5 IT Trends that will shape the next 5 years (Part 2): Data Ethics
The targeted, quick use of data in large volumes from various sources – Big Data – is becoming ever more commonplace within companies. As is the protection and security of this data, of course. But a crucial component has to be added, which addresses the responsibility of individuals and companies when dealing with data: data ethics.
Data ethics – as important as they are overdue
Data protection and data security are of fundamental importance, particularly in the age of Big Data and Cloud, and are regulated across Europe through comprehensive legal provisions (not only since the inception of GDPR). However, this still does not mean to handle data and the knowledge that companies gain from data in the most responsible way; it is still not data ethics.
Algorithms and automation are opening up possibilities and opportunities at an exponential rate. A prime example is Google’s plan for hate speech recognition. A plan with the best of intentions, sure, but it can also play into the hands of the wrong people. This is because with the same algorithm it is also possible to filter and block any other position, for example. To define, formulate or even monitor a set of rules or regulations is, at best, extremely difficult. With “good” and “bad” forces in open play, such as in the example here, things are always shades of grey rather than black or white.
This is where data ethics come in – the transformation of values and of how companies view themselves, in combination with customers and partners, markets and sources. Data ethics require authentic leadership (within both a company itself and the market) and continuously thinking ahead. Achieving both surely requires a fair bit of effort, but it can lead to a company finding itself in a distinctly stronger position:
In the future, companies will have a clear competitive advantage as they deal with the issue of data, in all its facets, very deliberately, sensitively and transparently, in dialog with their customers and their employees.
Talking of employees, we will also see the start of defining and formulating “professional ethics” for data scientists, data engineers and all other roles within the world of data, artificial intelligence etc.
In addition, a brighter light will shine on the issue of data ethics thanks to research within the field of algorithms and neural network modeling. Examples include focusing on black boxes to increase the traceability of decision processes, as well as identifying and/or counterbalancing biases intrinsic within data or systems.
Discussions about data ethics will be just as varied as its problem areas and application fields. Important initiatives like the EU digital charta – an attempt to provide answers to the question of how, in the age of digitalization, it is possible to protect the freedom of the individual as opposed to the government and international major corporations – is a good start, but still not specific enough. Development in this area will continue in the next five years – at least.