CSC3083 Technology and Society


As we depend more and more on computer technology, the security and reliability of these systems becomes increasingly important. From banking, to medicine, to education, to online purchases, and more, we depend on computers to operate correctly, and securely in processing this information. This week we will explore the concepts of security and reliability, and the ways that computer systems can fail.

Reading and video assignment

Read Ethics for the Information Age Chapters 7 and 8.1-8.5.

Watch: United States of Secrets, Part Two, Transcript


Duration Start End Activity
0:15 0:00 0:15 Prayer and Faith Integration Discussion
0:50 0:15 1:05 View "The Security Mirage". Discussion
0:45 1:05 1:50 Class Discussion: The cost of failure
0:10 1:50 2:00 Break
1:00 2:00 3:00 Discussion: "The United States of Secrets" Part 2
1:00 3:00 4:00 Privacy Lost Videos and Discussion

Prayer and Faith Integration Discussion (10 Minutes)

Psalms 18:2 - The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.

Proverbs 3:5 - Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.

Technology has brought so many benefits to us. Mankind has solved so many problems once thought unsolvable by developing new technologies.

The question is, has this increasing trust and dependence on science and technology contributed to mankind losing trust in God as we look to technology for our answers? Has our "need" for God been replaced by a dependence on humanity? Submit your opinion on this idea, and if you believe this is true, include ideas on how we can avoid losing our trust in God.

Video Discussion - The security mirage (50 minutes)

Watch: Bruce Schneier: The security mirage, Transcript

Students student will participate in a discussion of the The Security Mirage.

  1. What is security?
  2. What tends to worry people most when it comes to security
  3. What do people want - the perception of security, or actual security?
  4. What should people want? Why?
  5. How does technology make this problem worst? Complexity? Lack of understanding?

Class Discussion: The cost of failure (45 minutes)

Review the following articles:

  1. Software Project Failure Costs Billions. Better Estimation & Planning Can Help
  2. Top 10 Software Failures Of 2012, Top 10 Software Failures Of 2011
Article 1 above suggests that software project failures cost between $50 to $80 billion a year. This is money lost in attempting to build systems, and then failing to complete a usable system. That's a lot of loss.

Another estimate gives of figure of $500 billion in loses per month (yes, a month!) due to software failure. These are direct or indirect losses in money due to software in use that fails.

Consider the stories in sections 8.1-8.5. Then consider the question: "Are the benefits of technology worth costs? Why or why not?". You can ask this question about a particular failure, like the Therac-25, or a particular area, like medical technology or financial software, or in general. Write a 400-500 word essay considering this question. Include specific references to some cases in chapter 8, or cases from the articles listed above. Include the consideration of this question from an ethical perspective.

Class discussion

Break (15 minutes)

Video Discussion - Privacy lost (Front line video) (60 minutes)

The students should have watched the second part of the frontline video: United states of Secrets, Part Two.

You will not need to watch in class. Just discuss.

Discuss the answers to the following questions (Students will have turned in answers to these questions):

  1. What is the PRISM program, and what are the Major companies that cooperated with this program?
  2. What is metadata compared to full content? Why is this an important distinction?
  3. What is MUSCULAR program? How was Google unknowingly complicit in the NSA's implementation of this program?
  4. The NSA is, by its charter, restricted to only monitor the communications of non-US citizens. How is the NSA able to monitor foreign communications from within the US?
  5. The NSA sent letters to the heads of all US companies involved in providing internet access ordering them to provide the NSA access to their data, and telling them it was a federal crime to reveal the contents of the order to anyone. Comment of the ethical aspects of such an order.
  6. Edward Snowden has been accused by the US government of damaging US security through his leaks. A recent studysuggests that Snowden's leaks did not help the terrorists. What do you think? Which do you believe is more important to the public, to know the truth about our privacy, or absolute security?

Video Discussion - Privacy (50 minutes)

Watch in class:

Questions about the Gary Kavacs' Talk:
  1. What do you think of the fact that this sort of information can be gathered from you? How does this make you feel?
  2. Should the government allow this? Can it be stopped?
  3. Just like TV, advertisers pay for much of the cost of the content we see. Would you be willing to pay 3, 5, or even 10 times more for internet access to avoid this type of surveillance? Alternatively, would you be willing to pay a subscription fee for each page you visited.
Questions about the Alessandro Acquisti's Talk:
  1. Alessandro talks of a battle. What is this battle?
  2. How do you react to the ideas presented in this talk? Consider the idea of using a composite of your friends' faces to create trust.
  3. Companies give us games and content, and then use our information. Is this a reasonable trade? Why or why not?
  4. How import in transparency in how information is used? Is this enough?
  5. Should we trust that companies will only use our information appropriately?
  6. People say "I don;t post on Facebook, so I'm okay. I only browse, and don;t leave a trace. Is this true?
Questions about the Malte Spitz Talk:
  1. Malte had 35,830 line of information stored on him: where he was, who called him, how he called who he emailed, and more. For 6 months. Why did this bother him.
  2. Does this bother you? Why or why now?
  3. How could this information present a future danger to you. Show we trust the telephone company? The government?

Discussion Evaluation Rubric (16 points possible per student, per discussion)


Appropriateness and

no direct connection to question only addresses part of the question most of the response is clear and relevant; but may be less than fully developed Contains a clear, and concise answer that addresses all parts of the question
Case analysis Exhibits inadequate or incorrect understanding of the question or issues Deals with the question only in a superficial manner or uses incorrect reasoning Provides a mostly effective response, but lacks either in correctness or support of some points Presents clear and effective reasons to support the answer.
Grammar and Organization Is organized or written so poorly that it inhibits understanding Significant problems in organization or grammar. Has acceptable organization and writing, but some flaws Has excellent quality in organization and writing

Topic revision: r2 - 2014-10-07 - JimSkon
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