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What Is Considered An Ethical Use Of Data?

This post was inspired by my classmate Bruce when he said:

In a world where data is golden, why use so much resource to gather it and then be ethically restrained from not giving it to a third party who may use the data more efficiently than you?

In other words, is selling people’s data to another company always wrong?

In my attempt to answer, I thought it could only be wrong when the data is misused by the buyer so what could be the worst-case scenario of data misusage, and what could lead to that?

Last week news circulated that the most popular lifestyle Muslim App with over 98 million downloads (Muslim Pro) was selling users' data to the U.S military, data that assist on overseas special forces operations … sounds alarming!

Now of course the App denied the allegations and turns out through Motherboard investigation that the App’s data partner X-Mode a location data firm that has sold information to, among other clients, defense contractors, and ultimately the U.S. military.

But who is to be blamed here?

Well everyone is to be blamed here

The design of the App (Muslim Pro)requires location data at its core in order to help the user to determine the prayer time which depends on the sun’s position during the day and to determine which direction the user will face to point to Mecca. Here we see that the App was not responsibly choosing partners since it was stated in earlier versions of the data broker (X-Mode) “Trusted Partners” page defense contractors such as Sierra Nevada Corporation and Systems & Technology Research. Both of these companies work with the U.S. armed forces, not to mention the lack of transparency with its users in terms of disclosing its partners since the data broker was not mentioned in its privacy policy.

Even though the data broker (X-Mode) was transparent about what data they are not gathering which is personally identifiable information (PII), they failed to mention that they collect data like the name of the WiFi network the phone is connected to, a timestamp, and information about the phone like its model.

So what is the point?

The point is how will this data be used

The data broker (X-Mode)told Motherboard in a statement that “X-Mode licenses its data panel to a small number of technology companies that may work with government military services, but our work with such contractors is international and primarily focused on three use cases: counter-terrorism, cybersecurity and predicting future COVID-19 hotspots.”

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unpackAI is a nonprofit organization that makes AI and Deep Learning education as accessible as possible by offering free virtual bootcamps with community-driven learning experience and guidance of professional mentors. Follow us: https://www.linkedin.com/company/14590931/

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Eiman Bakhit

Eiman Bakhit

CSE, Web Development, Deep Learning

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