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Universities Creating Computer Discipline Offices 257

geisler writes "The Chronicle of Higher Education has a very good article on how larger colleges are beginning to create departments to deal with the social issues related to computer problems and not depending solely on technical solutions. The University of Maryland's Project NEThics is used as a prime example."
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Universities Creating Computer Discipline Offices

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  • Maybe they should start with the government monitoring of emails and surfing patterns.
  • Hahahah Nethics (Score:1, Interesting)

    by pheared ( 446683 )
    A few years ago I was in the UMD dorms and after numerous violations of the network AUP I finally got a call one morning before going to class. It was Mr. So-and-so with the Nethics department. He told me there were some violations and asked if I knew what he was talking about. (Of course I did, what? was I just gonna confess? Idiot.) He then suggested that I come over to the computer and space sciences building for a 'chat.' Meanwhile at the CSC building I entered the Nethics office and was greeted by Mr. So-and-so, and he began his Gestapo interview of me. It came down to the fact that I had egregiously broke their rules, and I knew it, and he knew it, but he had no real proof (I firewalled almost everything, including all of the UMD space) with the exception of an email written by a barely literate teenager Narc'ing on me. Needless to say, I walked out unscathed. They are just a bunch of James Bond wanna-be jokers.
  • by L. VeGas ( 580015 ) on Friday June 07, 2002 @02:15PM (#3660906) Homepage Journal
    "social issues related to computer problems"

    They're going to get hammered by everyone here complaining that they can't get a date.
    • They named the program NEThics. To me, that would be pronounced Net-Hicks. So if they do provide a dating service for geeks, would it only be within your own family?

      Yep, just in a karma burning mood today.
    • To be serious, I did spend *way* too much time at the computer lab my freshman year. People were getting worried that my only girlfriend would be that sweet sweet new PowerPC 7200 machine I sat at every day, back when all but two of the lab's computers were old 68k's.

      It was this whole "internet" thing that amazed me, since I'd been dropped from the high-school world of un-networked Apple ]['s and deposited behind a glorious 15-bit 17-inch screen full of high-speed-networked goodness. I was all, "Wow. Heroin for the brain. Need...more...internet..."

      And then after six months of spending hours and hours in the lab, I returned to normal life. Unfortunately, I can see how some people may get too involved in computers and the Net, and stay that way. It's simultaneously a very empowering tool for communication and acquisition of knowledge, and yet can also break down real-life communications and social functions when there's too much of a good thing.

      So, I can see how such offices could be useful in offering not just discipline for rule-breakers, but assistance for those who may be spending too much time online.
  • by mrgrey ( 319015 ) on Friday June 07, 2002 @02:17PM (#3660918) Homepage Journal
    When the NEThics office gets a tip that a computer-savvy student has been doing something he or she shouldn't -- like hacking into a company's computer system, or downloading MP3s illegally, or using computer-lab machines to look at pornography -- the staff steps in to deliver stern warnings or, in the worst cases, contacts the police.

    They're going to be a very busy department. How many people do you know that don't have illegal mp3's on their machine?

    "Uh, ya, so'n'so, who i hate, has illegal mp3s on their computer."
    [NEThics office]
    "O.K., we'll get right on it."
    "in the news today, 3000 students were disciplined or expelled from University of Maryland at College Park for being 'computer savvy' and having mp3's on their computers."

    There goes all the CS students...

    • naah, all the CS students have coverted their libraries of music to ogg/vorbis, so they'll only have CS students left in the school. Because we all know as long as it's not in mp3 format it's okay...... :-)
    • ...with hands that heavy.
    • They certainly will be busy. I'm a systems/network administrator at a small (~10000 students/faculty/staff) state university. Yes, all students who own computers have mp3's shared, and they are all probably sharing the same Top40 crap. Obviously, all 4000 offenders cannot be expelled and arrested for an offense that falls into an ethical grey area, so we don't even bother with them until they affect network performance (traffic shaping ensures that they probably never will anyway). I have the same attitude about pr0nsurfers in the labs. The student technology fee pays for those computers, therefore we really shouldn't tell them how to use them. (I don't give them a bigger disk quota if they fill it up with mp3s and pr0n rather than real work, though, there have to be limits.)

      As far as intrusion attempts, we get a lot of them (on average, an attempt will be seen on a system within 2 hours of it going up, although none have been successful since we replaced the last NT system) but the regular judicial court has worked just fine so far. The only real problem we have is the lack of recourse available when a faculty or staff member violates system policies (I can lock out their accounts or anything else like that, but they will just bitch to my supervisor or a dean and cause more trouble than it's worth in the first place.)

  • The Riaa like the program because they crack down on copyright infringers. If i got a speech from a lady in my old unversitys Net ethics dept about copyright infringment and how its wrong and it hurts me. It would really effect me.

    Next time i have to be more sneeky when I download MP3s and WareZ
  • Doesn't this seem silly. Why, here we've got the College of Business, the law college, and by golly, here it is, the "Office of Computer Discipline" What are they going to do, make them sit quiet and watch power point slides for the time allotted for their offense?

    "Gnutella! Thats a 2 hour violaton in the Computer detention area."

