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Of course we can … but should we?

Big Data: it’s big, messy, and fast-paced: and demand is endless for more data capture, more intertwingling of sources, more slicing, dicing, massaging, and filtering to reveal insights. These demands can result in uses perceived as mostly helpful (The year open data went worldwide) or mostly icky (How Companies Learn Your Secrets). Demand for new uses span UCLA – from accreditation to governmental review to instructional enhancement – making it crucial to assure the campus is acting with credibility and trust with respect to data about its faculty, students, and staff, regardless of domain.

A consistent set of expectations aligned with our culture, values, and expectations – transparency, shared governance, openness, academic freedom, public service, diversity, and accessibility to name a mouthful – form a basis for thinking about ethical and appropriate use. This is especially important when partnering with an external third party entity, as we increasingly do, to enclose “our” data in a bubblewrap of these expectations so that we don’t lose a voice in its use. We know how to write contracts about obligations, whether security or breach response or ownership of intellectual property; but extending values to the wider world is another matter.

Recommendations for a campus structure for big data governance and principles by which to consider proposed uses is the charge of the joint Academic Senate – Administration UCLA Data Governance Task Force (pretend there is a “big” right before “data”). Check back in March 2015 for emerging results.

PS. A very cool idea by Deborah Estrin for turning a “harm” into a “good”: What happens when each patient becomes their own “universe” of unique medical data?