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

Sunday, September 22, 2019

The Ethics Of Hiding Your Data From the Machines

Molly Wood
Originally posted August 22, 2019

Here is an excerpt:

There’s also a real and reasonable fear that companies or individuals will take ethical liberties in the name of pushing hard toward a good solution, like curing a disease or saving lives. This is not an abstract problem: The co-founder of Google’s artificial intelligence lab, DeepMind, was placed on leave earlier this week after some controversial decisions—one of which involved the illegal use of over 1.5 million hospital patient records in 2017.

So sticking with the medical kick I’m on here, I propose that companies work a little harder to imagine the worst-case scenario surrounding the data they’re collecting. Study the side effects like you would a drug for restless leg syndrome or acne or hepatitis, and offer us consumers a nice, long, terrifying list of potential outcomes so we actually know what we’re getting into.

And for we consumers, well, a blanket refusal to offer up our data to the AI gods isn’t necessarily the good choice either. I don’t want to be the person who refuses to contribute my genetic data via 23andMe to a massive research study that could, and I actually believe this is possible, lead to cures and treatments for diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s and who knows what else.

I also think I deserve a realistic assessment of the potential for harm to find its way back to me, because I didn’t think through or wasn’t told all the potential implications of that choice—like how, let’s be honest, we all felt a little stung when we realized the 23andMe research would be through a partnership with drugmaker (and reliable drug price-hiker) GlaxoSmithKline. Drug companies, like targeted ads, are easy villains—even though this partnership actually could produce a Parkinson’s drug. But do we know what GSK’s privacy policy looks like? That deal was a level of sharing we didn’t necessarily expect.

The info is here.