The Ethics of Big Data Applications in the Consumer Sector


Paper by Markus Christen et al : “Business applications relying on processing of large amounts of heterogeneous data (Big Data) are considered to be key drivers of innovation in the digital economy. However, these applications also pose ethical issues that may undermine the credibility of data-driven businesses. In our contribution, we discuss ethical problems that are associated with Big Data such as: How are core values like autonomy, privacy, and solidarity affected in a Big Data world? Are some data a public good? Or: Are we obliged to divulge personal data to a certain degree in order to make the society more secure or more efficient?

We answer those questions by first outlining the ethical topics that are discussed in the scientific literature and the lay media using a bibliometric approach. Second, referring to the results of expert interviews and workshops with practitioners, we identify core norms and values affected by Big Data applications—autonomy, equality, fairness, freedom, privacy, property-rights, solidarity, and transparency—and outline how they are exemplified in examples of Big Data consumer applications, for example, in terms of informational self-determination, non-discrimination, or free opinion formation. Based on use cases such as personalized advertising, individual pricing, or credit risk management we discuss the process of balancing such values in order to identify legitimate, questionable, and unacceptable Big Data applications from an ethics point of view. We close with recommendations on how practitioners working in applied data science can deal with ethical issues of Big Data….(More)”.

The clinician crowdsourcing challenge: using participatory design to seed implementation strategies


Paper by Rebecca E. Stewart et al: “In healthcare settings, system and organization leaders often control the selection and design of implementation strategies even though frontline workers may have the most intimate understanding of the care delivery process, and factors that optimize and constrain evidence-based practice implementation within the local system. Innovation tournaments, a structured participatory design strategy to crowdsource ideas, are a promising approach to participatory design that may increase the effectiveness of implementation strategies by involving end users (i.e., clinicians). We utilized a system-wide innovation tournament to garner ideas from clinicians about how to enhance the use of evidence-based practices (EBPs) within a large public behavioral health system…(More)”

Study finds that a GPS outage would cost $1 billion per day


Eric Berger at Ars Technica: “….one of the most comprehensive studies on the subject has assessed the value of this GPS technology to the US economy and examined what effect a 30-day outage would have—whether it’s due to a severe space weather event or “nefarious activity by a bad actor.” The study was sponsored by the US government’s National Institutes of Standards and Technology and performed by a North Carolina-based research organization named RTI International.

Economic effect

As part of the analysis, researchers spoke to more than 200 experts in the use of GPS technology for various services, from agriculture to the positioning of offshore drilling rigs to location services for delivery drivers. (If they’d spoken to me, I’d have said the value of using GPS to navigate Los Angeles freeways and side streets was incalculable). The study covered a period from 1984, when the nascent GPS network was first opened to commercial use, through 2017. It found that GPS has generated an estimated $1.4 trillion in economic benefits during that time period.

The researchers found that the largest benefit, valued at $685.9 billion, came in the “telecommunications” category,  including improved reliability and bandwidth utilization for wireless networks. Telematics (efficiency gains, cost reductions, and environmental benefits through improved vehicle dispatch and navigation) ranked as the second most valuable category at $325 billion. Location-based services on smartphones was third, valued at $215 billion.

Notably, the value of GPS technology to the US economy is growing. According to the study, 90 percent of the technology’s financial impact has come since just 2010, or just 20 percent of the study period. Some sectors of the economy are only beginning to realize the value of GPS technology, or are identifying new uses for it, the report says, indicating that its value as a platform for innovation will continue to grow.

Outage impact

In the case of some adverse event leading to a widespread outage, the study estimates that the loss of GPS service would have a $1 billion per-day impact, although the authors acknowledge this is at best a rough estimate. It would likely be higher during the planting season of April and May, when farmers are highly reliant on GPS technology for information about their fields.

To assess the effect of an outage, the study looked at several different variables. Among them was “precision timing” that enables a number of wireless services, including the synchronization of traffic between carrier networks, wireless handoff between base stations, and billing management. Moreover, higher levels of precision timing enable higher bandwidth and provide access to more devices. (For example, the implementation of 4G LTE technology would have been impossible without GPS technology)….(More)”

The war to free science


Brian Resnick and Julia Belluz at Vox: “The 27,500 scientists who work for the University of California generate 10 percent of all the academic research papers published in the United States.

Their university recently put them in a strange position: Sometime this year, these scientists will not be able to directly access much of the world’s published research they’re not involved in.

That’s because in February, the UC system — one of the country’s largest academic institutions, encompassing Berkeley, Los Angeles, Davis, and several other campuses — dropped its nearly $11 million annual subscription to Elsevier, the world’s largest publisher of academic journals.

On the face of it, this seemed like an odd move. Why cut off students and researchers from academic research?

