Ethics and Information Strategy
Business nowadays are, with an accelerating pace, gathering online data of individuals, thereby creating powerful databases containing sensitive information. From a business perspective, this behavior enables firms to offer more tailored products and services to their (potential) customers. This phase of the Information Revolution, as Richards and Kings write, will result in a larger scale in social change at an even higher speed. Almost all human activities are becoming increasingly influenced by big data predictions and, while of great value to firms, this collection of individual data also raises concerns.
We need balance the use of big data with human values like privacy, identity, free choice and transparency. In order to address this issue, Richard and King (2014) established four principles, or so-called big data ethical norms. First, the word “privacy” should be replaced by “ information rules”. In contrast to what many believe, privacy is not dying, but we should change our expectations and the boundaries of privacy. Privacy is not about how much is a secret but about what rules exist to use information. Second, online trust should be restored. People don’t use technology, they don’t trust. When we share private information, we share in confidence. This, however, does not mean that this information is not ruled by privacy law. Users should trust on law and regulation for their information to remain confidential. Third, together with confidentiality, transparency should be in place in order for individuals to regain trust. However, there is a fine line between openness and secrecy with respect to transparency, also called the Transparency Paradox. In short, this paradox describes how too little information leads to a lack of trust and how too much transparency could harm privacy. Thus, there should be a balance in in privacy for individuals and privacy for institutions. The fourth and last principle is about how big data can compromise identity. Our identities are being increasingly influenced by big data and the companies that control them. This phenomenon will only geow as big data will continue to be adopted by institutions. Because the development of big data is not natural, we should gain a deeper understanding and set clear boundaries to deal with its implications.
While big data offers great opportunities to firms and institutions, we should not ignore its challenges with respect to human values. Old regulations may not apply which urges debate on new laws and boundaries on information collection and handling.
Neil M. Richards, J. H. K., 2014. Big Data Ethics, Washington: s.n.