The Exams (to be revised to include the Johnson text)

There will be one concept exam that you will take in teams. It will be based on a set of basic and intermediate concepts that are covered in the various readings. The entire set of possible questions are listed below, though I reserve the right to revise them up until the day I select the final subset. On the designated day, I will hand out in class the final subset, and teams can take that hour to ask any questions they might have.

The exam is take-home and is open to any and all other resources, as long as you cite them. Thus, you may talk to other students, professors, consult web pages and blogs, books and encyclopedias, listserv and other discussions etc. The final writing, however, should be entirely that of your team, except for any very short direct quotes of referenced material. Your list of consulted resources does not count in the page limit. You can send questions, outlines, or early drafts to me for comment.

I will designate a subset of 5 questions in class on Wednesday April 7. Your team may select 4 of these to answer. The answers are due by midnight Friday April 30. Answers should be emailed as .pdf files. Required length is from one half to 2 single spaced pages per answer. Please turn in only one copy for your team. A grading rubric is available so you can see my expectations for complete answers.

Possible Exam Questions

  1. Compare the arguments for software safety liability made by those who want standard strict liability vs. those who want a license-based immunity from liability (e.g. UCITA). Use examples from the Therac-25 case to support the arguments from each side. Identify the various sides and the values each side has. Suggest an approach to solve the disagreement that integrates, balances, or trades off the values of the different sides.
  2. Use the Machado case to distinguish among access privacy, information privacy, and decision privacy. What rights or values are in conflict in this case? How is the computing system involved in this conflict?
  3. In what way do the different arguments for privacy map differently onto the rights/values tradeoffs being balanced in the Machado case?
  4. What is the difference between inflammatory speech and terroristic threats? What are an ISPs or other service provider’s ethical obligations when speech crosses this line? Support your argument in the context of the Machado case.
  5. Use a utilitarian strategy, a rights-based strategy, and a virtue ethics strategy to evaluate the behavior of the software designers for the Therac-25 medical radiation device OR to evaluate the behavior of Dana Rood (the Associate Director of the Office of Academic Computing) in the Machado case.
  6. What is a characteristic failing of utilitarian analysis that rights-based and justice-based analyses help balance? Give an example of how each approach would deal differently with the Therac-25 case.
  7. What are the components of informed consent? How do they inform an understanding of the Therac-25 case?
  8. Make an argument that there is a shrinking “intellectual commons” because of the way intellectual property laws are being written and applied. Make sure to cite specific laws and cases, and to make an argument that there is a societal good in the intellectual commons that balances the right to property. Defend the argument from critique.
  9. Explain the anti-circumvention sections of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). Why is it controversial? What values are being traded off, and how does it shift the grounds for illegal activity into the technical sphere?
  10. What is censorship? Can the DMCA be accused of making censorship government policy? Is the intention of the DMCA to suppress or deter speech about circumvention? How likely is it to be successful at each of these? Provide evidence for your arguments by reference to the DeCSS case.
  11. What is the difference between a common carrier, a distributor, and an original publisher of internet content? How are these differences becoming confused in the case of ISPs? Support your distinctions by reference to the law and to ISP practice.
  12. What is the Digital Divide? Do computer professionals have a duty to address it? Make sure to distinguish among the different “divides” and the duties that might come with regard to each of them.
  13. Is there ever a situation in which the danger to the public (or some other value) ought to override a software professional’s duty to self (and family, etc.) and obligate him or her to blow the whistle on an employer/client? Make sure you take account of the likely consequences of whistle blowing for the software professional. Use DeGeorge’s criteria to structure your argument.
  14. Describe an appropriate ethical dissent process. What are the steps that a person would take in using it, and what decisions would the person need to make along the way?
  15. In what way do the different arguments for privacy map differently onto the rights/values tradeoffs being balanced in the Toysmart case?
  16. What is the difference between inflammatory and libelous speech? What are an ISPs ethical obligations when speech crosses this line? Support your argument in the context of the BioMatrix case.