3 assignments
2 out of class writing assignments 25% per assignment
1 end of semester test/mix of short answer and essay questions 35%

Class participation counts for 15% of your grade (this includes blog posts, being “on-call,” and general participation).

About writing assignments

Course assignments are designed to improve your analysis and writing skills.

All assignments should be in PDF format and emailed to Deirdre (dkm@ischool), Michael (hintzemichael@ischool), Galen (gpanger@ischool) and Laura (wish@ischool).

All assignments are due at noon on the date listed below. Late assignments will be penalized: each day an assignment is late will result in a deduction of half a grade. Recognizing that emergencies arise, exceptions will be made on a case-by-case basis.

Assignment #1 (25%)

Due: Saturday, September 29 at noon

We saw on the first day of class that Google recently took action to reduce the search ranking of websites that are subject to repeated copyright complaints. This generated controversy as well as support from different social actors. Even more recently, we see Google at the center of debates over protests in the Middle East and saw Google come under fire yet again for allegedly perpetuating rumors about individuals with its Google Instant and auto-complete features.

You’re interviewing for a summer internship with Google’s Policy team and they want to know that you’re able to analyze controversies like these from both a broader ethical standpoint—why is there controversy and how should Google view its responsibilities?—as well as from the practical standpoint of U.S. law—what is Google legally obligated to do? Using the materials from Weeks 1-3 of class, choose one of the two cases above (protests or rumors) and discuss the complex issues at play. Don’t worry about hurting Google’s feelings, they have thick skin. They’re most interested in understanding your thought process.

Practical matters:

You may submit no more than 5 pages, double-spaced in 12-point font with 1-inch margins. You need not consult any materials other than those from Weeks 1-3 and one of the two articles above to write an excellent paper. However, it’s okay to research the two controversies in more detail if you feel it’s necessary, as long as you cite any facts or ideas you use properly.

Sample Assignments

Assignment 1 (Fall 2011)

Assignment #2 (25%)

Due: Friday, November 16 at noon

Page Limit: 7

For the past five years, you’ve run a Wiki-style current events website for your local Marion, Ohio community. You’re also a big Mitt Romney supporter, and recently you’ve shifted the focus of your website to the Presidential campaign to help local voters stay informed about the upcoming election.

One popular feature of the site allows users to easily donate to Mitt Romney’s campaign. When users register for an account, you ask them to provide personal information along with their credit card number. Users can opt into a recurring donation plan in exchange for more frequent updates about the campaign. You collect and store their credit card number even if they never choose to donate.

Your website has generated an active and engaged community of contributors. Users contribute content from their social networks, like Facebook and Twitter, and often post headlines and links to stories culled from sources like Fox News and MSNBC. Many users carefully monitor news sources and post headlines and facts to your site almost immediately after they appear elsewhere on the Web. In addition, you also routinely post content including recent polling data you’ve gathered and analyses of important political issues. Generally this is not original content that you’ve authored. Recently, you took images, charts and information from the Obama and Romney campaign websites about some of their proposals to draw up side-by-side comparisons of their views.

You position the site as the definitive source of Republican campaign information in the area. The site is extremely successful, reaching over 90% of voters in the local community. In part due to your success, some are beginning to complain. You’ve begun to receive a number of complaints, and you need to decide how to address them.

  • The Obama campaign claims that you have violated their copyrights and Terms of Service. They are complaining about your use of facts taken from their charts in your side-by-side comparison. They are also complaining about your use of campaign trail images you scraped from their site to illustrate your side-by-side chart. You have used low resolution copies at thumbnails scale. They’ve sent a DMCA take down notice to your hosting provider and are demanding a formal apology.
  • Fox News claims you are free riding on their content. Users are taking facts culled from Fox News and posting them to your site. They claim this results in a loss of advertising revenue and they are threatening to sue you.
  • You’ve learned that the Federal Trade Commission is investigating a privacy complaint about your site and you want to proactively identify the concerns they are likely to have and determine whether to alter the site to allay the concerns, or to fight them.
  • A group of Obama supporters is threatening to sue you claiming that information users post to the site is misinforming voters and influencing the outcome of the election. They are demanding that you remove content or they will sue you for defamation.

Please analyze each claim or potential claim and propose a course of action.

Exam (35%)

Date: Monday, December 10
Time: 10:00 am to 1:00 pm
Location: 170 Barrows

Last year’s essay questions:

1) A friend of yours at another university has taken excellent notes all semester and shared them with his classmates on an internal school server that hosts student work. His professor has accused him of copyright infringement and has sent a Notice and Takedown letter to the school IT staff. Your friend asked you whether this could really be a copyright violation and what he can do to keep the notes up until after the exam.

2) You are developing an iphone application.  User’s will have to download it from the app store. It’s a location-based service that tracks the user’s movements throughout the day and using a set of sensors on the phone collects information about air born pollutants.  The application alerts users if there are high levels of pollutants in their area and generally helps users assess their exposure to pollutants by aggregating data daily.  Ideally you want to upload this data to a database for use by environmental groups.  What privacy and security issues should you consider?

3) You’ve been asked to provide advice to designers who are considering a new service called Bleep.  Bleep is a mobile application that allows users to share photos tagged with location data with friends, followers, or everyone. They want to provide users with the greatest protection against government demands for information about their use of the service. They’ve asked you for guidance based on your knowledge of constitutional and statutory law.  They are particularly interested in your advice about where to maintain lists of friends and followers, whether and how long to retain bleeps that are not made available to everyone, and the standards for access to bleeps which are sent only to friends or followers, and to location information that is appended to bleeps.