6.805 | Fall 2005 | Undergraduate

Ethics and the Law on the Electronic Frontier


This section provides several of the background reading materials and resources for the course assignments.

The following two books will be read during the semester:

Brin, David. The Transparent Society: Will Technology Force Us to Choose Between Privacy and Freedom? New York, NY: Perseus Books, 1999. ISBN: 0738201448.

O’Harrow, Robert. No Place to Hide: Behind the Scenes of Our Emerging Surveillance Society. New York, NY: Simon and Schuster, 2005. ISBN: 0743254805.

Readings for Individual Topics

Here is background for some of the individual course topics. Specific items will be indicated in the weekly assignments.

Other Sources of General Course Material

  • Wired Magazine displays the Gucci look for cyberspace (and Hal wrote this before they were purchased by Condé-Nast), with almost as many fonts per issue as the MIT Admissions Office’s publicity booklet. You’ll have to dig up more serious material for the course, but Wired is OK for general reading and there are occasional excellent articles.
  • The Electronic Frontier Foundation maintains extensive on-line archives. These will be useful throughout the semester, especially the collections on Legislation and Legal issues, and the Privacy, Security, Crypto, and Surveillance Archive. You should also check out current and past issues of their newsletter, the EFFector.
  • The Center for Democracy and Technology is an organization concerned with civil liberties in computer and communications technologies. Their home page is a good place to look for information on current legislative action.
  • The Electronic Privacy Information Center is a public-interest group that deals with civil liberty issues relating to the National Information Infrastructure. It is also the Washington Office of Privacy International. There are good on-line collections on computer security, privacy, cryptography policy, and free speech.
  • Lexis/Nexis: Law review articles, court rulings, and many other resources can be found in Lexis-Nexis Universe. Subscriptions to Lexis/Nexis are licensed by institutions and are restricted. The links to Lexis/Nexis resources in this archive work at MIT only – they can be accessed only from within the MIT network. Other people who wish to get hold of the Lexis/Nexis material cited in this archive will need to arrange for their own access.
  • The U.S. Congress public information system provides keyword searches of the Congressional Record.
  • Here are two classic science-fiction works that don’t have anything to do with the course directly – or maybe they have everything to do with the course directly, since they describe the futures we may be laying the groundwork for with today’s network technology. Food for thought:
    • Gibson, William. Neuromancer. From the man who invented the word “cyberspace.” If you’ve read the book and liked it, you may want to look at the sequels, Count Zero and Mona Lisa Overdrive.
    • Vinge, Vernor. “True Names.” in the collection True Names and other Dangers. Written in the early 80s, this short story is frighteningly prophetic of current issues having to do with anonymity, privacy, and security on the network.

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