Data Scientists Warn Consumers of Data Privacy Concerns

Just 10 percent of respondents thought there should not be an ethical framework, and 1 percent said ethics should not play a part in data research.

Nine out of 10 statisticians (88 percent) believe that consumers should worry about privacy issues related to the data that is being collected on them, according to a recent survey of 865 statisticians and data scientists in North America by Revolution Analytics.

Of those surveyed, 80 percent agreed that there should be an ethical framework in place for collecting and using data, and more than half of data scientists agreed that ethics already play a big part in their research. Just 10 percent of respondents thought that there should not be an ethical framework, with 1 percent stating that ethics should not play a part in data research.

"With more organizations able to collect, store and explore their data for operational and market insights, we are seeing increasing demand for even more data and faster ways to derive insight from that data. From this survey we see that the people who are the most hands-on with the data–the statisticians–feel ethics should play a large part in data science and that an industry standard is desired to provide a professional, ethical framework," David Smith, vice president of marketing and community at Revolution Analytics, said in a statement. "Consumers have weighed in on this topic and it is important to know that statisticians share this concern."

In the education industry, 76 percent of data scientists said that there should be an ethical framework in place for data analytics–while 49 percent of that group declared that ethics already play a large part in their research. Similarly, 92 percent in the life sciences and health care industry agreed that having an ethical framework was necessary, while 64 percent of those data scientists stated that ethics are already a part of their research.

Last year, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) put pressure on both Congress and tech companies to take actions to protect user privacy and give them more information on how their personal data is collected and used. In its final report, released March 26, the FTC took aim at vendors whose mobile devices, apps and services collect the personal information of users in the name of giving those users more of what they want. However, the federal agency said it shouldn’t come at a greater cost to those users.

In its report, Protecting Consumer Privacy in the Era of Rapid Change: A Proposed Framework for Businesses and Policymakers, the FTC wanted the industry to develop policies and practices that err on the side of caution when dealing with consumer privacy. However, the commissioners are not relying solely on the good intentions of vendors, calling on Congress to enact general privacy legislation as well as laws around data security and breach notification. They also urged lawmakers to pass laws concerning data brokers, who buy and consolidate consumer information.