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Professional Issues in Computing

Short name: PIC
SITS code: COIY030H6
Credits: 15
Level: 6
Module leader: Brian Gannon
Lecturer(s): Brian Gannon
Online material:

Module outline

This module aims to raise awareness of social legal, ethical and economic implications of computing in modern society. It highlights the responsibilities and issues facing IT professionals and computer scientists in industry. This course comprises a combination of lectures over a single term.

This course is a keystone of the BSc in Information Systems & Management and the BSc in Computing, building on management and Information Systems (IS) skills that students have developed in earlier programme modules, and grounding these in topical and relevant practice-based examples.


Following study of the unit students will be understand the role of the IS professional in society and industry. It has a practical focus, grounded in real life examples/case studies, and aims to:

  • provide awareness of the origins of the profession, and the developments that have led to the prevalence of IS in the modern world;
  • highlight practical challenges faced in developing IS, and assess causes that lead to IS failure;
  • present an overview of legal issues associated with the IS profession, including those associated with Intellectual Property, Freedom of Information and Data Protection;
  • present an overview of issues relating to cybercrime and computer misuse;
  • highlight commercial issues in IS, including contracts and liability;
  • examine wider ethical issues in IS, such as those associated with digital surveillance;
  • provide an overview of roles and career paths for IS professionals.


  • Computer technology in context of technology revolutions
  • Brief history of IS in society and industry
  • IS in everyday life and why IS fail
  • Freedom of Information
  • Data Protection
  • Intellectual Property
  • Computer Misuse
  • Computing contracts
  • Digital Surveillance
  • Computer ethics


Indicative timetables can be found in the handbooks available on programme pages. Personalised teaching timetables for students are available via My Birkbeck.


  • Multiple choice in-class test at end of term (10%)


Examination (90%); Coursework (10%)

Recommended reading

  • Sara Baase: A Gift of Fire: International Version: Social, Legal, and Ethical Issues for Computing and the Internet, Pearson, 4th edition (2013)
  • David Bainbridge: Introduction to Computer Law, Pearson Longman, 2004.
  • Frank Bott: Professional Issues in Information Technology, BCS, 2014 (2nd edition)