Draft code of ethics and standards for social data

/ December 8, 2014

The Big Boulder Initiative, a non-profit organisation that seeks to establish standards for social media companies, has recently published a Code of Ethics & Standards, which it describes as ‘a starting point for articulating and honoring the most ethical business practices surrounding social data and its use for organisations.’


Privacy: ‘There is an immediate need for industry stewardship to help provide more security and visibility into where personal data goes.’

  • Users should have ‘an ability to correct our own personal data where needed – ultimately acknowledging it is personal.’
  • Big Boulder Initiative will ‘develop proposed privacy standard forms for use across the eco-system to help platforms enforce their policies more uniformly’.
  • ‘Members of BBI believe that, in addition to honoring explicit privacy settings, organizations should honor implicit privacy preferences where possible. This may mean broadcasting a post without attribution, or with a blurring of the name.’
  • ‘BBI will strive to support more anonymous data batching where it is appropriate.’

Transparency: ‘Social data can be misleading without context.’

  • BBI will create and encourage the adoption of a standard scheme for metadata for social data with a standard for annotation on data and an industry benchmark on data quality…
  • Best practice is to include methodology notes, including method of collection, data context, and trace rate for data sources.
  • BBI will also advocate that management of deleted content is the collective responsibility of the eco-system. BBI will take the leadership to develop wider policies and technical standards to make the management of deleted content easier and more effective.

Education: ‘There is an opportunity to educate users on how their data is used – to help encourage best practice and ultimately promote a better process for better judgment.

  • The Big Boulder Initiative supports education efforts at all levels towards increasing the social data literacy through illustrative case studies.


About the contributor

Tom started out writing and editing for newspapers, consultancies and think tanks on topics including politics and corruption in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia, then moved into designing and managing election-related projects in countries including Myanmar, Bangladesh, Rwanda and Bolivia. After getting interested in what data and technology could add in those areas and elsewhere, he made a beeline for The Engine Room. Tom is trying to read all of the Internet, but mostly spends his time picking out useful resources and trends for organisations using technology in their work.

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