Security, Automation, and Society


Spring 2009

Monday 6:00pm - 8:50pm


Dr. Rachel Greenstadt
Department of Computer Science
Drexel University
Office: University Crossings 140
Tel: 1 215 895 2920
Email: greenie AT cs drexel edu
Office Hours: Wed 3:00-4:00 or by appt

Course Overview

Civilization advances by extending the number of operations we can perform without thinking about them. --- Alfred North Whitehead
Our increasingly networked, digitized, and automated world introduces interesting security and privacy challenges (and opportunities) as humans, organizations, and machines are combined into massive and massively complex systems. This seminar will explore these issues.


This is a graduate course, so students should be prepared to read papers and conduct research.
Students should have a background in one of
  1. AI/agents/machine learning
  2. behavioral economics/HCI/usability
  3. security/cryptography/privacy
The idea is that you should ``bring something to the table'' for the class and be prepared to play a bit of catch up for the things that you don't know. If you are unsure about your preparation, please contact me ( Enthusiasm counts for a lot!

Coursework and Grading

This will be a seminar style course. It will mainly involve engaging with papers in the scientific literature and working on a research project. Good projects will form the foundation for a research paper. The topic of the project and its parameters are to be determined through agreement between instructor and student. A project proposal, final written report, and final presentation to the class will form the basis of the project grade. Projects may be done individually or in teams of up to 2 people. If project is done in a team, all members will get the same grade. Single projects are expected to be as good as group projects.

Detailed project description

Below is the grading breakdown:

Each student will be responsible for leading a 70 minute discussion related to one of the readings. This should include a 20 minute presentation on related material (a related paper, filling in background students may not possess, and/or an application of the material discussed). The rest of the time should be spent engaging the class in a discussion of the reading.

In an experimental portion of this class, students will be partnered with one or more other students to help them with their project. The job of the peer reviewer will be to critique and provide advice to other students regardingtheir research projects. You will meet with your reviewer for the first time in week three. In week three, your job is to bring a draft of your project proposal to class and you will go over it with your reviewers. You will also meet with your reviewer in week 7 to discuss project progress. The reviewer will write a formal paper review of his/her assigned project in in the last week of class. (June 5-8). Week 7. May 11, 2009. Peer review. slides about this assignment

The class participation grade will be determined by (1) Active participation in class discussions and exercises and (2) Online discussion of the supplemental readings. You must participate in both to get a good grade, but if you are quiet in class (or need to miss a lecture or two), you had better contribute heavily to the online discussion.


Discuss the readings on the discussion board located at the bbvista website. The first posts are due Friday, April 3, 2009 at 5 pm.

This class requires that you participate in online discussions about the supplemental readings. Discussions will be graded on a scale from 0-3, where 0 = no participation, 1 = minimal participation, 2 = satisfactory participation, and 3 = exceptional participation.

What constitutes satisfactory participation?

There will be an online discussion thread for each student-led discussion. This means some weeks (when there are two student-led discussions) you will be responsible for four posts/replies on each thread for a total of eight. Most threads will concern one paper, but a few will include two. Make sure that for threads that include two papers you participate in discussion of both papers. In the first discussion phase (lasting until Friday evening), you will be asked to post one or two messages to the board. These messages should demonstrate thoughtful engagement with the reading and provoke discussion. They can be critical reviews (or praise) of some aspect of the paper, suggestions for possible future or related work (new research questions), comments relating the work to material studied in lecture or in the textbook, or other insightful discussion question/topic you fancy. We'll continue the discussions in class, so help make this class what you want it to be.

You also need to reply twice (or three times if you had only one initial post for a total of four posts) to other posts and questions. The response should have substance. No "me too" posts: if you agree, explain why and add something to the discussion. Disagreement is fine, even encouraged, but explain your reasons, and keep it thoughtful, respectful, and civil. The graded portion of the discussion will end Sunday night at 5 pm, so that everyone can look over the threads before class, but feel free to keep talking.

Feel free to add more off-the-cuff messages and replies. Freewheeling discussion is fun and informative; just make sure that you have at least four more substantial posts and replies. Also, remember that substance does not equal length. A short paragraph should be sufficient if it's good.

Feel free to suggest improvements to the discussion format in the guidelines thread or privately to me. I may revise these guidelines over the course of the term to improve our collective experience.