To Close the Gender Gap, We Have to Close the Data Gap
Melinda Gates

Interesting timing. I was just in the middle of a discussion about the ethics of data collection and algorithms when this popped up in my feed. While I applaud the intent of this initiative this is to urge a process that sets a universal ethical framework for data. As a tech entrepreneur who formerly practiced law (often in the gray area of is it a matter of law or ethics) and taught ethics, I find most attempts at defining frameworks to be incomplete or too fuzzy to be useful. The two leading reasons in my experience are:

  1. The classic exercise of balancing the interests of all who have a stake in the data falls short when data has great monetary value. A non-profit organization will not face this temptation to make money in the same manner as, say, a venture-backed startup that established its valuation on the basis of data. Still, confronting the fact of disparate bargaining power among stakeholders is essential.
  2. Many privacy professionals and lawyers do not have backgrounds in technology much less data science. I have found myself in more than a few conversations where I could see that they were simply talking past each other. In some cases, it struck me as indirectly intentional. That is, the lawyers don’t want to be accused of blocking innovation and the data scientists don’t want to hear something that keeps them from moving forward.

Obviously, it’s much more complicated than that but how exciting would it be to chart a new course for women using data that establishes, from the get-go, new principles and frameworks for data for the common good.

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