In fact, it was a principled stance that may herald a revolution in the way science is shared around the world.

The University of California decided it doesn’t want scientific knowledge locked behind paywalls, and thinks the cost of academic publishing has gotten out of control.

Elsevier owns around 3,000 academic journals, and its articles account for some 18 percentof all the world’s research output. “They’re a monopolist, and they act like a monopolist,” says Jeffrey MacKie-Mason, head of the campus libraries at UC Berkeley and co-chair of the team that negotiated with the publisher.Elsevier makes huge profits on its journals, generating billions of dollars a year for its parent company RELX .

This is a story about more than subscription fees. It’s about how a private industry has come to dominate the institutions of science, and how librarians, academics, and even pirates are trying to regain control.

The University of California is not the only institution fighting back. “There are thousands of Davids in this story,” says University of California Davis librarian MacKenzie Smith, who, like so many other librarians around the world, has been pushing for more open access to science. “But only a few big Goliaths.”…(More)”.

100 Radical Innovation Breakthroughs for the future


The Radical Innovation Breakthrough Inquirer for the European Commission: “This report provides insights on 100 emerging developments that may exert a strong impact on global value creation and offer important solutions to societal needs. We identified this set of emerging developments through a carefully designed procedure that combined machine learning algorithms and human evaluation. After successive waves of selection and refinement, the resulting 100 emerging topics were subjected to several assessment procedures, including expert consultation and analysis of related patents and publications.

Having analysed the potential importance of each of these innovations for Europe, their current maturity and the relative strength of Europe in related R&D, we can make some general policy recommendations that follow.

However, it is important to note that our recommendations are based on the extremes of the distributions, and thus not all RIBs are named under the recommendations. Yet, the totality of the set of Radical Innovation Breakthrough (RIBs) and Radical Societal Breakthrough (RSBs) descriptions and their recent progress directions constitute an important collection of intelligence material that can inform strategic planning in research an innovation policy, industry and enterprise policy, and local development policy….(More)”.

Hyper-active Governance How Governments Manage the Politics of Expertise


Book by Matthew Wood: “Hyper-active governance is a new way of thinking about governing that puts debates over expertise at the heart. Contemporary governing requires delegation to experts, but also increases demands for political accountability. In this context, politicians and experts work together under political stress to adopt different governing relationships that appear more ‘hands-off’ or ‘hands-on’. These approaches often serve to displace profound social and economic crises. Only a genuinely collaborative approach to governing, with an inclusive approach to expertise, can create democratically legitimate and effective governance in our accelerating world. Using detailed case studies and global datasets in various policy areas including medicines, flooding, water resources, central banking and electoral administration, the book develops a new typology of modes of governing. Drawing from innovative social theory, it breathes new life into debates about expert forms of governance and how to achieve real paradigm shifts in how we govern our increasingly hyper-active world…(More)”.

The New York Times has a course to teach its reporters data skills, and now they’ve open-sourced it


Joshua Benton at Nieman Labs: “The New York Times wants more of its journalists to have those basic data skills, and now it’s releasing the curriculum they’ve built in-house out into the world, where it can be of use to reporters, newsrooms, and lots of other people too.

Here’s Lindsey Rogers Cook, an editor for digital storytelling and training at the Times, and the sort of person who is willing to have “spreadsheets make my heart sing” appear under her byline:

Even with some of the best data and graphics journalists in the business, we identified a challenge: data knowledge wasn’t spread widely among desks in our newsroom and wasn’t filtering into news desks’ daily reporting.

Yet fluency with numbers and data has become more important than ever. While journalists once were fond of joking that they got into the field because of an aversion to math, numbers now comprise the foundation for beats as wide-ranging as education, the stock market, the Census, and criminal justice. More data is released than ever before — there are nearly 250,000 datasets on data.govalone — and increasingly, government, politicians, and companies try to twist those numbers to back their own agendas…

We wanted to help our reporters better understand the numbers they get from sources and government, and give them the tools to analyze those numbers. We wanted to increase collaboration between traditional and non-traditional journalists…And with more competition than ever, we wanted to empower our reporters to find stories lurking in the hundreds of thousands of databases maintained by governments, academics, and think tanks. We wanted to give our reporters the tools and support necessary to incorporate data into their everyday beat reporting, not just in big and ambitious projects.

