9: Data ethics

Because deep learning is such a powerful tool and can be used for so many things, it becomes particularly important that we consider the consequences of our choices. The philosophical study of ethics is the study of right and wrong, including how we can define those terms, recognize right and wrong actions, and understand the connection between actions and consequences.

The field of data ethics has been around for a long time, and there are many academics focused on this field. It is being used to help define policy in many jurisdictions; it is being used in companies big and small to consider how best to ensure good societal outcomes from product development; and it is being used by researchers who want to make sure that the work they are doing is used for good, and not for bad.


This lesson, taught by Dr Rachel Thomas, the founding director of the Center for Applied Data Ethics at the University of San Francisco, was recorded in 2020 during the previous iteration of this course. It discusses some useful ways of thinking about data ethics, particularly through the lens of a number of case studies. It is based partly on chapter 3 of the book.