Spring 2024 - SDA 270 B100

Data, Ethics and Society (3)

Class Number: 7335

Delivery Method: Blended


  • Course Times + Location:

    Jan 8 – Apr 12, 2024: Thu, 10:30 a.m.–12:20 p.m.



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. Students with credit for PHIL 270 may not take this course for further credit.


[Note: this course is to be taught concurrently with PHIL 270.]

Does fish oil improve general health? Does charging 50 cents discourage the use of plastic bags? Does giving people free money make them lazy? How to best keep children in schools and off the streets?

These are questions of data. They are also questions of causal inference, social values, policy negotiations, and much more. In this class, we will take a holistic perspective on these data-intensive questions. We trace the “life” of data from its creation to its manipulation, and finally to its application. Our goal is not to become experts in data science after this class, but to reflect on how to conscientiously think about data-based reasoning as non-experts.


This course is required for the Social Data Analytics Minor.


  • Themed projects: Each student will choose 1 core project theme and complete a number of projects relating to the theme. Once you make a selection, you need to stick with it for the entire course. There are three major projects in the course (for a total of 60%):
  • 1. Academic essay : 6-8 pages. 1.5 line spacing. Must include at least 5 reputable references (reputable news articles are okay, but at least 3 scholarly sources). 30%
  • 2. Group presentation : 15-20min. I will assign groups. 20%
  • 3. Post-presentation reflection : 1 page 10%
  • Weekly assignments (4% x 10 = 40%): Every week, I will assign exercises that aim to help you move forward with your major projects. These are graded as follows: 4 = good; 2 = no evidence of pre-class prep; 0 = absent 40%


Course delivery: blended. The asynchronous hour will be spent watching instruction videos (first half of the class) and meeting with group members to work on group presentation (second half of the class). Enrollment in both B100 and B101 is requried. 



Is That a Fact? A Field Guide to Statistical and Scientific Information, by Mark Battersby, ISBN 9781554812448



Your personalized Course Material list, including digital and physical textbooks, are available through the SFU Bookstore website by simply entering your Computing ID at: shop.sfu.ca/course-materials/my-personalized-course-materials.

Registrar Notes:


SFU’s Academic Integrity website 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