– by Gry Hasselbalch (based on panel debate participation, Ethics, Observational Platforms, Mathematics and Fundamental Rights, CPDP, Brussels, 2017)
A few years ago a social media company decided to do some experiments on its users. Filling their news feeds with positive or negative stories, they were measuring hundreds of thousands of people’s emotional reactions. When the story surfaced there was of course a public out cry and the company found it self in a situation where it had to show that it cared. So a spokesperson apologized publically. However, she didnt apologize because what they did had been ethically questionable, they were just sorry that it had been “poorly communicated”.
Legally you can do a lot with data right now, and a lot is done with data, that is not necesarilly in the best interest of the individual. And this is the point where we revisit ethics – when the laws, social awareness and formal systems in place are not enough.