Responding to the challenges of Big Data
In his recent paper, Big data and the Facebook scandal, Dr Michael Fuller suggests that theologians, churches and other religious institutions can help to address some of the ethical challenges arising from the mass harvesting, analysis and selling of online data.
The paper, published January 2019, looked at some of the issues which, more recently, have resulted in a $5billion fine for the social media giant.
As well as describing problems around informed user consent, Dr Fuller summarised concerns around security, privacy and data brokerage, and asked: “How might theological responses be made to the various challenges raised by big data?”
Dr Fuller says,
“Theologians, together with churches and other religious institutions, are in a unique position to serve the community with regard to these matters, by raising awareness of them, providing fora in which they may be discussed, and offering practical, ethical and theological critiques addressing the use and abuse of big data.”
However, Dr Fuller also sees opportunities in the fast-moving field of data science, concerning hermeneutics – the ways in which texts (or datasets) are read.
In an earlier paper for the online journal Religions, he proposed that,
“A dialogue between data scientists and theologians concerning hermeneutical practices could be an important way in which skills developed in the service of a religious tradition might also valuably inform practices within this developing new science.”