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James Smith

My research focuses on ethical concerns around the variety aspect of Big Data. Variety in Big Data means both the different kinds of data gathered on an individual, and the same kind of data gathered on an individual from different sources that can be used to validate the data. Having a variety of data on an individual allows for data exploration, which is when machine learning experiments are run on a data set in an attempt to discover novel, useful information about an individual, such as their preferences, susceptibilities, and the state of their mental and physical health. This allows companies or governments to create a “data double”, a digital version of an individual that informs the companies or governments on how best to influence the individual’s behaviour or decision-making based on their character traits and susceptibilities at the time. This process of persuasion is both powerful and subtle and has been adopted to influence product choices and political opinions in individuals.

Supervisor: Dr Tanya de Villiers-Botha