….You can access the Times’ training materials here. Some of what you’ll find:

  • An outline of the data skills the course aims to teach. It’s all run on Google Docs and Google Sheets; class starts with the uber-basics (mean! median! sum!), crosses the bridge of pivot tables, and then heads into data cleaning and more advanced formulas.
  • The full day-by-day outline of the Times’ three-week course, which of course you’re free to use or reshape to your newsroom’s needs.
  • It’s not just about cells, columns, and rows — the course also includes more journalism-based information around ethical questions, how to use data effectively inside a story’s narrative, and how best to work with colleagues in the graphic department.
  • Cheat sheets! If you don’t have time to dig too deeply, they’ll give a quick hit of information: onetwothreefourfive.
  • Data sets that you use to work through the beginner, intermediate, and advanced stages of the training, including such journalism classics as census datacampaign finance data, and BLS data.But don’t be a dummy and try to write real news stories off these spreadsheets; the Times cautions in bold: “NOTE: We have altered many of these datasets for instructional purposes, so please download the data from the original source if you want to use it in your reporting.”
  • How Not To Be Wrong,” which seems like a useful thing….(More)”

Bringing Truth to the Internet


Article by Karen Kornbluh and Ellen P. Goodman: “The first volume of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report notes that “sweeping” and “systemic” social media disinformation was a key element of Russian interference in the 2016 election. No sooner were Mueller’s findings public than Twitter suspended a host of bots who had been promoting a “Russiagate hoax.”

Since at least 2016, conspiracy theories like Pizzagate and QAnon have flourished online and bled into mainstream debate. Earlier this year, a British member of Parliament called social media companies “accessories to radicalization” for their role in hosting and amplifying radical hate groups after the New Zealand mosque shooter cited and attempted to fuel more of these groups. In Myanmar, anti-Rohingya forces used Facebook to spread rumors that spurred ethnic cleansing, according to a UN special rapporteur. These platforms are vulnerable to those who aim to prey on intolerance, peer pressure, and social disaffection. Our democracies are being compromised. They work only if the information ecosystem has integrity—if it privileges truth and channels difference into nonviolent discourse. But the ecosystem is increasingly polluted.

Around the world, a growing sense of urgency about the need to address online radicalization is leading countries to embrace ever more draconian solutions: After the Easter bombings in Sri Lanka, the government shut down access to Facebook, WhatsApp, and other social media platforms. And a number of countries are considering adopting laws requiring social media companies to remove unlawful hate speech or face hefty penalties. According to Freedom House, “In the past year, at least 17 countries approved or proposed laws that would restrict online media in the name of fighting ‘fake news’ and online manipulation.”

The flaw with these censorious remedies is this: They focus on the content that the user sees—hate speech, violent videos, conspiracy theories—and not on the structural characteristics of social media design that create vulnerabilities. Content moderation requirements that cannot scale are not only doomed to be ineffective exercises in whack-a-mole, but they also create free expression concerns, by turning either governments or platforms into arbiters of acceptable speech. In some countries, such as Saudi Arabia, content moderation has become justification for shutting down dissident speech.

When countries pressure platforms to root out vaguely defined harmful content and disregard the design vulnerabilities that promote that content’s amplification, they are treating a symptom and ignoring the disease. The question isn’t “How do we moderate?” Instead, it is “How do we promote design change that optimizes for citizen control, transparency, and privacy online?”—exactly the values that the early Internet promised to embody….(More)”.

Return on Data


Paper by Noam Kolt: “Consumers routinely supply personal data to technology companies in exchange for services. Yet, the relationship between the utility (U) consumers gain and the data (D) they supply — “return on data” (ROD) — remains largely unexplored. Expressed as a ratio, ROD = U / D. While lawmakers strongly advocate protecting consumer privacy, they tend to overlook ROD. Are the benefits of the services enjoyed by consumers, such as social networking and predictive search, commensurate with the value of the data extracted from them? How can consumers compare competing data-for-services deals?

Currently, the legal frameworks regulating these transactions, including privacy law, aim primarily to protect personal data. They treat data protection as a standalone issue, distinct from the benefits which consumers receive. This article suggests that privacy concerns should not be viewed in isolation, but as part of ROD. Just as companies can quantify return on investment (ROI) to optimize investment decisions, consumers should be able to assess ROD in order to better spend and invest personal data. Making data-for-services transactions more transparent will enable consumers to evaluate the merits of these deals, negotiate their terms and make more informed decisions. Pivoting from the privacy paradigm to ROD will both incentivize data-driven service providers to offer consumers higher ROD, as well as create opportunities for new market entrants….(More)”.

Federal Data Strategy: Use Cases


US Federal Data Strategy: “For the purposes of the Federal Data Strategy, a “Use Case” is a data practice or method that leverages data to support an articulable federal agency mission or public interest outcome. The Federal Data Strategy sought use cases from the public that solve problems or demonstrate solutions that can help inform the four strategy areas: Enterprise Data Governance; Use, Access, and Augmentation; Decision-making and Accountability; and Commercialization, Innovation, and Public Use. The Federal Data Strategy team was in part informed by these submissions, which are posted below…..(More)”.