That Blue Square Thing

AQA Computer Science GCSE

This page is up to date for the AQA 8525 syllabus for exams from 2022.

Ethics - Computers and the law

It's important to understand about the UK legal position as it applies to computers. This content will often be required in any Unit 8 answer - whether it's hacking, wireless technologies or the rise of autonomous vehicles.

You don't need to know a huge amount, but being able to quote the right Act of Parliament and know what it does is a good starting point (the top two are the most important...).

Law Date What it does Topic area
Computer Misuse Act 1990 Deals with accessing or altering files and/or computer systems without permission - i.e. hacking. This includes writing or distributing malware as well as hacking or using social engineering to gain access to files or computers.
Find out more at BBC Bitesize (ICT)wiki link (or a briefer version herewiki link)
Mobile techs
Wireless networks
Data Protection Act 1998 Revised in 2018
Requires people who collect or hold data on someone to keep it secure and delete it after it is no longer required. Aims to keep data secure.
Find out more at BBC Bitesize (ICT)wiki link (or at BBC Webwisewiki link)
Applies to most areas
General Data Protection Regulation 2018 GDPR is a European regulation which requires organisations to be transparant in the data they hold. It works along similar lines to the Data Protection Act. Web cookies are an obvious way that GDPR has restricted what organisations can do without the permission of users.
BBC video about GDPRwiki link
Find out more at BBC Bitesize (Scottish site)wiki link
After the UK left the European Union, GDPR was retained in UK law as UK GDPR, so it still applies. In theory this could get changed, but UK companies which wanted to trade with the EU would still need to comply with the EU GDPR, so this would simply add two different requirements to meet.
Applies to most areas
Communications Act 2003 Accessing an internet connection with no intention to pay for the service is illegal. This applies to secured networks only.
Also covers sending grossly offensive, obscene or menacing messages over an electronic network (e.g on Twitter or e-mail)
Wikipedia has more on thiswiki link
Wireless networks
Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 Protects the rights of designers to not have their work copied by others - their "intellectual property rights" are protected. This ensures that they can make money from their work. Applies to resources such as images, but also to software code.
Find out more at BBC Bitesize (ICT)wiki link
Autonomous vehicles
Digital Economy Act 2010 Further protects the rights of electronic copyright holders. Extended in 2017.
Wikipedia has content on the 2010 Actwiki link and the 2017 Actwiki link
Autonomous vehicles
Online Safety Bill 2022? Planned UK law which may become law in 2022.
Covers a wide range of online issues, including attempting to regulate social media and content on websites. It will pass the requirement of keeping people safe on to providers, but also requires them to protect free speech.
BBC article - 24 January 2022wiki link
There are a wide range of issues with this and doubts about whether it's actually workable.

A set of questions designed to develop your understanding of GDPR and data privacy are provided here:

PDF iconGDPR/Privacy question