Digital technologies and society

In an era in which Internet of Things, Artificial Intelligence, Big Data and social networks are revolutionizing economics, politics, culture and personal relationships, the course aims to introduce students to the ethical and legal impacts of information technology and data-driven processes. This course is mainly designed to give students an increased awareness of the role of data scientists and data experts in society, and a better understanding of the main challenges that they face in developing innovative data-driven products and services. Adopting an interdisciplinary approach, the course focuses both on ethical and legal issues, seen through the lens of technology.

From this perspective, the first part of the course will provide a general overview of the interplay between law, ethics, and technology, addressing the most relevant issues in the ongoing debate on law & ethics with regard to data-intensive systems. In this context, data protection and AI regulations will be discussed, including risk assessment methodologies. The course then deals with the impact of data use and AI on fundamental rights and ethical values, considering different proposals and guidelines on data ethics and socio-ethical impact management.

The second part of the course is focused on the computer science perspective, with a focus on data-driven automated decisions making (ADM) systems. Students will analyse and interactively discuss in class selected case studies in relation to ethical issues raised by the deployment of ADM systems. Special attention will be devoted to the systematic discriminations and issues of inequalities. The reference point of such discussions will be the ACM Code of Ethics and Professional, necessary to understand the ethical and professional duties of data scientists and software practitioners. Students will also learn basic concepts and methodologies to design a risk assessment for ADM systems, evaluating the possible negative impacts of ADM systems for individuals, vulnerable groups and society in general.