CSE/ISE 312 Syllabus - Spring 2017

Legal, Social, and Ethical Issues in Information Systems course


Course Description

This course deals with the impact of computers on us as individuals and on our society. Rapid changes in computing technology and in our use of that technology have changed the way we work, play, and interact with other people. These changes have created a flood of new social and legal issues that demand critical examination. For example, technologies such as Gmail, Facebook, MySpace, along with music sharing sites and wikis create new social, ethical, and legal issues. This course is offered as both CSE 312 and ISE 312. (https://www.cs.stonybrook.edu/students/Undergraduate-Studies/courses/CSE312)

Here are a few examples of the issues we will be talking about:

  • There is a great deal of information about all of us recorded in computer databases.
    • What rules should govern how this information is used?
  • We all get privacy notices in fine print from our banks, credit card companies, etc.
    • What do they really mean?
  • Hacking, identity theft and credit card fraud has increased in recent years.
    • What are responses to these types of fraud and what precautions can we take to prevent this from happening?
  • New encryption methods make it possible to keep e-mail and phone conversations secret from others.
    • How should our desire for privacy be balanced with the need of law-enforcement agencies to intercept communications of suspected criminals or terrorists?
  • How serious are the problems created by Web sites that contain pornography, "hate" material directed at various groups, bomb-making information, etc?
    • Should there be any restrictions on material that is put on the Web?
  • Computers are increasingly used to control medical devices, airplanes and other safety-critical systems.
    • How safe are such systems?
    • How safe is “safe enough”?
    • What can we do to manage the risks involved?
  • It is easy to use computers to copy music, software, books, etc., in violation of copyright law.
    • What is the extent of this problem?
    • How do ethical principles impact behavior in terms of access to material under copyright protection?
    • What can or should be done about it?
    • What is free software?
    • Should all software be free?

There are (at least) two sides to almost all of the questions we will consider in this course. We will spend much of our class time discussing the issues and exploring different points of view.


U3 or U4 standing, one D.E.C. E or SNW course.

Course Outcomes

The following are the official course goals agreed upon by the faculty for this course:
  • An understanding of how computing and information systems give rise to social issues and ethical dilemmas.
  • An ability to discuss the benefits offered by computing technology in many different areas and the risks and problems associated with these technologies.
  • An understanding of some social, legal, philosophical, political, constitutional, and economical issues related to computers and the historical background of these issues.
  • To recognize the need for continuing professional development.

Major Topics Covered in Course

  • Privacy
  • Freedom of speech
  • Intellectual property
  • Crime
  • Impact on work environment
  • Evaluating and controlling technology
  • Errors, failures, and risk
  • Professional ethics and responsibilities


Instructor: Dr. Paul Fodor
214 New Computer Science Department, Stony Brook University
Office hours: Mondays and Wednesdays 5:30PM-7:00PM
Phone: 1 (631) 632-9820
Email: paul.fodor@stonybrook.edu

Class Time/Place

  • Lectures: TuTh 4:00PM - 5:20PM, Javits 111.


A Gift of Fire, 4th Edition, Sara Baase, Pearson Prentice Hall, 2012. ISBN# 0-13-978-0-13-249267-6.

Grading Schema

Grades will be based on homework and exams according to the following formula:
  • Midterm exam -- 25%
  • Final exam -- 25%
  • Class quizzes and Homework assignments -- 25%
  • Class discussions -- 25%

The exams will be closed book, however most of the questions will be selected from among the review material in the textbook.. Do not miss the exam. Make-up exams will be given only in extenuating circumstances (e.g., doctor's note stating that you were ill and unfit to take the exam). Students who miss an exam for a valid reason may need to take a make-up exam; specific arrangements will be made on a case-by-case basis.

Exam dates:

The Pass/No Credit (P/NC) option is not available for this course.

This policy applies to all CSE/ISE undergraduate courses used to satisfy the graduation requirements for the major.

