Seminar: Computer Ethics - Organization

Organizer: Prof. Dr. Bernhard Nebel, Dr. Stefan Wölfl.

If you have any questions, please contact Dr. Stefan Wölfl.


The seminar is concerned with ethical issues that people working in ICT may encounter. The aim of the seminar is to give a basic overview on ethical concepts and theories, ethic codices, and case studies often discussed in computer ethics.

In particular, the topics of the seminar include the following:

  • Basic concepts and theories in ethics
  • Ethic guidelines and codices (ACM, GI, IEEE, IFIP)
  • Privacy and surveillance
  • Personal data and digital identity
  • (Digital) intellectual property
  • Misrepresentation & deception in IT-projects and the Web

Important Dates

  • Introduction / Kickoff-Meeting Date: 5 Nov 18:00-19:30 Place: Bld. 052 - R 00 016
  • 12-11-2015: Preferences list for topic assignment (see below)
  • 15-12-2015, 18:00 - 20:00 : Tutorial (in Bld. 101 Room 01-016) -- Oliver Müller/ Stefan Wölfl
  • 02-02-2016: Paper draft version due
  • 09-02-2016: Slides draft version due
  • 17/18-02-2016: Block seminar (see schedule)
  • 01-03-2016: Final paper version due

Please make sure to honour the due dates. In case of late submissions of papers or slides, we will lower the grade by one step per day (e.g., from 2.3 to 2.7).

Prerequisites and ECTS credits

To obtain ECTS credits, participants have to:

  • give an oral presentation of about 15-20 minutes,
  • hand in a written paper of 8 to 10 pages about their topic (two stages: draft/final),
  • be present throughout the whole seminar (including the tutorial), and contribute to the discussions in the seminar.

The paper can be handed in either in German or in English. Target length of the draft version is 5 pages. The final version should extend the draft version and include a discussion section that reflects the discussions and results of the seminar.

For oral presentation, English is strongly preferred.

Preparation of paper and talk

For many topics it is necessary to collect materials and background information, which is not available in book texts. The task is to do active research on the topic from different sources: research papers, newspapers, books.

Identify the ethical issue by considering the following aspects / questions:

  • Technical aspect: What are the specific technologies that might raise ethical problems?
  • Legal aspect: What is allowed/forbidden by law?
  • Ethical aspect: Which rights, values, obligations are concerned? What is the underlying idea of man?

Topic assignment

The topics were briefly presented during the kickoff meeting. The assignment of topics to students is now available. Everyone bids for 5 topics ordered by preference (most preferred first). Send preferences to Dr. Stefan Wölfl no later than Thu Nov 12, 2015 (email subject: "[ethics1516] ..."). Please use the topic shortcuts.

Selected readings

A good starting point into the topic are T. Bynum and R. Capurro's articles (listed below). In the library you find several copies of book by D. Johnson. In these sources one also finds more detailed bibliographies.