Spring 2022 - SDA 270 D100

Data, Ethics and Society (3)

Class Number: 7568

Delivery Method: Remote


  • Course Times + Location:

    Mo 2:30 PM – 5:20 PM



This course would introduce students to the ethical, legal, and privacy issues surrounding the collection and use of big data and the implications of these for vulnerable populations.


This course will examine ethical questions that arise in the collection and use of data, including the following:

  • When should considerations of privacy constrain what data we gather, and how should we balance privacy against other competing values?
  • Sometimes algorithms incorporate biases or lead to discriminatory analyses, rather than offering objectivity.  What ethical responsibilities does this give us?
  • Are there ethical reasons to avoid gathering data about some things (for example, if the information might be used in harmful ways)?
  • What metrics should we use, and how can we navigate gaps between what it's feasible to measure and what it's important to know?  Do measures like quality-adjusted life years (QALYs) and gross domestic product (GDP) reflect what we should value in health policy and economic policy?

Course assignments will focus on helping students to analyze the arguments in course readings, to develop well-supported critiques of those arguments, and to defend those analyses in clearly written papers.



This course is required for the Social Data Analytics Minor, and will also be of special interest to Philosophy students. 


  • Two 4-5 page papers (30% each) 60%
  • Presentation 20%
  • Quality of Course Engagement (quality of written work in five, short, reading response exercises + quality of contributions to class discussion, including in break-out groups + (optionally) quality of in-class worksheets) 20%


Course delivery:  remote, synchronous.  All students must be available to participate in classes over Zoom during the scheduled class period.




This course will meet over Zoom during the scheduled class period.  Students will need a microphone and high-speed internet access that will allow them to view live video and contribute to discussions and class activities over audio.  A camera is optional.  Technical specifications for compatibility with Zoom are available here


All readings will be available on the course’s Canvas page.

Registrar Notes:


SFU’s Academic Integrity web site http://www.sfu.ca/students/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating.  Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the University community.  Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the University. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the University. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html


Teaching at SFU in spring 2022 will involve primarily in-person instruction, with safety plans in place.  Some courses will still be offered through remote methods, and if so, this will be clearly identified in the schedule of classes.  You will also know at enrollment whether remote course components will be “live” (synchronous) or at your own pace (asynchronous).

Enrolling in a course acknowledges that you are able to attend in whatever format is required.  You should not enroll in a course that is in-person if you are not able to return to campus, and should be aware that remote study may entail different modes of learning, interaction with your instructor, and ways of getting feedback on your work than may be the case for in-person classes.

Students with hidden or visible disabilities who may need class or exam accommodations, including in the context of remote learning, are advised to register with the SFU Centre for Accessible Learning (caladmin@sfu.ca or 778-782-3112) as early as possible in order to prepare for the spring 2022 term.