Friday, 11 September 2015

Data Hotbed Ireland creates new issues

As 'data hotbed' Ireland must drive the ethics agenda

Leading computer scientist calls for a national conversation on the rights and wrongs of data use

“As Ireland attracts increasing numbers of data scientists and data companies, our role in the safe and responsible handling of data is becoming critical,” Professor Barry O'Sullivan of the Insight Centre for Data Analytics has said.

Speaking ahead of a data ethics think tank to be hosted in Dublin next week, Professor Barry O’Sullivan of the Insight Centre has called on experts of all disciplines, from computer science to psychology to human rights to contribute to the conversation on the rights and responsibilities of data use.

As the European hub for most of the world’s leading tech companies, Ireland is now a 'data hotbed', said Prof O’Sullivan.

This week US data analytics company SAS announced 150 jobs for Ireland to support sales of data analytics software into markets across Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA). Google announced the development of a €150m data centre for Dublin last month. The Insight Centre has over 350 data analytics researchers making it one of the biggest data science bodies in Europe.

“We cannot be passive about the rights and responsibilities that come with Big Data use,” said Prof O’Sullivan. “As a European centre of data analytics, Ireland has a duty to progress the conversation on who owns data and how it can and should be used for the good of society.”

The Insight Centre last year launched a data ethics initiative called the Magna Cart for Data Project in Brussels. There has been ongoing engagement with MEPs on the issue, with Insight delegations to Brussels pushing for a Europe-wide charter on data rights.

The ethics think tank, to be held as part of the Predict Conference 2015, is the next step in the development of the Magna Carta for Data project.

“Our objective with this event is start a meaningful dialogue between disciplines on the issue of data ethics,” says Barry O’Sullivan. “As computer scientists, we come at the issue from a researchers’ perspective. We see the value that data availability brings to innovation in health, government, education and a range of other fields.

“However, we need to look at the issue from a variety of perspectives: human rights, data security, the law and equality, for example. We need to challenge our own views and invite a diversity of perspectives on an issue that impacts on everyone.

“Scientists and industry must work with experts from the social sciences and the humanities in creating ethical frameworks that work for citizens as well and researchers, industry and government. We need to start speaking a common language that everyone understands.”

“Data analytics holds enormous potential for Ireland but we cannot let technology get ahead of policy. We need to keep the citizen front and centre.”

Speaking at the event Pauline Walley SC, a barrister and specialist in privacy and data protection law, will explain her recent public call for a ‘bill of rights for the cyber self’.

Other speakers include data security expert Dr Simon Foley; Dr Vivien Rooney, applied psychologist and specialist in consent and Dr Heike Felzmann, a lecturer in ethics.
'Towards a Magna Carta for Data' will be held in the RDS Simmonscourt on Thursday September 17 from 9.30am to 1.30pm, as part of the Predict Conference (www.predictconfernence.com)