We are Data

Seeing the people behind the data

Since I first watched Jer Thorp’s talk Data and Humans: A love story, my mind keeps returning to our experiences as people living amidst massive quantities of data, both personally and professionally. Seriously, check it out – it’s inspiring and provocative!

People are no longer just consuming products built on data. In this social media age, we are the product. We use free products like Amazon, Google, and Facebook, which create economic value based on the data gathered from our use of these products. As our daily activities have become infiltrated by mobile technologies, the data are increasingly personal and identifiable. Our expectations of privacy are dwindling in favor of convenience, often because we experience the costs of surrendering our privacy indirectly and on a delayed time scale. This is exacerbated by the fact that our capacity to develop and adopt new technologies outpaces our ability to understand their implications and develop thoughtful policies that balance the benefits with the risks.
Interesting Projects

Collections as Data
Open Paths
Cloudy with a chance of pain
138 years of Popular Science
NIH All of Us
23andme, particularly their privacy policy


Still trying to wrap your head around this topic? Check out Libby Bishop’s (of the UK Data Service) Big data and data sharing: Ethical issues.

The list of readings offered up by the Council for Big Data, Ethics, and Society is a bit outdated, but still rich.

Check out What’s up with big data ethics? at O’Reilly Radar

Have you heard about the European General Data Protection Regulation, which was adopted in April 2016? It’s a new framework for data protection laws designed to harmonize data privacy laws across Europe and provide greater protection and rights to individuals. In the UK, it will replace the 1998 Data Protection Act. The UK ICO has created a website to help consumers and organizations understand how it will affect them.

Have your heard of datafication?
Activity & Discussion Prompts

Submit a blog post for the Love Data Week site or share a link on Twitter. Not sure where to get started? Check out the thought-provoking questions below:

What is it like to live in data? (h/t Jer Thorp)
How does data help us to understand our world?
How does data fail to represent us as individuals?
How do the biases and limitations of our tools shape the data itself?
What does that mean for how we generate information, knowledge, wisdom from data?
What is your personal relationship with data? (h/t Jer Thorp)
Share an ethical challenge you’re facing with your study or research question.
How do the data gathered about us affect our opportunities, the choices we are faced with, and our public personas? (h/t Jer Thorp)