Big Data Ethics: 8 Key Facts To Ponder - InformationWeek
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9/25/2015
10:05 AM
Lisa Morgan
Lisa Morgan
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Big Data Ethics: 8 Key Facts To Ponder

There's a lot of gray area when it comes to the ethical collection, use, and analysis of data. Consider these 8 issues organizations should ponder when assessing their data use practices.
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(Image: Geralt via Pixabay)

(Image: Geralt via Pixabay)

The volume and types of data describing individuals and organizations continue to expand, and this trend will continue as sensors make their way into more of the everyday items we use. There are fine lines that separate the use and misuse of data, and some industry associations are addressing the issue head-on with ethical guidelines. While organizations usually have stated privacy policies, more could be done to ensure the ethical use of data.

Although obvious offenses such as fraud are clearly unethical, there is a lot of gray area when it comes to the collection, use, and analysis of data. Ethical guidelines, laws, statutes, and regulations may draw many lines. Even so, questionable situations can arise at various stages of the data life cycle that can confound reasonable people and expose their organizations to risks. Knowing that, the Data Science Association has established the Data Science Code of Professional Conduct to help data scientists navigate tricky situations.

[Read more about analytics and data visualization.]

"Right now, we're just giving guidance. It's to help you, as a data scientist, do the right thing," said Michael Walker, cofounder and president of the Data Science Association. "Their clients or parent organizations can use them in tricky situations where they're going to hurt people at the macro level and hurt people at the micro level." While the Data Science Association is not enforcing its guidelines, it plans to do so in the future.

Two other examples are the American Statistical Association, which created and has an enforcement mechanism for the Ethical Guidelines for Statistical Practices, and the Digital Analytics Association, which created but does not enforce the Web Analyst's Code of Ethics.

The professional associations' guidelines help promote ethical practices in specific roles. However, ethical behavior is an organizational issue. There's no single type of professional that can have sole responsibility for it. Following are some of the basics that companies should consider when measuring their own data ethics.

Lisa Morgan is a freelance writer who covers big data and BI for InformationWeek. She has contributed articles, reports, and other types of content to various publications and sites ranging from SD Times to the Economist Intelligent Unit. Frequent areas of coverage include ... View Full Bio

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tomskaczmarek
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tomskaczmarek,
User Rank: Strategist
12/2/2015 | 10:07:14 AM
Symposium on the Ethics of Big Data
Marquette University is sponsoring an inter-disciplinary symposium on the Ethics of Big Data. The event is open to all who are interested. See http://www.marquette.edu/mscs/ethics-of-big-data-symposium.shtml

If you are interested please consider our invitation or pass this information along to colleagues.
JohnA08801
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JohnA08801,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/11/2015 | 9:36:21 AM
Re: Governance takes stage
This is an important conversation and thank you for posting. I liked this particular quote:

"There are a lot of opportunities for ethical transgressions, whether they're intentional or not, ranging from misrepresenting the quality of data, or the limitations of analysis, to using data in harmful ways."

In this technological evolution, the pendulum of societal normalcy tends to trail such fast moving development, let's keep our understanding of what a responsible society feels and believes (as a boxcar) to this new and exciting world.
pfretty494
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pfretty494,
User Rank: Moderator
10/13/2015 | 9:57:25 PM
Governance takes stage
Grey area doesn't have a place in data collection or use. There are so many potential positives, but when organization step outside the lines, it only creates issues for everyone else. As an industry we need to be better about embracing proven governance standards and best practices for collection, management and use. Peter Fretty, Idg blogger working on behalf of SAS
pfretty494
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50%
pfretty494,
User Rank: Moderator
10/13/2015 | 9:57:20 PM
Governance takes stage
Grey area doesn't have a place in data collection or use. There are so many potential positives, but when organization step outside the lines, it only creates issues for everyone else. As an industry we need to be better about embracing proven governance standards and best practices for collection, management and use. Peter Fretty, Idg blogger working on behalf of SAS
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