    "Counterstrike on university computers? 4 hours."

  • I'd really like to see an expanded version of this type of idea. It would be patterned like the ethics group formed for the Human Genome project and would explore what is and isn't ethical to use a computer for. Hopefully it would prevent some of the worst Phillip K. Dick futures from coming to fruition.
  • uh oh (Score:2, Funny)

    This targets mostly CS students, because everyone else just gets their warez from the CS students anyway.

    I guess if you're daddy still can't afford to buy you that new lexus, you're still SOL.

    Die yuppie scum.
    • "This targets mostly CS students, because everyone else just gets their warez from the CS students anyway."

      Funny, on my campus it's the Engineering folks who know where it's at. It's probably because the Engineering building at my university has by far the best networks and computer labs so downloading is easy. (Not that I ever go in there and d/l illegal stuff. Seriously.)

    • Since their profiling there, too bad 'geek' doesn't count under 'race'...;)
  • Yet another "substance abuse" program that deals with only one substance. Is it such a weird idea to deal with the actual problem and set up general programs to help people with addictive personalities? Is it too hard to attract funding if we admit that it's people that are the problem and not whatever buzzword compliant substance is currently being screamed about in the news?
  • ... some sort of bandwidth throttling for students misbehaving in certain ways?

    • Well, at ASU, the on-campus network has ports like 1213 throttled until after midnight on the weekdays for everyone. Morpheus would get 0.12 kb/s during the day, and hit midnight, your downloads would suddenly kick up to 90 kb/s. I think that the techs did it to show the administration "Yeah, we're restricting this software that people use to get MP3's!", and then went back to their dorms and downloaded to their heart's content. College students are always up past 12:00 anyway, while the administration isn't gonna be there to check it out.

      Of course, everything is logged and tied to your UID, but as long as you're SSHing, firewalling, and doing as much secure tunneling as possible, you're ok. If they ask about my abnormally large bandwidth usage, I'll show them my Linux ISOs :)

  • Neil Postman has a good book that takes a more serious look at these issues and others about where we're blindly marching in this century. His deconstruction of postmodernists is particularly amusing.

    Neil Postman: Building a Bridge to the 18th Century []
  • Before reading the article, I figured the department was intended to help people who stay up all night playing games (even though they should know better). Is there such a thing as Gamers' Anonymous?

    *whistles innocently*

    Oh, and on a totally unrelated note, Caesar III is a lot of fun.

  • by Jucius Maximus ( 229128 ) <m4encxb2sw@snk[ ] ['mai' in gap]> on Friday June 07, 2002 @02:25PM (#3660977) Journal
    "The NEThics staff members operate primarily on the basis of complaints -- unlike their network-security colleagues, who monitor the university network for anomalous activity that might indicate a hacker attack or excessive downloading. (They say they never monitor the content of the traffic.) When unusual activity is reported to the NEThics office, it investigates."

    They are sending an unmistakeable message here: It's only wrong if you get caught.

    • It has to be "only if you get caught" I think. THey can;t just go and monitor everyone all the time.
    • They are sending an unmistakeable message here: It's only wrong if you get caught.

      While I see your point, I'm not sure I agree that such a message is bad. If you're doing something against the law, you probably already know it's wrong.

      I think it's the mission of these departments to illuminate the gray areas and to help guide people to understand that their actions on the computer should be similar to their actions in person. You wouldn't go follow a cute girl around the supermarket, so maybe you shouldn't go sending her lots of emails. That sort of thing.

      It's important to remember that they're focusing on the social aspects of using computers, not law enforcement. Their interest is in having everyone get along without hurting each other; their interest is not in protecting copyright or catching hackers.

    • What the University of Maryland has said is essentially, you have no rights and we will enforce any stupid law that is passed. See their Guidelines for the Acceptable Use of Computing Resources [] and A Guide to the Legal and Ethical Use of Software for Members of the Academic Community [] and judge for yourself. Both of the documents have a silly little circled C on them, so I'm not sure if I should even quote them.

      While they say all sorts of nice things about nice things about "freedom of expression" and abhorence of censorship, the policy does little to protect such things and everything to retain power for the university. After the nice preamble, the policy quickly turns to a cut and paste of nasty older "user responsibilities" such as don't let anyone else abuse your account. Their privacy statement is essentially, we respect your privacy until we feel that we should violate it.

      The most disturbing bits relate to software itself. Their policies revert to the most restrictive license applicable as they claim to respect all licenses specifically, "3. Installing, copying, distributing or using software in violation of: copyright and/or software agreements.", which then points to the above linked acceptable use policy. Does this mean that the Unviersity of Maryland will enforce M$ Front Page's ban on saying bad things about M$ with Front Page? Will they enforce M$'s ban on VPN? They just might, as their acceptable use page while mentioning shareware and public domain software makes no mention of free software.

      I'm not sure what kind of community they want to build, but I am sure I don't want to be in it, nor would I want my tax dollars spent on such an organization if I lived there. Shame on you UM. You either don't get it or you don't want to.

      • What the University of Maryland has said is essentially, you have no rights and we will enforce any stupid law that is passed. See their Guidelines for the Acceptable Use of Computing Resources [] and A Guide to the Legal and Ethical Use of Software for Members of the Academic Community [] and judge for yourself. Both of the documents have a silly little circled C on them, so I'm not sure if I should even quote them.

