More to think about on big data ethics than data privacy

This edition of the Talking Data podcast looks at how businesses doing big data analytics can apply ethical codes to help ensure that they're good stewards of their customers' data.

Most questions related to big data ethics center around privacy issues. Many people understandably are concerned about the prospect of large corporations monitoring things such as their online browsing activities and social media interactions, then using the data to drive targeted marketing and advertising campaigns.

But ethical questions about big data analytics extend far beyond data privacy concerns. This edition of TechTarget's Talking Data podcast takes a look at a presentation by Robert Carver, a business professor at Brandeis University and Stonehill College, at the Analytics 360 Symposium, held in April 2015 on the Brandeis campus in Waltham, Mass. In his presentation, Carver discussed how some of the current trends in big data management and analytics could have an impact on individual consumers.

His concerns largely center on how huge data volumes could lead businesses to make conclusions about customers that might not be valid. As volumes go up, Carver said, it becomes harder to find meaningful signals in the data, which could lead to some bad business decisions about people. To understand how that can affect individuals, he recommends looking at customer analytics projects on a risk spectrum and administering them accordingly.

Carver also highlighted some ethical codes for analytics teams that are concerned about how to conduct big data analytics applications in ways that respect the rights and personal information of customers. In particular, he pointed to codes published by the Association for Computing Machinery and the American Statistical Association.

Big data analytics programs present new ways for organizations to use information to do business, but many of the statistical methods that underlie these approaches have been around for decades. Carver said we don't necessarily need to invent new ways of looking at big data ethics -- we simply need to apply existing policies to the new business practices. Listen to the podcast to hear more analysis of his presentation.

Ed Burns is site editor of SearchBusinessAnalytics. Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter: @EdBurnsTT.

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