Being big and social for sustainable development
Who knows who am I? Ethical use of big data

Who knows who am I? Ethical use of big data

Any time you google something, data about you is being stocked. Whenever you are walking on the street, your GPS is registering where you are going and which way have you chosen. It is too much information but do not panic, data can be used for the good!

Every single information we leave in the internet is an atom for the big data creature. Big data is that information which needs special technology to be analized for revealing patterns, behaviours and trends.

As the Interamerican Development Bank (IDB) states in its publication about ethics and responsible use of data, this information can be really helpful for development. Sharing data and contrast it between public institutions, enterprises and organizations can be used to offer better and more efficient services to citizenship. It can improve social services. It can also increase transparency and participation.

For example, as it was presented in the previous post “open data for empowering people” when government make available information about health care providers, civil society organization can develop apps which present this information in a clear way to help people take decisions about which provider is better for them. Another interesting example in this point is the “Mejora tu escuela” site from Mexico. Parents can know, compare, qualify and take direct action in improving the school where his or her children are going. Even if these are thought-provoking experiences they are still isolated cases and there is a long path to walk in this area.

Most of the people have no idea about where his/her data was taken from. Even if we are always accepting terms and conditions when downloading any app or subscribing to any site, they are usually written in a complicated way so the majority of us do not even read them properly.

It is crucial to understand the importance of the digital fingerprint we are leaving behind any time we use the internet and that’s why the IDB created a comic version of its publication. “Miranda Ventura y el big data” show us a girl who is going on holidays to the Big Data Land and how she has to solve situations and live adventures that teach her how important is to take care of data and manage it in an ethic way on behalf of common benefit.

This comic is a relevant tool to make people aware about how data are collect, which risks exist and how to prevent malicious use of them. We have privacy rights and we have to fight for them but at the same time we need to establish a new trust relationship with institutions that permit them to use massive data in a responsible way for generating better services and beneficial action for the whole society.


  1. Daria Sedikova

    Hi Jacinta!

    Thanks a lot for your post! It brings up a very relevant topic of data ethics and transparency, and makes us more conscious of “the digital fingerprint we are leaving behind”, as you have aptly put it. Have you watched a documentary on Netflix called “The Great Hack” about Cambridge Analytica? If not, I really recommend you to see it. Three years ago, Cambridge Analytica, a UK-based political consulting firm, unethically scraped data from millions of Facebook users and made data its instrument to target vulnerable voters in an effort to elect Trump and pass the Brexit resolution. The documentary shows the dark side of the social media and makes it quite evident that the data have truly become the world’s most valuable asset.


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