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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Ethics Matter 

Ethical data practices are a means of gaining trust, demonstrating organizational integrity, and reducing risks. However, what is considered ethical can change with time, location, the legal and regulatory climates, sociological changes, and personal opinion, leaving considerable room for interpretation. Meanwhile, technology is moving fast, enabling finer-grained profiling of individuals and companies. While most people may want to do the right thing, what's 'right' may not be crystal clear. 
'Business has an ethical obligation, which means maintaining the security and integrity of the data. I think integrity is often left out of the discussion because it's more of an amorphous term and taken for granted,' said Tara Swaminatha, of counsel at law firm DLA Piper, in an interview. 'By integrity I mean it's important that the data you have in the database is what you put into it and it hasn't changed. It's good to have that general premise -- security plus integrity in the way you collect and manage data.' 
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. 
'There are these twin imperatives: insight and trust. Often we've seen companies race to the art of the possible without considering the three pillars of data strategy, data usage, and data governance,' said Tim Barker, chief product officer at human data intelligence platform provider Datasift, in an interview. 'This isn't about slowing down innovation, but looking at the application of the data, looking at the benefits for consumers and customers as well as organizations.'
(Image: Geralt via Pixabay)

Ethics Matter

Ethical data practices are a means of gaining trust, demonstrating organizational integrity, and reducing risks. However, what is considered ethical can change with time, location, the legal and regulatory climates, sociological changes, and personal opinion, leaving considerable room for interpretation. Meanwhile, technology is moving fast, enabling finer-grained profiling of individuals and companies. While most people may want to do the right thing, what's "right" may not be crystal clear.

"Business has an ethical obligation, which means maintaining the security and integrity of the data. I think integrity is often left out of the discussion because it's more of an amorphous term and taken for granted," said Tara Swaminatha, of counsel at law firm DLA Piper, in an interview. "By integrity I mean it's important that the data you have in the database is what you put into it and it hasn't changed. It's good to have that general premise -- security plus integrity in the way you collect and manage data."

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.

"There are these twin imperatives: insight and trust. Often we've seen companies race to the art of the possible without considering the three pillars of data strategy, data usage, and data governance," said Tim Barker, chief product officer at human data intelligence platform provider Datasift, in an interview. "This isn't about slowing down innovation, but looking at the application of the data, looking at the benefits for consumers and customers as well as organizations."

(Image: Geralt via Pixabay)

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