64-643 Information Ethics, WiSe 17/18


dr. Pak-Hang Wong (pak-hang.wong@uni-hamburg.de)

Course Description:

Information technologies have now become an essential part of our daily life. As information technologies have radically transformed our way of living and thinking, they have also raised a series of new ethical challenges. This course shall examine the ethical challenges brought by the use and design of information technologies. The first part of the course introduces the basic ethical concepts and different approaches in information ethics, and the second part of the course explores the major topics in the field, including:

  • Privacy,
  • Intellectual Property,
  • Surveillance and Online Security,
  • Social Media and Human Relationship,
  • Racial and Gender Biases in Information Technologies
  • Global Information Ethics,
  • Other related issues.

Learning objectives:

Students (i) will be acquainted with key ethical concepts and major theoretical approaches in information ethics, and be aware of the range and scope of ethical issues in the use and design of information technologies; (ii) will be able to apply the knowledge in recognising and analysing these ethical issues; and, (iii) should acquire the skills to formulate and articulate responses to these ethical challenges.


  • Presentation
  • Paper


  • Ess, Charles (2014). Digital Media Ethics (2nd Edition). Cambridge, UK: Polity.

Tentative Weekly Schedule and Readings:

1. Introduction:review course outline; introduce yourself; discussion—”do we need a ‘new’ ethics for information technology, and why?”

2. What is Information Ethics?readings—Ess (2014) “Preface”, “Chapter 1”; optional readings—Floridi (2013) “Ethics After the Information Revolution”, “What is Information Ethics?”

3. Ethical Theories:readings—Ess (2014) “Chapter 6”

4. Professional Code of Ethics:discussion—ACM/IEEE, ACS, BCS Code of Ethics

5. Information Ethics in Practice:readings—Brey (2000) “Disclosive Computer Ethics”, Friedman et al. (2008) “Value Sensitive Design and Information Systems”

6. Privacy:readings—Ess (2014) “Chapter 2”

7. Information Ethics in/and Sci-Fi:screening and discussion.

8. Copyright:readings—Ess (2014) “Chapter 3”

9. Personal Relationships:readingsEss (2014) “Chapter 4”; Vallor (2015) “Social Networking and Ethics”

10. Democracy and Citizenship:readingsEss (2014) “Chapter 4”; discussion of Intercultural Information Ethics (originally, session 12) will be moved to this week.

11. Sex, Violence, and Games:readingsEss (2014) “Chapter 5”

12. Intercultural Information Ethics: readingsCapurro (2008) “Intercultural Information Ethics”

13 & 14. 12 & 13. Student Presentations

Course Materials



*This is the course website for 64-643 Information Ethics (WiSe 17/18). It will be updated regularly, and you will  find course topics, required readings (and optional readings), instructions for assignment, and other related materials on this page.