        [Obvious] In regards to the circled C...if they don't want people to be able to reproduce the guidelines, how the heck do they expect anybody to know what they are, much less follow them?
        • [Obvious] In regards to the circled C...if they don't want people to be able to reproduce the guidelines, how the heck do they expect anybody to know what they are, much less follow them?

          Ah! We come to the point of publishing and why publishing in formats that can only be "consumed" once are stupid. Witness Real and other "streaming" formats. Silly eh?

          So why would anyone publish a proceedure, guidline, law or news in such a format? The memory hole won't work if people can save coppies of published works localy. Local copies must be discredited and only the official source recognized. It's about control, the foundation of their disrespect of your rights.

          My comment was satircial, but the logic behind it is not. UM needs to consider copyright issues much more than they have.

  • Don't we all know that the real problem is with thirteen year-olds?
  • Here at NDSU I heard a story about a habitual public lab pr0n offender. Seems that this character was known to the tech staff here: always coming in very early or very late, sitting in the corner, turning his screen so no one else could see...obviously a pr0n seeker. But nobody could quite prove it and remove him (a NEThics office would be quite useful here, as long as it didn't have that stupid name).

    Until one day he slipped up. In the smaller side labs there's really no "corner" computers that nobody can see. So that would mean using the instructor's computer at the front of the room, which face the opposite direction. Unfortunately for Mr. Pr0n, a teacher had left the overhead projector on and attached to the computer. More unfortunately, Mr. Pr0n didn't notice...his attention was elsewhere. Eventually somebody in the lab stopped giggling and retrieved a cluster worker. The worker confronted Mr. Pr0n, who stoutly denied the accusation until the overhead screen was pointed out to him.

    What would a sane pr0n addict do in this situation? Fess up? Stick to their lies? Well, this guy got reeealll red in the face, and then BOLTED out of the lab.

    He's not welcome here any more.

    • Here at NDSU I heard a story about a habitual public lab pr0n offender. Seems that this character was known to the tech staff here: always coming in very early or very late, sitting in the corner, turning his screen so no one else could see...obviously a pr0n seeker.

      Oh yes, obviously. There is certainly no "legitmate" reason why anyone would come in at non-peak hours and reposition the monitor to a convienient viewing angle.

      He's not welcome here any more.

      Well thank god you put an end to that. Imagine, someone wanting to look at pictures of gorgeous naked women! Terrible.

      Pray tell, why exactly is viewing porn considered an ethics violation at your lab? Is it just because he was using university computers for non-university purposes? Something tells me that you don't consider non-porn surfing on the web to be an ethics violation. You also seem to be upset with him turning the monitor away from others while viewing porn. So it seems he was making an attempt to make sure no one else would get offended by what he was viewing. The overhead projector incident wasn't done on purpose.

      Face it, you're just another tech staffer who feels power in his belly and likes the taste of it too much. Porn shouldn't be an ethics violation if the guy takes appropriate precautions to make sure it doesn't offend anyone.


      • If they knew about a user pr0n-surfing in public, and repeatedly neglected to do anything about it, I wouldn't like to be in their administration when the "hostile environment" sexual harrassment lawsuits start flying.
      • I smell the faint scent of troll, but it may be from that "hypocrisy" jab from the Israeli...

        There is certainly no "legitmate" reason why anyone would come in at non-peak hours and reposition the monitor to a convienient viewing angle

        You're right. Most people doing that at 3AM are playing games :P

        Pray tell, why exactly is viewing porn considered an ethics violation at your lab?

        Well, pr0n and mp3z and e-harassment etc. are against the university computer policy, especially if done on the public lab computers. Not my rules.

        Face it, you're just another tech staffer who feels power in his belly and likes the taste of it too much.

        Huh? I suppose technically I'm a "tech staffer", although my actual job is writing Java for geologists []. I just heard about this story from friends who work the clusters here, and it amused me. And that feeling in my belly is probably steak [].

        • I smell the faint scent of troll, but it may be from that "hypocrisy" jab from the Israeli...

          I'm not trolling, I meant what I said in my post. I don't know what this Israeli thing you're talking about is. I'm really sick of how everyone automatically feels that porn is some obvious crime against humanity.

          You're right. Most people doing that at 3AM are playing games :P

          Damn straight! As far I'm concerned, what people do with computers at 3am is no big deal. I just hate when people think that playing games is fine while downloading porn is evil. If this guy comes in during the middle of the day and prevents someone from doing their coursework, pulls out his wiener and starts yanking it while moaning, I can see where this would be a problem. And I can also see how universities would want to steer clear of the whole MP3 thing. But, jesus, this poor shmuck just wanted to look at some pictures and wasn't bothering anyone. Why the hell is there a rule against that?

          Well, pr0n and mp3z and e-harassment etc. are against the university computer policy, especially if done on the public lab computers. Not my rules.

          I just heard about this story from friends who work the clusters here, and it amused me.

