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Welcome to the nexus of ethics, psychology, morality, philosophy and health care

Monday, December 3, 2018

Our lack of interest in data ethics will come back to haunt us

Jayson Demers
thenextweb.com
Originally posted November 4, 2018

Here is an excerpt:

Most people understand the privacy concerns that can arise with collecting and harnessing big data, but the ethical concerns run far deeper than that.

These are just a smattering of the ethical problems in big data:

  • Ownership: Who really “owns” your personal data, like what your political preferences are, or which types of products you’ve bought in the past? Is it you? Or is it public information? What about people under the age of 18? What about information you’ve tried to privatize?
  • Bias: Biases in algorithms can have potentially destructive effects. Everything from facial recognition to chatbots can be skewed to favor one demographic over another, or one set of values over another, based on the data used to power it.
  • Transparency: Are companies required to disclose how they collect and use data? Or are they free to hide some of their efforts? More importantly, who gets to decide the answer here?
  • Consent: What does it take to “consent” to having your data harvested? Is your passive use of a platform enough? What about agreeing to multi-page, complexly worded Terms and Conditions documents?

If you haven’t heard about these or haven’t thought much about them, I can’t really blame you. We aren’t bringing these questions to the forefront of the public discussion on big data, nor are big data companies going out of their way to discuss them before issuing new solutions.

“Oops, our bad”

One of the biggest problems we keep running into is what I call the “oops, our bad” effect. The idea here is that big companies and data scientists use and abuse data however they want, outside the public eye and without having an ethical discussion about their practices. If and when the public finds out that some egregious activity took place, there’s usually a short-lived public outcry, and the company issues an apology for the actions — without really changing their practices or making up for the damage.

The info is here.
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