Grade Cutoffs

A [95-100], A- [90-95), B+ [87-90), B [83-87), B- [80-83), C+ [77-80), C [73-77), C- [70-73), D+ [65-70), D [60-65), F [0-60)

SPECIAL RULE: If all your grades, including homework assignments, quizzes, recitation and your three exam grades are above the respective class averages, you're guaranteed to receive a grade of C or higher for this class.

There will be extra credit problems as a part of quizzes and homework assignments which values to an increase of less than 4% in the final grade.

There will be in-class quizzes / brief assessments used to practice the class material and measure growth in knowledge, abilities, and skills. They will be solved in class and they are valued 2 points each.

The grades will be posted on Blackboard: http://blackboard.stonybrook.edu for privacy reasons.

The final grade you receive in this class will reflect, as far as possible, the extent to which you have mastered the concepts and their applications. How much someone needs a grade, or how close they are to the next higher grade, will have no effect on grade. As the instructor, I want everyone to do well in this course, and will make every reasonable effort to help you understand the material taught. However, the grades provided at the end of the semester are final, except for rare situations involving grading errors. They will not be altered for any reason, so please do not ask me to do so.


Most assignments will involve preparation for a class discussion. Typically, this preparation will involve reading material beyond the text book as it relates to a single assigned topic. This preparation typically will involve reading references cited in the text, usually about 20-30 pages.


For re-grading of an assignment or exam, please meet with the person (instructor or teaching assistant) responsible for the grading. Please arrange a re-evaluation within one week of receiving the graded work. All such requests that are later than one week from the date the graded work is returned to the class will not be entertained. To promote consistency of grading, questions and concerns about grading should be addressed first to the TA and then, if that does not resolve the issue, to the instructor. You are welcome to contact the TA by email or come to his office hour. If you would like to speak with the TA in person, and have a schedule conflict with his office hour, you are welcome to make an appointment to meet the TA at another time.

Tentative Class Schedule

Week Lecture Topics
1 Introduction and Background
2 Privacy
3 Freedom of Speech
4 Intellectual Property
5 Intellectual Property (cont.)
6 Computer Crime
7 Impact on Employment
8 Spring Recess
9 Review Session and Midterm Exam
10 Impacts on Employment (cont.)
11 Evaluating Information
12 Failures and Errors in Computer Systems
13 Professional Ethics & Responsibilities
14 Professional Ethics & Responsibilities (cont.)
15 Review Session

Disability Support Services (DSS) Statement:

If you have a physical, psychological, medical or learning disability that may impact your course work, please contact Disability Support Services, ECC (Educational Communications Center) Building, room 128, (631) 632-6748. They will determine with you what accommodations, if any, are necessary and appropriate. All information and documentation is confidential.
Students who require assistance during emergency evacuation are encouraged to discuss their needs with their professors and Disability Support Services. For procedures and information go to the following website: http://www.stonybrook.edu/ehs/fire/disabilities

Academic Integrity Statement:

Each student must pursue his or her academic goals honestly and be personally accountable for all submitted work. Representing another person's work as your own is always wrong. Faculty are required to report any suspected instances of academic dishonesty to the Academic Judiciary. Faculty in the Health Sciences Center (School of Health Technology & Management, Nursing, Social Welfare, Dental Medicine) and School of Medicine are required to follow their school-specific procedures. For more comprehensive information on academic integrity, including categories of academic dishonesty, please refer to the academic judiciary website at http://www.stonybrook.edu/commcms/academic_integrity/index.html

Critical Incident Management Statement:

Stony Brook University expects students to respect the rights, privileges, and property of other people. Faculty are required to report to the Office of Judicial Affairs any disruptive behavior that interrupts their ability to teach, compromises the safety of the learning environment, or inhibits students' ability to learn. Faculty in the HSC Schools and the School of Medicine are required to follow their school-specific procedures.

Page maintained by Paul Fodor