Ethics and Privacy for Social Machines, Social Groups and Aggregations workshop at WebSci'18

Participation is invited to the Workshop on Ethics and Privacy for Social Machines, Social Groups and Aggregations (EPSM18) on May 27th, co-located with the 2018 ACM Web Science Conference, Amsterdam.

Emerging technologies of data analytics and digital networks are developing and achieving scale rapidly, often thanks to the affordances of the World Wide Web and mobile devices. Such technologies pose important ethical issues, ranging from privacy, to their potential to undermine individual autonomy, to the difficulty of apportioning accountability for their real-world effects.

Furthermore, the domains of greatest potential for such technologies are extremely heterogeneous in their own ethical status, ranging from areas such as healthcare where the public good is obvious, to those like marketing where the benefits are rather more equivocal, and also include use by governments, which might themselves be benign democracies or authoritarian regimes.

Much ethical reasoning in this space has focused on the effects (particularly harms) on individuals, and indeed many areas of law, certainly privacy law, take the protection of individual human rights and dignity as a priority. Many privacy-enhancing techniques like anonymisation safeguard personal identity and information.

However, in the particular context of the Web and its affordances for data consumers, this leaves a lacuna. Increasingly, the focal point for the technologies is not the individual, but the crowd (indeed, this is implicit in their constant concern for scale). They determine types and probabilities; their internal ethical or commercial aim is the consequentialist one of improving the states of aggregates, not individuals. Many of their effects, and many of their risks, are borne by groups of individuals, or individuals who have been grouped together by external agents. For example, protecting personal data, while important, may not be the only important aim for regulatory systems of the future.

See the Call for Papers to get involved.