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Richard Novák: Big Data and Ethics

December 12, 2018 @ 1:30 pm - 3:00 pm

This thesis will explore the costs and benefits of using Big Data in a context of applied ethics. At the heart of my thesis is the following quote from (Sokol, 2014) and (Boyd & Crawford, 2012).

“Just because it is possible does not make it ethical.“

Insight into complex problems and people’s attitudes towards life is currently driven by advanced technologies such as Big Data and Artificial Intelligence, among others. It means, “Change the instrument, and you will change the entire social theory that goes with them.“ (Latour, 2009). Thus, it is very relevant to discuss Big Data as a socio-technological phenomenon rather than only technological. My focus is on the dualities rising from the conflicts between technological Big Data challenges and relevant ethical principals related to basic human values defined in the Charter of Fundamental rights of the European Union (EU, 2007) and Schwartz Theory (Schwartz, 2012).

A good example of Big Data duality is, e.g., the conflict between insight into complex problems (liberty) and privacy or equality and new digital divide. The thesis has the following structure. Firstly, I will start my research with information about the research of other authors and definitions that are generally accepted. Secondly, I am going to continue with the description of use cases from the telecommunication industry that I will generalize and name the Big Data dualities, positives versus negatives, forming the ethical conflicts. I will verify the relevance of these conflicts by launching an international survey of Big Data and ethics awareness. The Survey research will be focused on two European countries (CZ, SK) and different stakeholders such as university students and IT professionals. Finally, I am going to propose an etiquette that should improve the current ethical environment in the area of Big Data.

Key words

Big Data, conflicts, digital divide, dualities, equality, ethics, etiquette, challenges, law, philosophy, privacy, survey, use cases


December 12, 2018
1:30 pm - 3:00 pm