Big data is a digital phenomenon that has developed rapidly in recent years. According to the research in 2017, 90% of the data in the world today has been created in the past two years alone. Government agencies, companies, and even individuals can capture, store, analyze, distribute and use massive amounts of data created and shared by humans and devices using computer-based technologies and networks.
Big data is like a double-edged sword. It improves people’s quality of life and guarantees the safety of citizens. On the contrary, the invasion of privacy and a series of social problems extended from it are inevitable. Either way, big data drive debate about the ethics of data sharing and use.
The application of big data can better improve the safety and quality of people’s lives and contribute to the development of social economy.
Using big data analytics to make better decisions is no longer a new thing, With the development and popularization of big data technology, the government has better conditions to make full use of big data technology. By collecting, constructing and analyzing data, government officials can make sound judgments faster than ever before. Therefore, big data can better help police prevent and deal with criminal actions.
In the utilitarian sense, the application of big data in life safety can improve the safety of the greatest number of people and bring them the greatest happiness.
The Kantian theory states that the rightness or wrongness of actions does not depend on their consequences but on whether they fulfill our duty. From the perspective of the government, it is morally right to use big data to improve people’s life security, and their starting point is a GOOD WILL which is the central to Kantian ethics.
Police can use big data to collect and analyze relevant crime data in certain areas, which can effectively reduce the crime rate in such areas. The Los Angeles police department has been able to use the big data system to analyze the data of urban crime rate and abandoned buildings, so as to warn the areas with the high crime rate and deploy the police force distribution. The theft crime in the jurisdiction has been successfully reduced by 33%, violent crime by 21% and property crime by 12%.
Enterprises can understand the preferences of consumers with the help of big data, so as to design and launch relevant products and services for such consumers, which can improve the quality of life and promote social development.
For example, shopping website can recommend the items according to the analysis of the people’s preferences so people can find what they want in a short time, which could save consumers’ searching time and improve shopping efficiency. In addition to that, by collecting a large amount of traffic data to track and predict the road congestion, the APP of map can provide users with optimized routes in real time and greatly reduce the travel time.
The application of big data in life quality can produce efficient and convenient lives for the greatest number of people and enhance people’s happiness which is consistent with the utilitarian theory.
According to Kantian theory, the motivation to use big data to create a better life for people is morally right. Therefore, the application of big data is worth developing and popularizing.
Although most people are enjoying the benefits of big data as mentioned above. There are some concerns that may conflict with the above. To be specific, security and privacy issues and the associated social problems are the major concerns.
As big data technologies are emerging at a very fast pace, it is also creating space for security and privacy issues. Big data includes different kinds of information for different purposes, which even includes sensitive information such as healthcare data. Corrupt IT specialists or evil businesses may mine and steal unprotected data and may sell it for their own benefit. If such information is connected with users’ personal information, the security and privacy of individuals are indeed at risk. For example, the Wall Street Journal reported that Facebook’s software collects information from many apps, even if the end user is not logged into Facebook or does not have a Facebook account. Apps such as Instant Heart Rate: HR Monitor and Realtor.com send information to the social media giant without providing users with an apparent way to opt out.
- Utilitarianism considers that this use of big data is immoral. Once the violation occurs, only a small percentage will benefit from it, but not the users, which are the majority. That is to say, it does not bring the greatest happiness to the most people.
- The Kantian theory came to the same conclusion. First of all, this use of big data cannot be universalized as not everyone can benefit from this behavior and even some people are the aggrieved party. More importantly, the motivation for this malicious use of big data to get certain benefits is NOT A GOOD WILL.
Big data also cause some extended social problems. There are some countries and companies that do not want to share data because data is an important asset for economic competition or military competition. As a result, some developing countries, small businesses, and individuals have no access to information support. This is against utilitarianism for resources are still in the hands of few people, and many people are still suffering from pain. In Kantian Theory, these states only consider their own interests and it will widen the gap between developed and developing countries, which goes against the principle of treating others equally. And this is obviously not a “good will” behavior.