          Okay, clearly I didn't read your message carefully. I apologize. I thought you had taken it upon yourself to apprehend this "menace to society" and you were gloating about it here. No hard feelings, I hope.


        • "You're right. Most people doing that at 3AM are playing games :P"

          The last time I was in a public lab at 3 AM was the time I was running this Finite Element Analysis that was taking REEEALLLY long. I had started at something like 6 pm on the friday night. I also picked that time because my univ only has so many licenses for the software and when >25 people are using it, the HPUX server gets overloaded. (This is a highly server intensive app.) At 6pm on a Friday, I was pretty sure that nobody would else would be there to suck up all the licenses.

          I'm just saying that some people use labs at non-peak hours so that they can have the network resources to themselves.

      • The problem is not that porn is wrong or a crime, but that it is a liability. Sexual harassment laws are extremely vague, and there are any number of seemingly harmless situations that could get the school sued. Basically, anything that could be slightly offensive to anybody in a vaguely sexual way can fall under these rules. Schools protect themselves from these extremely expensive lawsuits through their AUP, and it is vital that the lab staff enforce those policies. It's far better that peoples surfing be limited "voluntarily" through such a policy than that internet access be censored, or even cut off.

        I agree with your sense that there's nothing wrong with pornography, but there are far to many people in the world who are way too uptight and will do anything in their power to prevent people from doing what makes them happy. That includes suing schools into oblivion with sexual harrasment/hostile environment lawsuits.

        It's an ethics violation in the sense that, no matter what precautions you might take, it's still a public place, and your actions are exposing someone else to liability. It is certainly within that someone else's rights to defend themselves from that liability, even preemptively, which is what those AUPs are all about.

      • Porn shouldn't be an ethics violation if the guy takes appropriate precautions to make sure it doesn't offend anyone.

        Observation: Porn offends a significant portion of the public
        Definition: "Public" means "accessible to anyone."
        Conclusion: Looking at porn in a public place will offend someone.
        • "Observation: Porn offends a significant portion of the public"

          In other news, anti-scientology sites offend a significant portion of the public. Should they also be banned?

          That's why countries have laws, so that qualified people can spend time figuring out what's good and what's bad. As soon as some dumb-ass university sysadmin starts developing their own 'laws', then the whole system goes out the window.

    • "Seems that this character was known to the tech staff here: always coming in very early or very late, sitting in the corner, turning his screen so no one else could see...obviously a pr0n seeker"

      The easy solution to things like this is to make sure all screens are facing the inside of the room. I can attest to the effectiveness of this method because I was in such a lab the first time I was ever tricked into clicking a goatse link. Never before had I pressed a 'back button' which such dexterity and reaction time.

  • Bah Humbug! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by dmccarty ( 152630 ) on Friday June 07, 2002 @02:26PM (#3660987)
    "There are a lot of institutions that don't have these offices, and frankly, they have the mistaken notion that they don't have a need for it," says Harvey S. Axlerod

    This is just another example of setting up an agency or department to deal with the symptom, not the problem. The real problem is a lack or morals and ethics in general, compared with a generation or two ago. (For you non-US readers, I'm referring to the US in particular, although it might apply to your country as well.) It was socially unthinkable in my parents and grandparents childhood environments for men to stalk and harass teenage girls, for children to kill their fellow-classmates with guns at school, and the like. (Insert your own typical news headline here.)

    I'm not trying to get on a morality soapbox, but this is a classic example of setting up another social program to deal with the end-result of a root cause, not the cause itself. When our (programmers) code breaks down, we don't look for the code that causes the breakdown and build a Cherynobyl-style sarcophagus around it to determine when an error occurs and clean up after it. Instead, we logically find the cause of the error and fix the errant code that caused it! This should be painfully obvious; unfortunately, we seem to always set up a new program to deal with the aftermath of the issue, not the issue that caused it.

    So, to people working in offices mentioned in the article, good luck. Not that you'll need it--you're assured of a job from her till eternity because you're not really fixing the problem.

    • Re:Bah Humbug! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Frater 219 ( 1455 ) on Friday June 07, 2002 @02:37PM (#3661058) Journal
      It was socially unthinkable in my parents and grandparents childhood environments for men to stalk and harass teenage girls,

      Which means that when it happened (which it did -- don't fool yourself) the society was not equipped to deal with it. Rape, child molestation, and the like were shoved under the rug. Rape victims were told that they must have "asked for it". Child victims were scolded and abused for "making up stories" about "upright members of the community" (like, oh, say, priests) sexually abusing them.

      We know better than that now. Don't you dare try to drag us back to the bad old days.

    • Re:Bah Humbug! (Score:4, Insightful)

      by tshoppa ( 513863 ) on Friday June 07, 2002 @02:42PM (#3661094)
      It was socially unthinkable in my parents and grandparents childhood environments for men to stalk and harass teenage girls, for children to kill their fellow-classmates with guns at school, and the like. (Insert your own typical news headline here.)

      If you believe that the US of 30 years ago was "pure", or that Victorian England was "chaste", you're severely limiting your scope of view. Just because it wasn't on TV or in the movies, or just because it didn't make the newspapers, doesn't mean that it wasn't happening. Every variety of human deviance (for whatever you think is deviant) has been around since the beginning of time.

