Data rights are human rights, say experts


    NEW employees of a media outfit in Manila were outraged when they found out that their salaries became public knowledge at work. This breach of data privacy has not been addressed by the company nor reported as such because it apparently did not result in “damages.”

    The ethics of the matter however does not even need a law to cover it. Sensitive personal information such as political or religious affiliation, credit card or SSS numbers and even salaries are private and confidential and cannot be, in any way or form, leaked to those who do not have business knowing it.

    Late last year a group of data scientists, analysts, students, and business leaders with an interest in data ethics and social impact united to create the inaugural Data Ethics PH, a group that was to create conversations and discussions to flesh out and solve the ethical dilemmas with data in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

    The ethics of data, of personal data in particular is a wide topic. It includes data privacy and security, to digital ownership and control, data discrimination, algorithmic liabilities, and the default problem for many companies and the government which is data poverty.

    CirroLytix CTO Dominic Ligot opened the session explaining how the first and second Industrial Revolutions as analog versions of what are occurring today. He reiterated the mantras of Data Ethics PH which are “data rights are human rights” and “social problems are data problems”.

    Data Ethics PH was formed to promote, discuss, and assess the ethical use of data and technology in the Philippines. Members share a passion to drive social impact using data and technology.

    “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.” For the Women (FTW) Foundation and Adaptive AI Founder Carlo Almendral said, speaking on the difference between ethics and compliance. He also reminded the audience of about 200 to bring the discussion back to humans because data is created by humans.

    The common theme through all the first meet was how there is an “inordinate focus on data privacy and security” when the challenges span everything from digital ownership, AI liabilities, data-driven discrimination, and data poverty.

    “Data plus ethics equals politics, and to remember that remember that data can’t speak for itself – it needs people to speak for it – which is always a political decision,” National Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies (NCPACS) Fellow Nick Tobia said as he concluded the evening by discussing the political nature of data.