The Council for Big Data, Ethics, and Society was formed in response to National Science Foundations request for proposal for innovation projects involving big data. The Council will be co-directed by Microsoft researchers Kate Crawford and Danah Boyd, along with Geoffrey Bowker from the University of California, Irvine, and Helen Nissenbaum of New York University. The council, which will host its first meeting on big data ethics next year, is intended to promote dialogue among researchers and the general public.
The White House has made the following announcement:
New Council for Big Data, Ethics, and Society formed to provide critical social and cultural perspectives on big data initiatives
In collaboration with the National Science Foundation, the Council for Big Data, Ethics, and Society will launch in early 2014 to provide critical social and cultural perspectives on big data initiatives. The council will bring together researchers from diverse disciplinesfrom anthropology and philosophy to economics and lawto address issues such as security, privacy, equality and access in order to help guard against the repetition of known mistakes and inadequate preparation. Through public commentary, events, white papers and direct engagement with data analytics projects, the council will develop frameworks to help researchers, practitioners, and the public understand the social, ethical, legal and policy issues that underpin the big data phenomenon. The council is being co-directed by danah boyd, Geoffrey C. Bowker, Kate Crawford and Helen Nissenbaum.
The Council seeks to guide future researchers in proactively considering the ethical implications of their work. Rather than stifling innovation, the Council hopes to guide new ideas forward while considering ethics for society.
The efficacy of such an effort would largely depend on whether the Council is able to engage innovators in a meaningful way and how many data science enthusiasts participate. The time is ripe, however, for intellectual engagement with the ethical challenges that big data projects have the potential to create for our rapidly changing world.