Engaging the Public in Ethical Reasoning About Big Data

In Soren Adam Matei & Jeff Collman (eds.), Ethical Reasoning in Big Data: An Exploratory Analysis. Springer. pp. 43-52 (2016)
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The public constitutes a major stakeholder in the debate about, and resolution of privacy and ethical The public constitutes a major stakeholder in the debate about, and resolution of privacy and ethical about Big Data research seriously and how to communicate messages designed to build trust in specific big data projects and the institution of science in general. This chapter explores the implications of various examples of engaging the public in online activities such as Wikipedia that contrast with “Notice and Consent” forms and offers models for scientists to consider when approaching their potential subjects in research. Drawing from Lessig, Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace, the chapter suggests that four main regulators drive the shape of online activity: Code (or Architecture), Laws, Markets, and Norms. Specifically, scientists should adopt best practices in protecting computerized Big Data (Code), remain completely transparent about their data management practices (Law), make smart choices when deploying digital solutions that place a premium on information protection (Market), and, critically, portray themselves to the public as seriously concerned with protecting the privacy of persons and security of data (Norms). The community of Big Data users and collectors should remember that such data are not just “out there” somewhere but are the intimate details of the lives of real persons who have just as deep an interest in protecting their privacy as they do in the good work that is conducted with such data.
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