An ethical checklist for data scientists

University of Chicago released a few years ago a checklist for data scientists. Some points seem oddly relevant nowadays:

Were the systems and processes used to collect the data biased against any groups? Surveys are a common venue for introducing bias. For example, a question about gender that is limited to male or female responses may inadvertently alienate transgender people. Similarly, a survey sent to non-English speakers may return unreliable responses.

An ethical checklist for data scientists – University of Chicago

While some argue that data scientists and software engineers are not scientists or engineers, they might also want to look at other codes of ethics, such as the IEEE code of ethics. Especially these:

5. to improve the understanding by individuals and society of the capabilities and societal implications of conventional and emerging technologies, including intelligent systems;

7. to seek, accept, and offer honest criticism of technical work, to acknowledge and correct errors, and to credit properly the contributions of others;

And here it seems that Facebook has broken some of these essential rules:

Facebook egregiously overstated the success of videos posted to its social network for years, exaggerating the time spent watching them by as much as 900 percent, a new legal filing claims. Citing 80,000 pages of internal Facebook documents, aggrieved advertisers further allege that the company knew about the problem for at least a year and did nothing. […]
By our count, national media companies laid off more than 350 people from 2016 to 2018, at least partly as a result of Facebook’s herky-jerky incentives.

How Facebook’s Chaotic Push Into Video Cost Hundreds of Journalists Their Jobs – Alexis Madrigal, The Atlantic

I recall in sadness Madrigal great efforts at Fusion.ney; together with NYT’s Kevin Roose they the great Real Future video series, which I learned was extremely costly to produce — like any video for a journalism company — and probably contributed to the downfall of the venture.

Needless to say this goes way beyond breach in the security, since it is somehow intentional and therefore malevolent. I wouldn’t like to be in Fidji Simo’s seat…

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