The University of Sheffield
Department of Computer Science

COM6655 Professional Issues

Summary This module aims to promote an awareness of the wider social, legal and ethical issues of computing. It describes the relationship between technological change, society and the law, emphasising the powerful role that computers and computer professionals play in a technological society. It also introduces the legal areas which are specific and relevant to the discipline of computing (e.g., intellectual property, liability for defective software, computer misuse, etc) and aims to provide an understanding of ethical concepts that are important to computer professionals, and experience of considering ethical dilemmas.
Session Autumn 2021/22
Credits 15
  • Mid-term test
  • Formal Exam
Lecturer(s) Prof. Guy Brown & Dr Mari-Cruz Villa Uriol
  • to develop an understanding of the relationship between computing, technological change, society and the law;
  • to emphasise the powerful role that information and computer professionals play in a technological society;
  • to provide an understanding of legal areas which are relevant to the discipline of computing;
  • to provide an understanding of ethical concepts that are important to a computer professional;
  • to give experience in the consideration of ethical matters and solving ethical dilemmas.
Objectives By the end of this course the students should be able to:
  • Describe the impact of technological change, particularly that due to the introduction of computer and software systems, upon society;
  • Explain the current legal framework within which computer and software systems are developed, applied and regulated;
  • Discuss the effect of the law upon the design of, and professional liability for, computer and software systems;
  • Explain the importance of ethical considerations to any professional work involving computer or software systems;
  • Reason about the application of ethical principles in the solving of ethical dilemmas relating to software systems.
  • Introduction to Legal Concepts
  • The social context of computing
  • Intellectual property, copyright and patents
  • Introduction to ethics and moral philosophy
  • Contracts and liability
  • Professional ethics for computer scientists
  • Computer misuse and computer crime
  • Data protection
Teaching Method Emphasis will be put on directed reading and on the practical applications of the material to be researched. Teaching will be delivered by lectures and tutorials. Applications of the material from the lectures to practical problems will be discussed in the tutorials.
Feedback Feedback on the mid-term test will be given verbally in a tutorial.
Recommended Reading Frank Bott, Professional Issues in Information technology. BCS. 2014, Second edition. Available online through the library.