As we learned in Daniel Kahneman's Thinking, Fast and Slow, bad decisions by human beings are not just caused by greed or ignorance. With the best of intentions, people make irrational decisions. For many orchestras, performers now audition behind a screen so the selection committee can't see the applicant's gender, age or race. The selection committee knows they will find better performers that way. The data we can now collect will make it possible to avoid bias in many more instances. Applicants for jobs, degrees and grants will be able to present hard evidence of their suitability. And that will happen when we take control of the data ourselves.
At Edge.org, Kevin Kelly recently said,
The Internet wants to track just like it wants to copy things, and it's going to be very, very difficult to prevent this thing that we're on all the time 24 hours, seven days a week, from tracking, because all the technologies—from sensors to quantification, digitization, communication, wireless connection—want to track, and so the internet is going to track.... It can't be secret and outside of any kind of accountability. We have to be symmetrical. We have to understand why it's there, what the rules are. If it's incorrect, we can correct it. There has to be ways to appeal it, all this kind of stuff, and so that's the kind of world that I think would make this a productive type of tracking.
The cover story on Deloitte's publication this month is subtitled "Socially responsible innovation through big data." They predict better products and services when companies use big data to serve their customers, not exploit them.
Deloitte Review: The personalized and the personal, 2014-Jan-17 by James Guszcza, David Schweidel, and Shantanu Dutta
The possibility of creating data products and services fueled by fine-grained behavioral information and shaped by the principles of behavioral science and choice architecture offers a framework for innovations that enhance rather than diminish public trust. The idea is one of many and certainly does not exhaust the topic of socially responsible big data innovation. It is reasonable to hypothesize that the organizations willing to take such ideas on board will be best positioned in the long run to distinguish themselves through superior, consumer-oriented product design and enjoy sustained profitability and growth.