Big Data – Learning From Testing

An assessment process needs to isolate the key issues, protect the relevant interests and be highly usable by the intended practioners. Last week, the Foundation began testing the practical application of the “Ethical Frame for Big Data Assessment.” The Foundation brought together a small but diverse group to work through an assessment document for big data in a marketing context. This was the first “Part D” document to come from the IAF Big Data Ethics Initiative.[1]

The initiative has four parts. Part A is a description of how one might create a unified ethical frame for big data analysis based on 360-degree view of stakeholders’ rights and interests. Part B is a framework for assessment that can be customized for individual industries, sectors, media and companies, while still based on a common set of values. Part C will be a discussion of how to make assessments enforceable. Part D models will be customized assessment documents for various industries that are based on the Part B framework.

The marketing assessment document meeting was highly informative. First, and foremost, all of the participants were very enthusiastic about both the initiative and the process. They believed that confronting appropriate big data analysis as more than a compliance exercise to be on the mark. They believed the focus on ethics was right. They also believed that customization to fit a company’s workflow and vocabulary to be consistent with broad use.

There is still a great deal of work to do. First, we need a glossary of terms. Organizations use words in different ways; therefore, we need to make the document’s terminology clear. We need to add some concept descriptions to the preamble for Part B, and maybe even compose a preamble for Part D. We also need a flow chart for the analysis. Lastly, a more user-friendly format would be welcome. All of this additional work has begun.

A final note from last week’s meeting. All attendees believe that the corporate driver for the assessment process must be trust in big data processes. Compliance is important, but it is truly the desire to be a trustworthy user of big data processes that will make ethical assessment attractive to the marketplace.

So, what is next for the initiative? We are beginning the work on Part C with discussions with a group of data protection enforcement agencies. Based on that dialogue, we will begin the first draft of a paper on enforcing the assessment process.

The Foundation has a big data session scheduled in Canada to discuss how assessment fits with Canadian laws and practice. The Foundation will also be presenting on big data ethical assessment at conferences in Singapore, Hong Kong and Medellin.

It is the Foundation’s intent to have all four parts ready for external feedback by October 2015.

[1] IAF thanks Acxiom Corporation for its charitable grant to the Foundation as part of its ethical marketing initiative. The grant is funding the marketing Part D project.

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