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Big Data Ethics Readings

This is a collection of documents, media stories, and links related to ethics and big data.

Books and Essays

  • boyd, d. and K. Crawford (2012). "Critical Questions for Big Data." Information, Communication & Society 15(5): 662-679.
Excellent set of 6 provocations about big data. Must read.
Canadian report on how your data is sold and aggregated for marketing purposes.
  • Davis, K. (2012). Ethics of Big Data. Sebastopol, CA, O'Reilly.
A fairly bland short text that feels like the handout for a corporate "how not to get into trouble" workshop. Only interesting part is the survey of privacy statements.
Argues that corporations like Google exploit our labor and that the net is not really participatory.
  • Greenwald, G. (2014). No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the U.S. Surveillance State, Signal.
Readable book by Glenn Greenwald on breaking the Snowden story and the harm of surveillance.
  • Human Rights Watch (2014). With Liberty to Monitor All: How Large-Scale US Surveillance is Harming Journalism, Law, and American Democracy. Report from Human Rights Watch. Go to Human Rights Watch and search for title.
Report that nicely summarizes the revelations and the impact of NSA surveillance.
  • Kichin, R. (2014). The Data Revolution: Big Data, Open Data, Data Infrastructures and Their Consequences. Los Angeles, SAGE.
Good book on big (and small) data and the implications.
  • Kramer, A. D. I., J. E. Guillory, et al. (2014). "Experimental Evidence of Massive-Scale Emotional Contagion Through Social Networks." Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 111(24): 8788-8790.
Questionable Cornell and Facebook study of manipulation of news for emotional contagion.
Report about big data that talks about the "transformative potential of big data in five domains" with implications for leaders and policy makers. Not really about ethics, but about potential decisions.
  • Mayer-Schönberger, V. and K. Cukier (2013). Big Data: A Revolution That Will Transform How We Live, Work, and Think. New York, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
Readable introduction to big data with chapters on the "Implications", "Risks" and "Control" that touch on ethical and regulartory issues.
Good essay on the dangers of letting our data be commercialized. Has too many typos.
  • Podesta, J., P. Pritzker, et al. (2014). Big Data: Seizing Opportunities, Preserving Values. Washington. <>
A report from the Executive Office of the President, The White House (USA) in response to concerns about big data and surveillance.
  • Raley, R. (2013). "Dataveillance an Countervailance." "Raw Data" Is an Oxymoron. Ed. L. Gitelman, MIT Press. 121-146.
Great article on how data is gathered about us and what we can do about it.
Short essay on dealing with the ethics of online social network studies.
  • Sweeney, L. (2013). "Discrimination in Online Ads." Communications of the ACM 56(5): 44-54. <DOI 10.1145/2447976.2447990>
Article about how online ads suggestive of arrest records are more likely to appear when searching of black-sounding names.
  • Ware, W. H. et. al. (1973). Records, Computers and the Rights of Citizens: Report of the Secretary's Advisory Committee on Automated Personal Data Systems, U.S. Department of Health, Education & Welfare. <>
An important document from 1973 that summarized the issues around computer records and recommended minimum standards for information practice.

Media Stories




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