Summary of Research Article: Data ethics is gaining momentum. Citizens are starting to act on their lack of control over their data, legislation is adapting, and alternative business models and technologies are emerging. But what shape is our ethical awareness of the role of data taking? And who is doing the shaping? With an analytical framework for a data ethics of power Gry Hasselbalch explores in a new research article in the journal Internet Policy Review the power dynamics of the European data ethics policy debate.
In the slipstream of a comprehensive data protection law reform in Europe, discussions regarding data ethics has gained traction in European policymaking and beyond. Numerous data ethics public policy initiatives have been created, moving beyond issues of basic compliance with data protection law to increasingly focus on the ethics of big data. Gaining significant public attention and interest, the expertise and interests involved in these initiatives has also been questioned. The main question has been what are these initiatives’ role and function? And what do we actually mean when we use the label “data ethics”?
The article offers an analytical investigation of the different actors and forces that moulded definitions of “data ethics” in European policymaking in the period 2015–2018. The paper also presents an analytical framework for an action-oriented “data ethics of power” that aims to elucidate the power relations of the Big Data society. It argues that we recognise data ethics policy initiatives as open-ended spaces of negotiation among different interest groups that seek to guide the cultural definition of “data ethics”, with complex power relations exercised via cultural positioning.