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Saturday, November 24, 2012


Ethics of Big Data by Kord Davis - Book review

Ethics of Big Data

Balancing Risk and Innovation

By: Kord Davis

Published: September 28, 2012
Format: Paperback, 82 pages
ISBN-10: 1449311792
ISBN-13: 978-1449311797
Publisher: O'Reilly Media

"The swelling ranks of organizations that increasing depend on big-data technologies include dozens of familiar names and a growing number you've never heard of", writes former business strategist and technical consultant Kord Davis in his clear and concise book Ethics of Big Data: Balancing Risk and Innovation. The author describes how large companies, in possession of vast amounts of personal information and data, face many ethical challenges regarding their policies on privacy and identity.

Kord Davis recognizes that companies face real ethical dilemmas and potential for abuse due to their collection of massive quantities of data through an array of big-data technology. The author points out that big data also has an impact on brand quality, customer relationships, and revenue. Due to the enormous volume of information collected by big-data technology, the data can have far reaching consequences, serious repercussions, and move ever faster in its effect on those same brands.

Kord Davis provides insights into how this increasing pressure from big data forces companies to reexamine their organizational values and ethical behavior. With more ways for brands and customers to engage, communicate, and interact, these ever more pressing ethical questions must be considered and become part of the company behavior.

Kord Davis (photo left) understands that while the ethical questions are usually framed in terms of individuals, that the real impact of how the organization acts on its values have far deeper ramifications. The author addresses the implications of big data for both individuals and for companies. As a result, Kord Davis offers analysis of how both individuals and organizations of any size or type mus understand the handling and applications of data. The author considers the benefits, risks, and unintended consequences of this immense volume of data on very large numbers of people.

Kord Davis finds four common principles in the framework for the ethics of big data. Those four components are as follows:

* Identity: The relationship between online and offline identity
* Privacy: Who and how is access to data controlled
* Ownership of data: Who owns it and what are the responsibilities of holders
* Reputation: Is the data trustworthy

For me, the power of the book is how Kord Davis combines an analysis of the ethical and values based challenges of big data, with a practical strategy for ensuring the organization behaves ethically with that data. The author provides evidence that the very overwhelming volume of data collected is changing the very way people value privacy, identity, ownership, and reputation. Big data is reshaping the ethical values surrounding those key elements, and the behavior that results from that value change.

With that values shift, it's critical for organizations to develop strategic and tactical plans to overcome the rift between ethics and behavior. The author demonstrate how to create alignment between values and practices. Kord Davis also recognizes that with the immense volume of data, that any policy will have unintended consequence, and recommends anticipation of unexpected outcomes from innovative treatment of big data.

I highly recommend the balanced values and ethics based book Ethics of Big Data: Balancing Risk and Innovation by Kord Davis, to any organizational leaders, executives, managers, entrepreneurs, watchdog groups, public policy makers, and individuals who are concerned with ensuring that big data is treated and handled in an ethical manner. This book raises important questions, and offers practical and readily applicable strategies for maintaining values that benefit the customers, employees, brands and the organization as a whole.


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