Chris Delatorre, Managing Editor at WINGS, shares his views on the conflicting sides of data progress and privacy.
This assumes an ethical disconnect, which makes the social sector an asset to the Big Data enterprise. As a bridge between civil society, policy, and private innovation, the social sector not only brings a deep understanding of community, but also a heightened ethical awareness—one necessary to avoid what Lucy Bernholz calls “policy train wrecks between new technological possibilities and established forms of governance, privacy, and security” [Read more of Lucy's opinions on this matter in her latest MFG post, ‘Preparing For The World We’re Trying To Bring About’]
The future of civil society depends on the architecture we build for data. By 2050 two thirds of the global population will live in cities. This mass migration will put an unprecedented amount of stress on already fragile urban infrastructures, especially in developing countries where the brunt of this migration will occur. Data will play a central role in making our cities more resilient over time as we transition into this new urban era. Private and public sectors will become increasingly intertwined as innovations in health care, public transportation, mixed-income housing and other initiatives expand and improve.
Private entities are already making their data available to the public through the UN GlobalPulse “data philanthropy” initiative. Robert Kirkpatrick echoes the popular notion that only private expertise can guide the public sector’s handling of Big Data, but admits the technology behind the analysis is so new that it presents a challenge even for private innovation. What does this mean for the social sector, as it shapes its own data initiatives?
What the social sector might offer here is ethical guidance. As a classification system Big Data is predictive, not intuitive. A system based on statistics alone can’t possibly invest in the desires of the individuals it chooses not to see. Such a system would seem oblivious, if not hostile, to those already on the margins of society. This is a problem in a time of economic uncertainty and encroaching climate change, when ethical corners will likely be cut in order to compensate for lost time and resources.
Going forward, philanthropy should consider a more comprehensive code of data ethics. We must honor our sacred pact with civil society as we enter this new golden age of philanthropy data, ensuring that our initiatives remain socially inclusive as well as sustainable.
Many thanks to Chris Delatorre for his take on the conflicting sides of data progress and the need for a code of ethics. To stay up to date with the latest Markets For Good articles and news, sign up for their newsletter here. Make sure that you are also following them on Twitter.