AQA Computer Science GCSE
Ethics, laws and environmental impacts of computing
This area of the course pulls content from different units. It will be tested on Paper 2 and will usually involve one or two longer questions - perhaps one 6 mark question and one 9 mark question. These require longer, more detailed answers and tend to involve weighing up two sides of an argument.
Reading a little about each topic and being able to weigh up arguments and use technical terms and knowledge are all important here.
Ethics introduction - intro slides, highlighting the privacy issue
Booklet to print - an active way to revise the key knowledge required
The Privacy Issue
How much privacy individuals should be able to enjoy is a major element of this unit.
In modern life computers and data are everywhere. We use them every day but this menas that we trust companies, organisations and governments to look after our data appropriately. It also makes us, as individuals, subject to surveillance.
- the location of mobile phones can be tracked using the cell tower sites they connect to
- CCTV can be used to monitor our movements
- Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) can track the movement of our vehicles
- communications can be intercepted and used to monitor conversations - whether these are by telephone, e-mail or on social media
- monitoring and tracking (using IP addresses) web traffic to sites which might include illegal material
As individuals we may be concerned about these issues. Most people value their privacy and might question why a government agency might have access to our data or to be able to put us under surveillance. These are reasonable concerns. Certainly the ways we use computer systems in modern life means that it is much easier four our data to be looked at.
On the other hand, the government and the security services might argue that they need to be able to have access to private data and to be able to use surveillance where necessary. They would argue that they need to do so in order to keep us safe from terrorism, organised crime and from cyber-attacks. The argument would be that if you've done nothing wrong then you won't come under surveillance so you shouldn't be concerned about the threat.
Both sides of this argument have reasonable points. If using CCTV keeps people safer then it can be argued that having CCTV cameras is a reasonable price to pay for the safety it provides us with. On the other hand, where do you draw the line between reasonable surveillance and the actions of a police state? If what I'm doing is legal, why should someone be able to track what it is I'm up to?
Much of the content for this unit crosses over with other units in the course.
The exam board says that they will only ask questions on the following parts of the course:
- cyber security, hacking and cracking - unit 6
- wireless networking - unit 5
- mobile technologies - units 4 and 5
- cloud computing - unit 4
- autonomous vehicles
- wearable technologies
- computer based implants
In addition you need to have some understanding of:
- computers and the law - this will come into many of the questions dealing with unit 8
- environmental issues
The privacy issue underlies all of these subjects and that links to the ways in which the law impacts on computer use. The impacts that our use of computers have on the environment is another theme that you need to be aware of and runs through many of the subject areas in this unit.
A way of structuring an answer in one topic area (hacking) is described below:
Resources you might want to use to help build notes on each topic:
Unit 8 Topic Grid - a way to structure notes on a Unit 8 topic (this may work better at A3 size)
Two hands - two hands on a page - some people prefer this way of working (it's easier if you draw around your own hands on A3 paper...)