CS 349 Contemporary Issues in Computer Science
Alan Cline

Elaine Rich

Data: Social Good or Privacy Destroyer?


Tom Mitchell is the chair of the Machine Learning Department at CMU.  He has written a short opinion piece in Science, 18 December 2009: Vol. 326. no. 5960, pp. 1644 – 1645.  (If you follow this link and you are on a UT network, it should work fine.  If you are off campus, you may have to go through the UT library website and use Google Scholar to be able to access the article.)  Or it should be here:




Read Tom’s article.  Then give short answers to each of these questions:

  1. Describe a scary use of the kinds of data that are now becoming available.
  2. Describe a positive use for the kinds of data that are now becoming available.


You can cite one of Tom’s examples if you like, but you might want to use his article as a jumping off point.  You can read more.  Or you can think about what is on your phone or in the history of your Internet searches or in your medical records.  What applications can you come up with?


Answer each question with a separate essay.  (So each needs its own topic sentence and argument structure.)