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Australasian Human Research Ethics Consultancy Services Pty Ltd (AHRECS)

Digital Ethics in Higher Education: 2020 – BecauseReview (John O’Brien | May 2020)0

Posted by Admin in on June 21, 2020
 

New technologies, especially those relying on artificial intelligence or data analytics, are exciting but also present ethical challenges that deserve our attention and action. Higher education can and must lead the way.

Some news stories are hard to forget, like the one from a decade ago about a teenager who was texting while walking and fell into an open manhole on the street. Many headlines made fun of the scraped-up fifteen-year-old. But most of the news stories were focused on the people involved and thus didn’t see the bigger story about the place where humans and technology clash—or, in this case, crash.1

A lengthy piece, but a useful discussion on a very topical matter.  We have included a selection of related items.  Regardless of how far away the singularity is, smart (and bias laden) algorithms are already having a big impact on everyday life.

In 2020, I remember this story and see it as perhaps the perfect metaphor for the challenge of digital ethics. New technologies, many that depend on private data or emerging artificial intelligence (AI) applications, are being rolled out with enthusiastic abandon. These dazzling technologies capture our attention and inspire our imagination. Meanwhile, fascinated by these developments, we may soon see the ground drop out from under us. We need to find a way to pay attention to both the rapid technology innovations and the very real implications for the people who use them—or, as some would say, the people who are used by them.
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I believe we are at a crucial point in the evolution of technology. We must come to grips with digital ethics, which I define simply as “doing the right thing at the intersection of technology innovation and accepted social values.” This is a straightforward-enough definition; however, given the speed of technology change and the relativity of social values, even a simple definition may be trickier than it seems. For example, at the point where they clash, the desire for the latest data-powered apps and the desire for fiercely protected privacy reveal significant ethical fault lines. Which desire prevails? And while we contemplate this question, the development of new apps continues.

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Ethical guidelines for COVID-19 tracing apps – Nature (Jessica Morley, et al | May 2020)0

Posted by Admin in on June 13, 2020
 

Protect privacy, equality and fairness in digital contact tracing with these key questions.

Technologies to rapidly alert people when they have been in contact with someone carrying the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 are part of a strategy to bring the pandemic under control. Currently, at least 47 contact-tracing apps are available globally (see go.nature.com/2zc1qhk). They are already in use in Australia, South Korea and Singapore, for instance. And many other governments are testing or considering them.

Not really research, but a topical discussion on big data, privacy, consent and respect for persons, which are of significance to research.

Here we set out 16 questions to assess whether — and to what extent — a contact-tracing app is ethically justifiable. These questions could assist governments, public-health agencies and providers to develop ethical apps — they have already informed developments in France, Italy and the United Kingdom. They will also help watchdogs and others to scrutinize such technologies.
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What do COVID-19 contact-tracing apps do? Running on a mobile phone, they inform people that they have spent time near someone with the virus. The contacts should then respond according to local rules, for example by isolating themselves. Prompt alerts are key because the incubation time of the virus is up to two weeks.

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1.2 Billion Records Found Exposed Online in a Single Server – Wired (Lily Hay Newman | November 2019)0

Posted by Admin in on April 7, 2020
 

Here’s the next jumbo data leak, complete with Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn profiles.

FOR WELL OVER a decade, identity thieves, phishers, and other online scammers have created a black market of stolen and aggregated consumer data that they used to break into people’s accounts, steal their money, or impersonate them. In October, dark web researcher Vinny Troia found one such trove sitting exposed and easily accessible on an unsecured server, comprising 4 terabytes of personal information—about 1.2 billion records in all.

Does your institution have a policy/guidance document on hacked or scraped data?  If not it should.  While the data may be existing and online somewhere, it’s “fruit of a poison tree” in that it was obtained without consent, probably in contravention of a platform’s policies and there is a good chance at least one law has been broken.  At the very least an HREC would need to consider whether a waiver of the consent requirement can be approved.  It would appear to be a very serious source of risk exposure for an institution and a member of the institution’s executive should sign off on the project.

While the collection is impressive for its sheer volume, the data doesn’t include sensitive information like passwords, credit card numbers, or Social Security numbers. It does, though, contain profiles of hundreds of millions of people that include home and cell phone numbers, associated social media profiles like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Github, work histories seemingly scraped from LinkedIn, almost 50 million unique phone numbers, and 622 million unique email addresses.
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“It’s bad that someone had this whole thing wide open,” Troia says. “This is the first time I’ve seen all these social media profiles collected and merged with user profile information into a single database on this scale. From the perspective of an attacker, if the goal is to impersonate people or hijack their accounts, you have names, phone numbers, and associated account URLs. That’s a lot of information in one place to get you started.”
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“What stands out about this incident is the sheer volume of data that’s been collected.”
TROY HUNT, HAVEIBEENPWNED
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Troia found the server while looking for exposures with fellow security researcher Bob Diachenko on the web scanning services BinaryEdge and Shodan. The IP address for the server simply traced to Google Cloud Services, so Troia doesn’t know who amassed the data stored there. He also has no way of knowing if anyone else found and downloaded the data before he did, but notes that the server was easy to find and access. WIRED checked six people’s personal email addresses against the data set; four were there and returned accurate profiles. Troia reported the exposure to contacts at the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Within a few hours, he says, someone pulled the server and the exposed data offline. The FBI declined to comment for this story.

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Eleven tips for working with large data sets – Nature (Anna Nowogrodzki | January 2020)0

Posted by Admin in on January 22, 2020
 

Big data are difficult to handle. These tips and tricks can smooth the way.

Big data are everywhere in research, and the data sets are only getting bigger — and more challenging to work with. Unfortunately, says Tracy Teal, it’s a kind of labour that’s too often left out of scientific training.

“It’s a mindset,” says Teal, “treating data as a first-class citizen.” She should know: Teal was until last month the executive director of The Carpentries, an organization in Oakland, California, that teaches coding and data skills to researchers globally. She says there’s a tendency in the research community to dismiss the time and effort needed to manage and share data, and not to regard it as a real part of science. But, she suggests, “we can shift our mindset to valuing that work as a part of the research process”, rather than treating it as an afterthought.

Here are 11 tips for making the most of your large data sets.

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