for computer professionals with discussion ofcase scenarios. The basic ethical principles in computing are not different from ethical principles in other professions or other aspects of life: honesty, responsibility, fairness. However, within any one profession, there are special kinds of problems that arise. Thus, we discuss "applied ethics" and guidelines for the computer profession. I include two of the main codes of ethics and professional practices for computer professionals in an Appendix. I believe students will find the discussion of ethical issues for computer professionals more interesting and useful if it has as background the discussions of the social and legal issues and controversies in the first nine chapters.
Each of the chapters in this book could easily be expanded to a whole book. I had to leave out many interesting topics and examples. In some cases, I mention an issue, example, or position with little or no discussion. I hope some of these will spark further reading and debate.
This book presents controversies and alternative points of view: privacy vs. access to information, privacy and civil liberties vs. law enforcement, freedom of speech vs. control of content on the Net, market-based vs. regulatory solutions, and so on. Often, the discussion in the book necessarily includes political, social, and philosophical issues, but I have tried (with some difficulty because of my enthusiasm for these issues) to focus specifically on the connections between the issues and computer technology. I encourage students to explore the arguments on all sides and to be able to explain why they reject the ones they reject before they take a position. I believe this approach prepares them to tackle new controversies; they can figure out the consequences of various proposals, generate arguments for each side, and evaluate them. I encourage students to think in principles, rather than case by case, or at least to see that the same principle appears in different cases even if they choose to take different positions on them. For example, one issue that comes up several times, in different contexts throughout the book, is whether a device, a technique, or a whole technology should be banned or severely restricted because people can use it for illegal or harmful actions as well as for beneficial ones.
Any writer on subjects such as those in this book has some personal opinions, positions, or biases. I believe strongly in the importance of the Bill of Rights. I also have a generally positive view of technology, including computer technology. Don Norman, a psychologist and technology enthusiast who writes on humanizing technology, observed that most people who have written books about technology "are opposed to it and write about how horrible it is." I am not one of those people. I think that technology, in general, has been a major factor in bringing physical well-being, liberty, and opportunity to hundreds of millions of people. Perhaps critics of technology miss some of the most impressive and fundamental benefits because they are so used to them that they take them for granted. Think about the products we use, the food we eat, and the people we talk to in a day—and consider how different a day would be without modern communication, transportation, refrigeration, and plumbing. That does not mean technology is without problems. Most of this book focuses on problems. We must recognize and study them so that we can reduce the negative effects of computer technology and increase the positive ones.
While writing the first edition of this book, I attended a National Science Foundation-sponsored workshop on Ethical and Professional Issues in Computing. Keith Miller, one of the speakers, gave the following outline for discussing ethical issues (which he credited to a nun who had been one of his teachers years ago): "What? So what? Now what?" It struck me that this described how I wrote many sections of my book. I often begin with a description of what is happening, sometimes including a little history. Next comes a discussion of why there are concerns and what the new problems are (so what?). Finally I give some commentary or perspective and some current and potential solutions to the problems (now what?).
An early reviewer of this book objected to one of the quotations I include at the beginning of a section because he thought it was untrue. So perhaps I should make it clear that I agree with many of the quotations I have placed at the beginnings of chapters and various sections of the book—but not with all of them. I chose some to be provocative and to remind students of the variety of opinions on some of the issues.
I am a computer scientist, not an attorney. I summarize the main points of many laws and legal cases and discuss arguments about them, but I do not give a comprehensive legal analysis. Many ordinary terms have specific meanings in laws, and often a difference of one word can change the impact of a provision of a law or of a court decision. Laws have exceptions and special cases. Any reader who needs precise information about how a law applies in particular cases should consult an attorney or read the full text of laws, court decisions, and legal analysis.
This is an extremely fast-changing field. The Y2K problem came and went between the first and second editions of the book. Spam and MP3s weren't big issues in 1996; DVDs weren't yet available. Encryption export restrictions were the subject of intense controversy for several years leading up to first edition, but now are gone. The Supreme Court ruled the Communications Decency Act unconstitutional after the first edition was published; since then, Congress has passed several more censorship laws. The changes made by the World Wide Web in just a few years are illustrated by a change I made in the exercises. In the first edition the group of exercises called "Assignments" included the instruction. These exercises require some research or activity that may need to be done during business hours or a few days before the assignment is due. Virtually all of them can now be done at 3AM on the Web.
Some issues and examples in this book are so current that details will change before or soon after publication. I don't consider this to be a serious problem. (A few of the exercises in the book ask the reader to research the result of legal cases unsettled at the time I write this.) Specific events do not change most of the underlying issues and arguments. I encourage students to bring in current news reports about relevant issues to discuss in class. When the students begin to stay alert for relevant news, they seem impressed to find how many ties there are between the course and current events.
The course I designed in the Computer Science Department at San Diego State University requires a book report, a term paper, and an oral presentation by each student. Students do several presentations, debates, and mock trials in class, on such topics as penalties for hackers who unintentionally cause serious damage and whether filters should be required on library terminals. The students are very enthusiastic about these activities. I include a few in the Exercises sections, marked as Class Discussion Exercises. Although I selected some exercises for this category, I find that many others in the General Exercises sections are also good for lively class discussions.
It is an extraordinary pleasure to teach this course. At the beginning of each semester, some students expect boredom or sermons. By the end, most say they have found it eye-opening and important. They've seen and appreciated new arguments, and they understand more about the risks of computer technology and their responsibilities. Many students send me e-mail with news reports about issues in the course long after the semester is over, sometimes even after they have graduated and are already working in the field.
The notes at the ends of the chapters include sources for specific information in the text and, occasionally, additional information and comment. I usually put one endnote at the end of the paragraph with sources for the whole paragraph. The lists of references at the ends of the chapters provide short samplings of the material available on the topics covered in this book. I have included some references that I used, some that I think are particularly useful or interesting for various reasons, and some that are not likely to be found elsewhere. I have made no attempt to be complete, but I include references to bibliographies and Web sites, some that have extensive archives of relevant material.