Software Ethics Course Proposal; Investigation of Relevant Social Groups in the FBI vs. Apple Dispute

Yi, Steven, School of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Virginia
Mahmoody, Mohammad, EN-Comp Science Dept, University of Virginia
Sun, Yixin, EN-Comp Science Dept, University of Virginia
Foley, Rider, University of Virginia
Elliott, Travis, University of Virginia

The technical aspect of this project proposes a new course in the UVA Computer Science curriculum that focuses purely on software ethics. This addresses an inadequate focus on engineering ethics in technical education, while also focusing on topics and ethical dilemmas specific to software engineering. Because of software’s increasing relevance in our life, it is important to consider the ethical implications of all software being released, and I hope that (at least theoretically) the course would be able to bring out more education, and help future software engineers bring more ethical practices into their professional work, using case studies and discussing ethical implications of software design decisions. The STS portion is a case study of the controversy between Apple and the FBI over the San Bernadino shooter’s locked iPhone, and is analyzed through the Social Construction of Technology (SCOT) framework, using case briefs and other legal documents for evidence. I hope that this research can point back to the course proposal, showing a real-world example of an ethical dilemma in software technology, thus demonstrating the kind of ethical considerations that software engineers must be aware of in their engineering practice, as well as the need for increased ethical awareness in software engineering.

BS (Bachelor of Science)
FBI, Apple, software ethics, social construction of technology, SCOT, interpretive flexibility

School of Engineering and Applied Sciences
Bachelor of Science in Computer Science
Technical Advisor: Mohammad Mahmoody, Yixin Sun
STS Advisor: Rider Foley, Travis Elliott

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