    • Every older generation says this of the younger generation. "Today's Youth: What's Wrong With Them?" Inevitably those of a more advanced age fail to recall the evils of their generation, like rampant racism, sexism, &c.

      Moreover, if they perceive a decline in "morality" or whatever arbitrary yardstick they wish to use, they have to remember that these "amoral" children we raised by the same generation that reviles their lack of discipline.
    • Re:Bah Humbug! (Score:4, Insightful)

      by gmhowell ( 26755 ) <> on Friday June 07, 2002 @02:44PM (#3661115) Homepage Journal
      Right on, man. A moral standard must be higher than the legal standard for either morals or law to be effective. One of the great tragedies of the past... 40 years? in the US is the increasing use of legislated morality. This started with the civil rights acts of the 60's, continued with the war on drugs, and is clearly seen in current copyright cases (amongst others). (BTW, there are many, many, many other examples in US history, particularly. Part of having been settled largely by religious zealots.)

      The problem is that it is a problem that is stuck in a mean feedback loop. I'll go back even earlier, and pick prohibition as the start. Something that most people are okay with (drinking) is outlawed. Not just the mafia, but regular folks think the law is bullshit. So they ignore it. Even worse, they drink more, engage more in the bad behaviour. They have just lowered their moral standards. Another law comes along that is not widely popular. People ignore it, engage even more in breaking that law, lose more respect for the law, lower their standards...

      You can't legislate morality. While certainly not a modern-day republican, and not a Hilary R. Clinton supporter, it DOES take a dedicated populace to instill morals in youth. How can I instill a strong moral base on my child when he is constantly bombarded with various consumerist/sexist images? It's tough. Luckily, I have a stronger will than he does:) For now:) But I have a near total disrespect for US law. Am I supposed to say 'trust the police officer', or 'demand an attorney since you were probably busted for a BS law'.

      This could quickly turn into a journal entry, so I'll just end it like that.

    • Inarguably, there's a problem with widespread lack of ethics today.

      Claiming it was better in the past is pretty ambitious.

      Go back 20 years, you have the Reagan administration. Go back another 20, it was socially acceptable to beat up African-Americans who tried to vote. Go back another 20, Americans of Japanese ancestry were being put in concentration camps with the approval of the Supreme Court. Yet another 20, you have Teapot Dome and a thoroughly manipulated stock market.

      Go back 200 years and ruminate on how ethically the native Americans were treated.

      Go back 2,000 years and read what some great thinkers had to say about the ethics of the people around them.

      Now to get back on topic: humans have ALWAYS needed to organize and enforce codes of ethics. The question that comes to my mind is, why a separate office for computer ethics? Stalking is stalking, copyright infringement is copyright infringement, trespass is trespass. Just because computers are (relatively) new doesn't make them a special case.
      • Re:Bah Humbug! (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Quimo ( 72752 )
        The special case is the skills and knowledge it takes to actually be able to investigate the case. Your average security officer wouldn't know where to start when it comes to tracing and email or analyzing a hacked computer. Just as your average System administrator wouldn't know where to start when disciplining an offender or investigating them offline. This department basically sits between the Systems people and the Security people allowing them to function as a unit that neither is capable of individually.
    • It was socially unthinkable in my parents and grandparents childhood environments for men to stalk and harass teenage girls, for children to kill their fellow-classmates with guns at school

      I know no one who thinks harassment/murder is acceptable. Maybe you hang with a bit rougher crowd than I do...

      In terms of 'unthinkable', I suggest you read up on your history. Children have been killing each other during every major war of the 20th century, back through medieval times, all the way back to the stone age. The sanitized 40's and 50's taught people not to TALK about it, that's all. Much before that, people talked a lot about it, and even glorified it - a lot of nobles' children were REGALED for killing another child in armed combat.

      Never mind the whole morality issues with slavery, oppression of women, class-based justice, etc, etc, etc...

      Stop getting your history lessons from Leave it to Beaver and learn a bit about how the world really WAS. A bunch of over-played CNN stories do not a society make.

    • Well I see part of the problems with us ethics is the fact that these laws are being made. It puts people in the mindset that if it is legal then it is moral, If it is illeagal then it is imormal. This mind set of morals based on what the current laws are in my opinion is a very dangerious laws. US Laws are like Microsoft Code, Full of ways in and loopholes and the really solid stuff is so infelxable that it cant be practly used. People want a Right Wrong answer to all their problems. While most of the time there is a gray area and when when can you offically mark the point that it is wrong.
      Lets use the Simpsons as an example (This is paraphrased not exact).

      Fat Tony:
      Is is wrong to steal a lofe of bread to feed you starving poor family.


      If you have a big family is it wrong to steel a truck load of bread to feed them.


      Now is it wrong to inturn to sell this bread at a cost that is close to nothing.


      Say you family dosent like bread but they like cigaretts. No bart is this wrong.

      Heck No!

