Al Jazeera: Gigabytes gone wild

InsightaaS: Although InsightaaS cites many different sources in Across the Net, Al Jazeera had never been one, until we were prompted to review this item by law professor Neil Richards and cloud expert Jonathan King. Canadian readers may be familiar with King - he spoke at a CenturyLink Technology Solutions event in Toronto last year (sharing the podium with's Michael O'Neil), and he is scheduled to appear at next week's Cloud Factory event in Banff.

Richards and King co-authored the paper "Three Paradoxes of Big Data" in September of 2013, and have recently collaborated on a new paper, "Big Data Ethics." The Al Jazeera article presents high points from the paper. The piece identifies four facts that "should guide our discussion" of Big Data ethics: "privacy rules are necessary," "even shared personal information can be protected," "big data requires transparency," and "big data can compromise identity." Ultimately, the article concludes, "We need to establish social norms for the use of data to make decisions about people, and for the rights that people have for understanding and disputing those decisions...we must all be part of the conversation, and part of the solution. Big data ethics is for everyone."

These days, everyone seems to be talking about "big data." Engineers, researchers, lawyers, executives and self-trackers all tout the surprising insights they can get from applying math to large data sets. The rhetoric of big data is often overblown, exaggerated and contradictory, but there’s an element of truth to the claim that data science is helping us to know more about our world, our society and ourselves.

Data scientists use big data to deliver personalized ads to Internet users, to make better spell checkers and search engines, to predict weather patterns, perform medical research, learn about customers, set prices and plan traffic flow patterns. Big data can also fight crime, whether through the use of automated license-plate readers or, at least theoretically, through the collection of vast amounts of "metadata" about our communications and associations by the National Security Agency.

Big data allows us to know more, to predict and to influence others. This is its power, but it’s also its danger...

Read the entire article:

Download the Big Data Ethics paper: