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CMSC 304 Syllabus

Social and Ethical Issues in Information Technology


C or better in CMSC 202.


A survey course that reviews social issues and the ethical impact of information technology throughout the world. The course examines the policy issues that relate to the use of information technology, such as persona, privacy, rights of access, security, transborder information flow and confidentiality.

Course Outcomes

Students will be able to:

  • Define ethical reasoning as it relates to computer science,
    and apply ethical principles to the profession of cmoputer science.
  • Understand the ACM Code of Ethics and how it relates
    to theoretical ethical principles and professional and social
  • Analyze case studies using the ACM Code of Ethics,
    ethical principles, and moral reasoning.
  • Be able to identify and differentiate between ethical,
    social, and legal issues.
  • Use written and oral communication to present the results
    of case study analysis in a well structured paper and group

Program Outcomes

CMSC 304 supports these CMSC program outcomes:

  • (O2) through writing several case studies, a term
    paper, and a project presentation.
  • (O4) through analysis of the impact of changes to
    technology on society.


  • A Gift of Fire:
    Social, Legal, and Ethical Issues for Computing and the Internet
    , Sara Baase, Prentice Hall, 2008. ISBN: 0136008488.
  • CyberEthics: Morality and Law in Cyberspace, Richard
    Spinello, Jones & Bartlett, 2006. ISBN: 0763737836.

The course may also use other handouts and articles on relevant subjects.


  • Ethics and critical reasoning in computer science
  • Methods for case analysis
  • Introduction to ethical theories and principles
  • Privacy, personal information, and trust
  • Security and encryption
  • Content control and censorship
  • Intellectual property and licensing
  • Computer crime
  • Professional issues and decision-making


The course grade is based on the following work:

20% each Two midterm exams
15% each Two case studies (one individual and one group assignment)
30% Term paper and presentation

Last updated April 10, 2012