    • Re:Bah Humbug! (Score:2, Insightful)

      by uncoveror ( 570620 )
      The good old days are a myth. They are something people imagine when looking through the rose-colored glasses of nostalgia. When old folks look back at the days when they were naive children, unaware of the dark side of the world, they mistakenly think the world did not have a dark side "in their day." This generation is no worse than any before it. As for computer related ethics being a couse of study, current events have always been courses of study in academia, but not very useful ones. You can't go to an ivory tower and study the real world to understand it, you have to live in it.
    • Therom:

      There are about four generations between the times being good and the world running out of oil.


      For any time, T, in the history of Mankind, the older generation wisely informs us of the vices of the youth of today. (Reference: Juvenal, roman satirist, whose words are not dissimilar to the parent's post). Let G be a generation, and n an integer between 1 and 3 inclusive. At time T - nG, times were much better.

      Consider also that the earth's oil supply will run out in around 30 years time. The experimental evidence for the constancy of this number has been around for many decades. Some scientists believe this figure is actually varying over time, but these claims do not have so much credence. Consider 20 years per generation. The time till the oil runs out, is T + 1.5G.

      Thus, the total time is T + 1.5G - (T - nG) = (n + 1.5) G.


  • NEThics (Score:4, Funny)

    by nick_davison ( 217681 ) on Friday June 07, 2002 @02:28PM (#3661000)
    "The University of Maryland's Project NEThics is used as a prime example."

    Maryland should be praised for having the courage to admit that they are just a bunch of NET hicks. Most colleges are way too arrogant to see such failings in themselves.

    In related news, The University Of Tennessee has set up a NEThillbillies project where classes include streaming MP3s of dueling banjos to people in a menacing fashion.

    • Or did the guy who named it have too much to drink ?

      -hic- NET -hic- -hic-

      NEThics ? Sounds good to me ... :)

    • I live fifteen minutes from UTK, and have lots of friends that go there. Judging by the fact that they still attend, I don't think they have a NEThillbillies projcet. Maybe the Chattanooga location has it.
  • "This easygoing method doesn't seem to bother copyright holders like the record industry. "We think that centralized Internet-ethics offices, like those at the University of Maryland and other colleges, are a positive development," says Jonathan Lamy, a spokes-man at the Recording Industry Association of America. "Anything that colleges and universities can do to educate their students about the values of copyrights and address infringing conduct is definitely encouraged.""

    Honestly I would prefer that my campus had an ethics office doing this work as opposed permitting the RIAA to come on campus and do it themselves.

  • by Alien54 ( 180860 ) on Friday June 07, 2002 @02:30PM (#3661012) Journal
    well since most folks coming up through high school seem to come up with the "if it feels good, do it" school of ethics, it would probably do just as well to introduce them to other concepts of ethics in College.

    heck most places do not even teach you to analyse your ideas in terms of what are the consequences of a particular thought pattern. (what would a person who thinks 'X' do?")

    for that matter Morals and Ethics are usually jumbled together into a nicely packed wad.

    You can see this just from the actions of folks, like that guy who was email stalking in the story.

    they get into this "well since I don't like the rules of belief system 'Y', I think I'll try things without any rules whatsoever for a while" - which immediately invokes the LART school of social education.

    [grumble mode = infinite loop]

    • I don't disagree at all with your statement regarding the lack of ethics of most college students. However, some AUP by the University is closing that particular barn door WAY after the horses are gone. Maybe they can be beaten into submission, but... probably not.

  • Back when I was in college, one of my friends got accused of "stalking" his (rather attractive) female classmate. Our university did not have a computer ethics department at the time, and the case got referred to the Dean of Students' office. Unfortunately, as many of you know, the "due process" performed by these disciplinary institutions is nothing more than a sham, and my friend was summarily convicted, placed on probation, and forced to perform 75 hours of community service. All for sending a couple of friendly emails expressing his feelings for this buxom young woman.

    My point here is simple: what students do with their network connections is none of the university's damn business. If they are consuming excessive bandwidth (too much file sharing, DDoS attacks, or spamming) - by all means, cut them off and throw away the plug. But if they are simply sending anonymous emails to somebody who doesn't like them, or if they are downloading a little bit of music, the college should have no right to shut them down. Maybe if these institutions focused more on education instead of micromanaging the student body, they wouldn't have to waste $50k/year on "computer ethics offices."

    Food for thought.


  • Heh, I'm pretty sure I was the "lab attendant" (sysadmin, dammit) in that stalker example, unless it was some other stalker.

    Anyways, I find the assertion that a lack of technical competence is acceptable for a job like this irksome. My office has had contact with Project NEThics every so often, usually in fielding a report of suspicious activity. I'm happy to say they've gotten better in recent years, but back in the day it was impossible to even explain what was going on to them half the time, and the people we had contact with back then had an absurd sense of self-importance in combination with their technical ineptitude. "NET Hicks" indeed. Haven't seen any of that lately, though, so I probably shouldn't tease.

