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Real-life Examples of Ethical and Societal Implications of Big Data: New Summary Report by e-SIDES

Beyond research.

Big data technologies are taking the world by storm. In this summary, e-SIDES outlines a number of striking rea-life examples of the main ethical, legal and socio-economic implications of big data technologies, including privacy abuses, lack of transparency, potential discrimination and lack of accountability.

Building on the research presented in the Deliverable D2.2 published in August 2017, we have looked for practical cases of these issues around the world. Here we present some interesting stories about how big data technologies can impact our life and business.

To read the full document:

Workshop on Ethical and societal challenges in the era of big data

On June 7th, e-SIDES had its opening event at the CEPE/Ethicomp 2017 “Values in Emerging Science and Technology” Conference at the University of Turin. The workshop “Societal and Ethical Challenges in the Era of Big Data: Exploring the emerging issues and opportunities of big data management and analytic” welcomed a high-level international academic and government audience, such as professors and researchers, to present the initial analysis of the key challenges

Day Overview and Discussions

The workshop Chair, Gabriella Cattaneo, Associate VP IDC European Government Consulting, opened the session with a welcome note and presented the e-SIDES project, as well as the workshop objectives.

With the development of big data technologies, we are facing new challenges for the protection of fundamental rights and society cohesion. e-SIDES is meeting with relevant stakeholders to collect views and opinions on the importance of these issues and how the researchers and technologies developers should take them into account.

As a first question, and to familiarize the participants with the live voting tool participants were asked to vote on the following question: what type of organization do you represent? The Participant’s representation on the right, indicates the various groups present at the e-SIDES first workshop, as shows in the pie chart.

The first keynote was given by Magdalena Jozwiak, Post-Doctoral Researcher, eLAW Leiden University and consisted of an introduction of the topic and the list of mapped ethical and legal issues: among the challenges identified, the group discussed about the relevance of issues like the effective informed consent for use of personal data, the potential bias fostered through the use of Big data, and the use of personal and sensitive data.




In the discussion which followed the presentation, the participants focused in particular on how the big data technologies could potentially be used in a way that allows for discriminatory treatment of certain groups. In this context, it was underlined that not only can such technologies amplify the already existing biases and divides in the society but also that big data technology could potentially have a transforming effect of creating different perceptions and ‘new normals’ in society. Further, the discussion focussed on the impact of the provisions of the General Data Protection Regulation on the development of big data in the EU, the margin left for the member states’ regulation and possible approaches to interpreting the GDPR in this context.

Commenting on the list of legal and ethical issues, Bias high voting results, One of the participants considered that:

“Bias is really a major implication, the risks here are amplifying, as it affects the perception and increases even more the bias.”

Another adds:

“Yes, it is like an echo chamber, building up bias”

The second part of the workshop was moderated by Michael Friedewald, Coordinator of ICT Research Fraunhofer ISI, who presented the Economic and Societal list of issues to consider when designing big data solutions.

In a discussion about the socio-economic implications of big data a respondent adds:

“Unfair competition: well this is a new issue for big data, we don’t consider the amount of data used and how It affects such things as competition for instance.”

Next steps

e-SIDES will be at the ICE/IEEE 2017 Conference in Madeira for the second workshop “Societal and Ethical Challenges in the Era of Big Data: Exploring the emerging issues and opportunities of big data management and analytic”. The workshop will take place on June 28th at 11.00: workshop W1.13.

We look forward to meeting you there!


The initial work of the e-SIDES project has been twofold. On one hand, e-SIDES has focused on promotion activities such as awareness raising, community building, including the activation of the online platform and two community events: the first of these events was the Turin Workshop held on June 7.

On the other, the technical team has mapped a long list of ethical and societal implications of big data technologies through an exhaustive desk research and in-depth literature review.

The Turin workshop was the first validation tool to assess the initial results reached at this phase.

About project

The e-SIDES Project is an EU funded project, led by IDC in collaboration with elaw Leiden University and Fraunhofer ISI.

For more information about the e-SIDES community please contact:
Community Manager
Stefania Aguzzi