Challenging Technologies: On the Epistemology, Ethics and Politics of Big Data Practices
mail: martina [dot] franzen [at] wzb [dot] eu
From industry over science to public policy, Big Data has sparked immense interest, raising both hopes and fears. While it has been hailed for its promises of economic prosperity, techno-scientific progress and societal advances by some, others have stressed new and emerging ethical, societal and political challenges related to the widespread adoption of data analytics in many public and private sectors.
In my presentation I will argue that in order to apprehend Big Data as a socio-technical phenomenon, a combination of ethical and epistemological analysis is needed, as certain ethical implications – e.g., related to privacy or discrimination – can only be properly addressed if the underlying epistemic practices – e.g., related to possibilities for re-identification and de-anonymization – are recognized and taken into account. In addition, the presentation considers the dual significance of Big Data for public policy. On the one hand, I examine the increasing emphasis on Big Data and predictive analytics as a rationale for political action and decision making. On the other hand, I argue that such governance through and with Big Data, in order to be epistemologically, ethically and politically justified, also requires a solid governance of Big Data practices.
Judith Simon, PhD, is Professor for Ethics in Information Technology at the University of Hamburg, Department of Informatics.