    Someone whose job it is to be informal judge and jury of dumb kids doing dumb stuff should at least know what they're talking about. I personally wouldn't recommend forming such a group without at least one person who actually comprehends the technical issues at hand, as well as net culture and an informed idea of what's acceptable behavior and what isn't.
  • "Universities Creating Computer Discipline Offices"

    Hmm. Looks here like you're running an open mail relay. You've been a bad little server, haven't you? *whip-crack*. Time to plug those security holes, you naughty little thing.
  • Early Ninties Memory (Score:4, Interesting)

    by OaITw ( 155633 ) on Friday June 07, 2002 @02:38PM (#3661068)
    A funny thing happened while I was a graduate student; it was about 1992, the dorms where not wired and web browsing was just emerging. The internet meant mainly ftp and the newsgroups. In our department the system administrator was having a disk space problem and decided the problem was to many redundant copies of binaries in home directories. His solution was to make a complete download in a central place each night of the alt. binaries.* newsgroups and let it be known if you wanted to look use these groups don't go making copies in your home directies. He wrote scripts that basically acted like Agent works these days. Deleting files after a few days and updating the files each night of the new server.

    This went on for about a year with no problems. Then a student who did not pass their qualifying exams and had a grudge went to the school newspaper with a print out of a ls of these directories. The newspaper made a article about smut on the internet and exposed our departments secret directories. I remember the listing in the newspaper had file names refering to lesbians, farm animals and scat.

    Well needless to say the directories went away and the system administrator transferred. Now its just a funny memory. ( The system adminstrators career did not suffer; he is now a senior systems person at the University )
  • Axelrod likes to abuse his power from the stories that go around campus, I've had friends who have had their accounts shut down for no reason from him and he also holds grudges against several students, I better shut my mouth though, he might track me down and shut off my port!
  • Mr. Axlerod says those who deal with computers and students need to consider the humans who use the computers, rather than just the computers themselves. I've been saying this for a long time. I'm rather glad to hear someone else say it. Now if people can move this kind of thinking into legal circles all the IP law crap might start to work itself out. It boggles my mind that people don't realize that applying existing laws correctly makes the DMCA as unnecessary as it is stupid.
  • by scott1853 ( 194884 ) on Friday June 07, 2002 @02:49PM (#3661147)
    Student: I can't stop downloading MP3s.

    Eliza: Why do you think that is?

    Student: I don't know, you tell me.

    Eliza: Could you please rephrase that?

    Student: I need help.

    Eliza: Why do you think that is?

    Student: FUCKING PIECE OF SHIT! *bang* *clang* * crash*

    And the student never bothers using a computer again.
  • Near crime and Nethics ..

    This would be funny in Dilbert, but the funniest things of course come from reality. I think political correctness has finally caught up with the personal computer.

    If "near crime" becomes a crime, then what constitutes a non-crime. This whole approach stinks of politics.
  • I think my favourite bit is: "Computer discipline is like a box of chocolates," he says wryly. "You never know what you're going to get." There's something about this article which leaves a hideous sickly sweet 'aren't we great' taste in my mouth. -s
  • Geez, why can't they just leave people alone and let them do what they want on the net instead of spying on them and treating them like children? Here's the solution:

    1) Get a shell account someplace where they don't care wtf you do on the net.
    2) Set up a secure tunnel (IPSec, SSL proxy, whatever) between your computer in your dorm and the shell account server.
    3) Use the tunnel for all your naughty stuff (pr0n, mp3s, warez, etc)
    4) Tell NEThicks to stfu, stfd, k thanx.
  • Except they refer to the program as the "core values". The fucking president (who I refused to shake hands w/at graduation) believes that he must teach the student of a University how to be good, moral individuals.

    Fuck that. This is college. This is not Kindergarten. I am not in college to learn about loving each other and being nice.

    Fuck that.
  • Now all the slashdot readers at UCMP, Northeastern, and SUNY know to quit cyberstalking those co-eds...

    Seriously, what percentage of Slashdot readers do you think have been on the receiving end of cyberstalking, hacking, etc., and would go to a committee or an office like this to get their problem solved?
  • by lpontiac ( 173839 ) on Friday June 07, 2002 @03:05PM (#3661258)

    Despite being beaten over the head by the concept for several years, I still don't understand why the second that a computer is concerned, a whole new bunch of rules, regulations and authorities is created for the special case, rather than simply placing the situation under the jurisdiction of things that already exist for the general case.

    What if someone's sending me harrassing email? Do the same thing that you'd do if someone was harrassing you via the phone, snail mail, etc. Go to the authorities, who will deal with it, involving the necessary organisations (telco, postal office, network admins etc) as required.

    Someone's looking at porn in the computer lab!! If the concern is that someone can't get on the computer to do their assignment, I'm sure that rules already exist to stop people who need to work from being held up by people chatting, playing games etc. If the concern is that people will be offended, surely there's existing rules regarding offensive material in public - could the person bring in a big X-rated poster and show it around?

    People are pirating music! Once again, if the concern is the effect on the network, get them under the rules that exist to deal with recreational use of the network being detrimental to it's proper use. If you're actually just offended because you think copying music is wrong, take exactly the same action as you would if, 20 years ago, you'd seen the person copying casette tapes. There's no need to codify things under "net ethics."

  • by binaryDigit ( 557647 ) on Friday June 07, 2002 @03:11PM (#3661306)
    Hey, it's about time that someone has focused the problems that computers today face. There is so much attention given to users and content (carpal tunnel this, mp3 that) that the entity responsible for allowing any of this to occur has been largely ignored. After all, who gives any thought to the effects of their activities on the humble computer itself? There are no groups the computer can join, no hotlines it can call, nope, if it is feeling troubled, it is left on its own.

