Andrej Zwitter

Title Big Data, IT and Professional Ethics

The speed of development in Big Data and associated phenomena, such as social media, has surpassed the capacity of the average consumer to understand his or her actions and their knock-on effects. IT experts and data scientists are also overwhelmed with the possibilities that Big Data analytics provide. This raises the question of whether it is up to IT experts or consumers to uphold ethical standards such as privacy and free will. We are moving towards changes in how ethics has to be perceived: away from individual decisions with specific and knowable outcomes, towards actions by many unaware that they may have taken actions with unintended consequences for anyone. Responses will require a rethinking of ethical choices, the lack thereof and how this will guide scientists, governments, and corporate agencies in handling Big Data. This talk elaborates on the ways Big Data impacts on ethical conceptions in the professional field of IT and of data scientists.


Andrej Zwitter holds the NGIZ Chair in International Relations at the Faculty of Law, the University of Groningen and is also an honorary senior research fellow at the Liverpool Hope University. In his function as NGIZ-Chair he heads the Political Sciences section at the department of Legal Theory. His research foci include ethics in international politics and law, Big Data ethics, state of emergency politics, as well as law and politics of humanitarian action. His recent publications include amongst others:

- Zwitter, et al. (eds.), Humanitarian Action: Global, Regional and Domestic Legal Responses, Cambridge University Press: 2014;

- Zwitter et al. (eds.) Humanitarian Crises, Intervention and Security

- A Framework for Evidence-Based Programming, Routledge: 2014.

- Zwitter, ‘Big Data Ethics’, in Big Data & Society (Sage), Vol 1. No. 2.

- Zwitter, ‘Constitutional Reform and Emergency Powers in Egypt and Tunisia’ in Middle East Law and Governance (Brill), Vol. 7 (forthcoming 2015)