The Ethics of Data Collection

Leaders are asked for data all the time in order to make more informed decisions.

Behind the data we want are people. After all, humans do build the software. We must consider the ethics in every data project we take on. “Individuals must be sensitive to ethical issues before they can behave ethically”

Have you ever been asked to show data for your team? Perhaps it’s about bug, or customer data, or even job satisfaction or stay interviews. At some point, we are all doing research.
Do we ever stop to think about the real questions we are trying to answer?
Or that there are humans behind the data we are looking to get?

Data ethics encompasses the moral obligations of gathering, protecting, and using personally identifiable information and how it affects individuals. Data ethics asks, ‘Is this the right thing to do?’ and ‘Can we do better?’

My teams, Developer Advocacy and the Velocity Lab, were created to understand our people and work through data (qualitative and quantitative), and amplify and advocate for things that improve our work and well-being in engineering. That comes with a lot of understanding (and sometimes helping define) the questions leaders think they want, and working with people.

In this talk, I will discuss an overview of my team’s approach to data ethics and the rights of research participants. We will go over some scenarios which may seem innocent enough at first glance, but may not be the ethically right thing to do. Sometimes, we need to push back.

Walk away with questions to consider each time you must think through some of the most common questions we are asked in software development.


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