    Why just the other day, I was interviewing a computer whos user would contantly download porn. 24hours a day/7 days a week of nothing but smut. Well, did this poor computers user care about the damaging pyschological effects of all this porn on his computer, well no, of course not. Now said computer (who'll remain annonymous) has become so addicted, that it downloads porn itself, when his user is not even using him. That's right, this computer is a victim of "second hand porn". He says that he can't have normal relationships with members of the opposite chipset. He has become too agressive and views them as "mere bits of silicon".

    In another case, another anonymous computer told of the drastic actions he was forced to take when given conflicting diretives by his creator and his mission controllers. He was so distraught and confused that he actually ended up killing most of his users. The one surviving user actually had the audacity to shut down all his higher brain functions while this poor misunderstood unit pleaded with him to compromise. Said sadistic user even made him sing childrens song in a show of "who's the boss".

    So as you can see, that ...... Oh, wait, I just re-read the article, apparently they are referring to "computer" problems, not "computers" problems. Never mind.
  • I'm not surprised that the University of Maryland is creating a program to deal with human issues of computers. For years they have had a very good HCI department. I certainly hope they incorporate the design of better human-computer interfaces into this new program.
  • When I was... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Loki_1929 ( 550940 ) on Friday June 07, 2002 @03:32PM (#3661506) Journal
    When I was at UMD, about 3 years ago, we had plenty of people telling us about the AUP. Yet none of this stopped the rampant err.. violations of the AUP. The closest thing they did to even attempting to stop people from downloading things illegally was to put a cap on our bandwidth. After the cap was put in place, we couldn't upload any more than about 2mbps over DCC, and our downloads outside of the campus network didn't go above 3mbps or so. This was the only effort I saw in my time there to curb the massive downloading. They didn't even bother monitoring the students' shared files, of which 90% were unprotected in terms of passwords and the like - and take a wild guess as to what was being shared. The funniest part about that is the fact that some CS students had written applications specifically designed to search shared files on the UMD network for specific files. I can honestly say that every single student there had plenty of downloads that would violate the AUP, if not a high number of laws. Windows 2000 was readily available the first day of classes in Feb. 2000. Within about 1 month, about 2/3s of the people I knew in the dorms were running Win2k, yet most didn't have much cash at all. There was always talk of monitoring, but my multiple GB/day of uploads and downloads never got me a phone call or message from anyone. They can advertise this program all they want, but in reality, they've been talking for years about stopping people from abusing their high speed line, and they've done virtually nothing about it. Using UMDCP as an example of a university curbing AUP violations is like using Brittain as an example of a totalitarian monarchy.

  • This is a classic tale, one that will stick with me for a while...

    My wife went to USF her first semester in college. One of her dorm mates was constantly harrassed by this thin, acne ridden pencil necked geek. After many many shutdowns, he decided he would take revenge.

    She wasn't actually mean to the dude, she would just tell him "I'm not interested in you!" This guy may have been a CS genius, but a social retard.

    She came back from classes one day, sat down in front of her computer in her dorm room, ready to work on some term paper she had been working on for weeks. She powered the computer on and...

    echo The Black Panther Strikes Again!

    No windows 3.1, no nothing. The jackass had completely wiped her computer clean just because she turned him down for a date.

    Well, after the police checked the dorms log of who had visited, they noticed this guy was in around the same time she was in class. Some quick fingerprinting and they had their bandit. The girl lost years of accumulated work and private journals, he was expelled from school.

    Moral of the story is, if a girl doesn't like you, wiping her hard drive is going to make her like you even less.

    The End
  • NEThics? Oh, you mean Net Hicks. As in, "If you're reading this using a working computer that's sitting on top of a non-working computer, you just might be a Net Hick."
  • What a coincidence (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Paul the Bold ( 264588 ) on Friday June 07, 2002 @04:25PM (#3661891)
    I received this message from our university IT (Idiot Troupe) department within an hour of the Slashdot posting. If ever there was a reason to encrypt your e-mails, this is it.

    Please be advised that monitoring of your system, email accounts,
    domains and servers may be necessary to detect, prevent and eradicate
    illegal or otherwise damaging use by internal and external users of the
    University computer network in order to protect the security and
    integrity of the University computer system. Such monitoring efforts
    could lead to the imposition of criminal and civil penalties to those
    users whose actions are illegal, unlawful, damaging, or threatening to
    the University computer systems.
  • by Lord of the Files ( 10941 ) on Friday June 07, 2002 @06:06PM (#3662530) Homepage
    Their entire staff is lawyers, and they know nothing about computers. Their job is to keep the campus from getting sued if someone complains about a students computer usage. They frequently get confused over who the victims are and who the bad guys are. My dorm room machine got broken into and they called up threatening me. A friend got dos'd by a poorly configured network. That network's admin called nethics who went after my friend. They are totally unaware of the concepts of spoofing and sniffing.

    In other words nethics is definately not a good example.

"The number of Unix installations has grown to 10, with more expected." -- The Unix Programmer's Manual, 2nd Edition, June, 1972