Is big data killing American democracy?

Big data has radically transformed the relationship of Americans with the government and big technology corporations. The collection and use of data is only meaningful and purposeful when it is intended to benefit most Americans, having taken into account of all the possible downstream repercussions on end users. The ethics of data needs to be designed and engineered deeply into the fissures of information technology, complemented by strong compliant and regulatory frameworks.

Big data carries many hopes to improve the society for the better.

Well-regulated and connected Open Data Policy can help improve democracy through executive orders, non-binding resolutions, internal regulations and codified laws (Kalin, 2014). However, making open data work is an uphill task for the government (Ruijer, 2017).

Cambridge Analytica, for example, was exposed to have collected 5000 data points from no fewer than each of the 230 million Americans on Facebook.

Democracy cannot thrive in such non-transparent settings. Yet, users can volunteer information to improve transparency and accountability.

Yet, with so much grim talk, if utilized and regulated properly, big data has abundant opportunities to improve democracy, in areas such as credit access, jobs, and higher education.

The American Dream can only be realized if data about the population is used judiciously for the population with transparency and accountability by the population. The existing ethos of data science, ‘Develop first, question later. Datafication first, regulation afterward’ must be demolished and torn down for democracy to be driven by Americans, and not data.



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