UK big data ethics council on the horizon
The UK Government plans to introduce an ethical body to oversee all big data research in the UK.
The organisation will be modelled on the ethics committees in medicine and academia. In February, the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee, told the government to set up such a body to address “well founded” public concern about privacy and security.
I have written about the benefits of big data research before but there are serious pitfalls – especially around data security and permissions. The Government sees the new body as a way to, “give data scientists the confidence to innovate with new data and tools, but also to ensure that data science is conducted in an appropriate way.”
Concern about data security are not new, but increasingly sophisticated analytical tools make it easier to search for patterns in growing amounts of data. It makes sense to develop a new ethical framework based on current and future levels of transparency within big data pools.
Researchers are bound by the requirements of “informed consent” but data mining makes the situation more complex. Earlier this month I wrote about just such a case – with the identification of potential genetic superheroes from a pool of over half a million people.
The US already has its own council addressing these issues since 2014 and other regulators are starting to realise that they need greater guidance on these issues.
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