CSCI 220 Bonus Homework Assignment

Assigned Date: Monday, April 7, 2003 
Due Date: Monday, April 28, 2003 
Due Time: Noon 

Updated: Thursday, April 10, 2003 09:58 PM

File name to be submitted: Computers-Freedom-Privacy.rtf (MS rich-text format)

Skills Developed: Critical thinking, Computer Ethics.


Whether we like it or not, we have entered an era of technocracy -- an era where society is managed more and more by technical "experts."

For instance, go to and enter your phone number in the search area. If you have a regular phone number (not private, not cell phone, listed in the phone book), then this search should pull up your personal information including your name, address, city, zip code, and a map to your house.  

Most probably, Google was only trying to improve the functionality of its site.  However, this feature shows a total disregard for basic privacy rights -- that is, although you may give your phone number to someone, you may still wish to keep your address private.

ACM Code of Ethics

The Google "phone feature" also demonstrates a total disregard for the Code of Ethics for computing professionals and students as adopted by the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) on October 16, 1992.  As you may know, ACM is the flagship organization for computing professionals and students.

Computers, Freedom, and Privacy

ACM recently hosted the 13th annual conference on "Computers, Freedom, and Privacy". This conference is mostly a scientific, professional forum, not a political one.  It attracts attendees from government, business, education, and non-profits.  

This year's conference highlighted how government electronic surveillance efforts have accelerated in the wake of Sept. 11. Topics of discussion included the Total Information Awareness project, the USA Patriot Act, and the proposed follow-up, Patriot II. Each of these initiatives involves the use of technology to extend law enforcement's powers to gather data and monitor the movements of citizens. Other items discussed at the conference included the National Crime Information Center criminal database and a passenger profiling system. The running theme of this year's conference was how civil liberties are being impacted by proposed and approved measures in the name of security.  [See "Does Security Mean Sacrificing Privacy?", ACM TECHNews vol 5, issue 477] 

As a public service, ACM has made freely available the plenary sessions (as MP3's or streaming audio). Point your browser to, click on any of the links, and let your computer do the rest.


Listen to the opening keynote address by Bruce Schneier.  This presentation lasts about 50 mins, but you can hear it in portions (by pausing your audio player). This talk is an objective, non-partisan analysis of the trade-offs between security and privacy post 9/11.

Write a small report (approx. 1000-1500 words -- Times Roman 11 point or Arial 10 point font) with the following outline/format:

Computers, Freedom, and Privacy

1. Introduction

Use a paragraph or two to set the stage.  Feel free to describe Google's "phone feature." Do mention and briefly describe the ACM Code of Ethics. Provide references.
2. Proposed Technology
Pick one of the following: 
  • Total Information Awareness project, 
  • the USA Patriot Act,  
  • the proposed follow-up, Patriot II
  • National Crime Information Center criminal database, or 
  • the proposed airline passenger profiling system.

Give a concise, yet thorough description of the technology you picked.  (Remember, pick only one of the above.)  Provide references.

3. Bruce Schneier's Main Points
Provide a concise, yet complete description of his points. This is the main part of your paper.  Provide reference. 
4. Discussion
Describe your thoughts on the proposed technology you picked. If you feel uncomfortable taking sides, list arguments supporting both sides.
Provide a complete list of references. Using URLs in your references is fine.  (Here is an example of how to list references: )

Additional materials:

  1. Peter G. Neumann , Lauren Weinstein, Inside Risks: Risks of National Identity Cards, Communications of the ACM, Volume 44 Issue 12, December 2001, p. 176.
  2. Barbara Simons , Eugene H. Spafford, Inside risks: Risks of total surveillance, Communications of the ACM, Volume 46 Issue 3, March 2003, p. 120.
  3. Peter G. Neumann, Inside risks: system development woes, Communications of the ACM, Volume 40 Issue 12, December 1997, p 160.