CISC 497/3.0 Social, Ethical and Legal Issues in Computing

Original Author: Robin Dawes
Last Revised: March 14, 2015

Calendar Description

A wide range of topics of current importance in computing, including technical issues, professional questions, and moral and ethical decisions. Students make presentations, deliver paper, and engage in discussion.
Prerequisites: Level 4 and registered in a COMP Major or BMCO or COCA or COGS or COMA or CSCI or SODE Specialization Plan and (CISC 365/3.0 or CISC 352/3.0) and an overall GPA of 1.90 and GPA of 2.6 in all CISC/SOFT/COGS/COCA courses and at least 30 units in CISC/SOFT/COGS/COCA courses.


IT professionals have opportunities to design, implement, distribute, abuse and avoid policies and tools that affect the daily lives of millions of people. This course offers students an opportunity to explore some of the social, ethical, and legal issues that they will face.

This course is required in the MAJ, CSCI, SODE, COGS, and BMCO programs.


In the first half of the course, students work in small research teams to prepare and deliver in-class presentations on topics related to the course material. Each week focuses on one of the following subjects:

  • Computer Crime
  • Intellectual Property
  • Privacy
  • Governing the Internet
  • Computer Reliability and Professional Responsibility
  • The Future

In addition, each week includes approximately 90 minutes of discussion of the issues raised during the presentations.

In the second half of the course, students give individual presentations on research topics relevant to the course. These are often related to the CISC/COGS-499/3.0 or CISC-498/6.0 projects the students have selected, but this is not a requirement.


  • A Gift of Fire, Baase, 2nd Edition, Pearson/Prentice Hall (2003)
  • Ethics for the Information Age, 2nd Edition, Quinn, Pearson/Addison Wesley (2006)
  • Ethics Technology: Ethical Issues in an Age of Information and Communication Technology, Tavani, Wiley (2004)
  • Computer Ethics and Professional Responsibility, Edited by Bynum & Rogerson, Blackwell (2004)

A Canadian Writer's Reference, Hacker, 3rd Edition, Bedford/St. Martin's (2004), is used as a reference for the preparation of written work.