The David Eccles School of Business hosted a series of discussions on “The Ethics of Big Data” during fall semester, and if attendees to the two public debates weren’t already a little afraid of how their personal information is being used by businesses and the government–they probably were after listening to the experts brought to campus by the hosts in the Daniels Fund Ethics Initiative.
The Daniels Fund’s two sessions drew both national and local voices concerned with with Big Data; in November, panelists included Ben Wizner, director of the ACLU’s Speech Privacy & Technology Project, as well as The Atlantic‘s Rebecca Rosen, the senior associate editor of the magazine. The December discussion included XMission founder and former U.S. Senate candidate from Utah Pete Ashdown, NSA expert and author James Bamford, and Eric Denna, the chief information officer for the University of Utah.
The overwhelming sentiment was that many typical Americans have no idea how government and business entities are using their private information, info gleaned from location tags on photos they post to the Internet or from their (supposedly) private phone conversations.
The government’s NSA has taken a small portion of the so-called “Patriot Act” and used to to imply consent from Americans to have their calls and emails scoured in the guise of “national security.” And private companies like Apple or Facebook throw up “user agreements” for their customers to agree to, knowing full well most won’t take the time to read a lengthy contract just to be able to download some music or stay in touch with their Internet “friends.” Those agreements we all sign with the click of a mouse might be giving those companies the freedom to share our data across myriad platforms.
Many of the panelists encouraged attendees to be more vigilant in how they use their personal data online. As Wizner said, referring to Facebook, “if you’re g