When you buy something online how do you know you got it for the same prices as someone in the town next to you? You don’t, which makes bias very difficult to detect and even more challenging to prove.
The Princeton Review’s prices have recently shown that the cost for online SAT tutoring is higher in areas with a large population of Asian residents. Although the Princeton Review claimed this was an accidental result of it’s pricing model, this case is shedding light on the ethical issue behind Data creating inadvertent bias.
With more companies relying on algorithms to make business decisions comes a slew of legal and ethical issues. Although technology can be wonderful and make our lives ten times easier, it is still a machine. Technology has no conscience and knows no right from wrong, unless we teach them.
How do we teach technology morals?
The trick to design systems from the start with tools that will work in a more discrimination conscious way. If Big Data is going to be relied on by companies to make decisions we have to be able to trust it. The problem is that with the current Data systems companies are unaware of the bias that is produced by their algorithms.
Big Data is an extremely helpful tool but if we are not careful companies will unintentionally be using biased data in decisions regarding criminal justice, employment, and credit scores.
Hopefully it won’t take the first big lawsuit for companies to move towards programming systems with a more ethical platform allowing Big Data to affect everyone equally regardless of their race or where they live.