Hoping that Big Data is not going to march into every nook and cranny of our personal lives without ethical consequences is not enough. When it comes to using Big Data, few areas of consideration deserve more attention than healthcare, where there is a rich ethical tradition and emerging attention to Big Data in research and operations.

In 2016, we began a discussion on the Ethics of Big Data with an interdisciplinary symposium. We are calling for participation in the Ethics of Big Data II to continue the discussion of ethical questions with a special focus on healthcare data and applications.

Marquette University
April 28, 2017 8:00 AM – 12:00 PM

Question we wish to address at the symposium:

The Ethics of Big Data II will look at the emerging world of Big Data with a special focus on Healthcare from perspectives of data science and philosophy.

Data Science Perspective Philosophy Perspective

Algorithms have begun to govern, curate, manage and inform everyday life decisions. Automated decisions based on samples of data have a significant and growing impact on lives.

For instance, algorithms have recommended different pricing for different populations and made credit decisions based on a predictive assessment of an individual’s behavior. Judges can use a mobile app to predict re-offenders in considering sentencing. Fully automated, driverless vehicles are under serious consideration.

There are practical, legal ramifications to having elements of everyday life being monitored and managed through algorithms. Indeed in many cases using data driven approaches can lead to overt or unintentional discrimination against segments of the population.

As researchers in this space, it is a moral imperative for us to think about ethical frameworks and their relationship to the study and implementation of computing in all its variegated forms.

Privacy, confidentiality, and recognition of professional privilege are central to healthcare ethics. Responsibility for patient information is integral to patient care and violations result in serious professional sanctions.

Big Data and algorithmic solutions have changed the healthcare information landscape. New ethical challenges face providers, payees, and managed healthcare organizations. Personal data now collected through wearable devices is processed in the cloud over the Internet. The governance, ownership and stewardship of data is inconsistent and unclarified, ethically and legally.

Big Data can improve healthcare. Large datasets enable research and create significant opportunities. Failures to anticipate and appreciate ways in which this data can be misused puts research and patient rights at odds with one another. Rights can be violated and the collection of data may be limited by perceptions of the likelihood of violations. New relationships of trust have to be established in order to safely and respectfully realize the benefits of Big Data in healthcare.


This community event is sponsored by the Center for Cyber Security Awareness and Cyber Defense and the Initiative For Collaborative Research Across Medicine and the Humanities (ICRAMH).

We are grateful for support from our corporate sponsor





Summer Research Experience

The Department of Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science hosts a Summer Research Experience (REU) for Undergraduates. This program provides undergraduates with an intensive, faculty-mentored, summer research experience in the areas of applied mathematics, high-performance computing, statistics, ubiquitous systems and mathematics education. Learn more