CS 105 Computer Ethics and Society

Fall 2017, 1 Credit - George Mason University


This is a 10-week course and the final exam will be in class on the 11th week.





Class Dates

Final Exam



4:30-5:45 pm

Robinson Hall B111





5:55-7:10 pm

Robinson Hall B111




Contact Information

Instructor: Sheri Williamson (swillif@gmu.edu)
Office hours
: Immediately before or after class in our classroom and by appointment.

Undergraduate Teaching Assistant: Sean Cannon (scannan@masonlive.gmu.edu)

I strongly encourage you to contact the instructor or UTA if you have questions or are experiencing difficulty with the course.  We are here to help you learn.

For all e-mail communications, use your Mason email (rather than personal email accounts) and include the course and section number in your e-mail subject line to avoid being flagged as trash.  For example:

    Subject: CS 105 Section 006 / Question about Kantianism

All student emails are a priority and will be answered as soon as possible, but please allow 24-48 hours for an email response.




Quinn, Michael J., "Ethics for the Information Age" 7th Ed., Addison-Wesley, 2017. 

The textbook is required and students are expected to keep up with readings.


Blackboard at mymasonportal.gmu.edu.   Additional materials (readings, slides, announcements) will be available through this site. Use this for syllabus, schedule, submitting assignments, posting discussions, and Q&A. (Note that students are required to make at least one BB posting each week on the Blackboard discussion page for that week.)   

Course Description
Legal, social, and ethical issues surrounding use of computers and the internet. The course will stress ethical decision-making as well as legal and social responsibility in connection with technology-related concerns. Issues such as security, crime, privacy and intellectual property will be examined in the context of computer use. Students may be requested to conduct research on the internet in any of these areas and/or learn to use practical technological tools related to privacy and security.

Learning Outcomes

  1. Students will understand many of the key ethical, legal and social issues related to information technology and how to interpret and comply with ethical principles, laws, regulations and institutional policies.  
  2. Students will understand the essential issues related to information security, how to take precautions and use techniques and tools to defend against computer crimes.


Prerequisites: None

General Education: This course has been approved to satisfy the GMU General Education requirement for one credit of IT Ethics.


Course Work
This is a discussion-based course. You are expected to attend all course meetings and participate in conversations about course material as well as in-class activities relevant to the course. To facilitate this, assigned readings are to be done before class.

There are two major writing assignments to be done outside of class, which comprise a substantial portion of the overall grade. Additional work such as outside research, group presentations, or contributing to discussion board topics may be assigned.

This class relies strongly on class participation.  Therefore, it is important that you attend class on a regular basis.  While you are welcome to attend an alternate lecture session if you miss your own, please note that you may not assume instructors in different sections will present the same materials.  Accordingly, unless you obtain advance approval from your instructor, you may not receive credit for class participation or other in-class activities when attending a section other than your own.  

Grading and Evaluation

Grading will be based on two major assignments, in-class quizzes, class participation, and the final exam. These are weighted as follows:

2 Out-of-class assignments


In-class quizzes (usually not announced)


Final Exam


Class Participation (including  attendance, preparation, in-class activities, and weekly postings on Blackboard)


Final grades will be determined according to following approximate ranges without rounding:

Percent / Grade

Percent / Grade

Percent / Grade

Percent / Grade

>= 98 A+

90-88 B+

80-78 C+

70-60 D 

98-92 A

88-82 B 

78-72 C

<60 F

92-90 A-

82-80 B-

72-70 C



Course Schedule

(The approximate schedule of topics and due dates is listed here - these are notional and subject to change)



Reading Assignment

Homework Due

Week 1

Introduction: Ethics and Computers


Any Blackboard postings assigned are due by the start of the next week's class.

Week 2

Philosophical Ethics

Quinn: Ch 1 (sections 1.1 and 1.5, skim the rest); Ch. 2 (all)


Week 3

Philosophical and Professional Ethics

Quinn: Ch. 9 (sections 9.1-2, 9.5-6, skim 9.3-4); James Moor Interview p105 Integrity statementCS Honor Code


Week 4

Professional Ethics/ Plagiarism/ Accountability

Quinn: Ch. 8 (sections 8.2-8.4, 8.7-8.8, skim the rest), Appendix A

  Assignment #1- Ethical theories Due: Sunday 10/8 by 11:59 p.m

Week 5

Accountability/ Computer Crime

Quinn: Ch. 7 (all), On-line BB readings


Week 6

Computer Security

Quinn: Matt Bishop Interview p361, On-line BB readings


Week 7 10/12

Information Privacy and Social Networking

Quinn: Ch. 5 (all)

  Assignment #2- Security/Privacy Due: Sun. 10/29 By 11:59 p.m.

Week 8

Privacy and the Government

Quinn: Ch. 6 (all); Jerry Berman Interview p317


Week 9

Intellectual Property

Quinn: Ch 4: (sections 4.1-4.3, 4.6-4.10)


Week 10

Workplace Issues/ Wrap-up and Review

Quinn: Ch. 10 (all)


Week 11

Final Exam, normal class time and location

Comprehensive - all previous material is fair game.





Assignment Completion

Unless otherwise specified, all papers and other written assignments are to be individual efforts. Individual assignments are to be submitted to Blackboard through the Assignments tab.  (Do NOT post assignments on the Discussion boards!)  Certain portions of group assignments may require individual efforts as well. Be careful to follow instructions regarding acceptable group efforts.

Note that out-of-class assignments represent 30% of your grade. They are class requirements, and you must complete them if you expect to pass the course.

Students are responsible for all assigned readings as well as the material covered in class. There will be significant overlap, but even if material is not explicitly covered in class, material from the readings can appear on quizzes or the exam.

Academic Integrity

Plagiarism is governed by the GMU Honor Code and will not be tolerated. Instances of cheating and/or plagiarism will be referred to the Honor Committee. Familiarize yourself with both the honor code at GMU (http://oai.gmu.edu/the-mason-honor-code-2/) and the further details of the CS Honor Code Policies (http://cs.gmu.edu/resources/honor-code/)

Absences and Participation Credit

Absences from class for health or emergency reasons are excusable as long as some proof of the situation is provided.  Participation and quizzes missed due to excusable reasons may be made up on a case-by-case basis according to criteria dictated by the professor.  Make-up work must be discussed with the professor within 10 days of missing the class.  After that period, participation and quiz credit cannot be made up.  

Late Work

It is the sole discretion of the instructor whether to accept late work.  If accepted, late work typically will be penalized 10% per day.  Pay attention to deadlines!

Grading Disputes

Disputes regarding graded assignments, quizzes, and exams must be raised within 10 days of the graded material being available to the student. Disputes not raised in that period will not be considered.

Special Accommodations

If you are a student with a disability and you need academic accommodations, please see your instructor and contact the Office of Disability Services (ODS). All academic accommodations must be arranged through the ODS.


Final Notes/Expectations

1. This is an interactive class. Some issues will have factual answers, but many will not. Differences of opinion are expected, and encouraged. You will not be graded on your beliefs, but on your understanding and thinking, how well you support your position, and how well you understand contrary views. And remember to be respectful of other students and instructors. ["Where all men think alike, no one thinks very much." Walter Lippman]
2. In some respects this is a current events class, so pay attention to what is going on in the news that relates to subjects we discuss. You may even see a real-life scenario that will find its way into the final exam!