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Philos Trans A Math Phys Eng Sci. 2016 Dec 28;374(2083). pii: 20160113. doi: 10.1098/rsta.2016.0113.

Data philanthropy and the design of the infraethics for information societies.

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Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK
Alan Turing Institute, London, UK.


In mature information societies, sharing data is increasingly recognized as a crucial means to foster their development. However, competing tensions on data control and ownership, limited technical understanding, and the lack of an adequate governance framework pose serious challenges to attempts to share data among different actors. Data philanthropy, understood as the donation of data from both individuals and private companies, has been proposed as means to meet these challenges. While at first sight data philanthropy may seem an uncontroversial phenomenon, a closer analysis reveals a bewildering network of problems. In this article, I analyse the role of data philanthropy in contemporary societies and the moral problems that it yields. I argue that the solution to these problems rests on the understanding of the infraethical nature of data philanthropy and on the design of an ethical framework encompassing the right infraethics and the right ethics. This is a framework able to address the changes brought about by the information revolution and to harness the opportunities that these pose for the prosperity of current and future information societies.This article is part of the themed issue 'The ethical impact of data science'.


data philanthropy; design; ethics; individual privacy; infraethics; tragedy of the commons


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