Data Science and the Decline of Liberal Law and Ethics

13 Pages Posted: 14 Jul 2020 Last revised: 2 Oct 2020

See all articles by Sebastian Benthall

Sebastian Benthall

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Jake Goldenfein

Melbourne Law School - University of Melbourne

Date Written: June 22, 2020

Abstract

The law and ethics of Western democratic states have their basis in liberalism, and this extends to legal regulation and ethical discussion of technology and businesses doing data processing. We argue that these forms of regulation and ethical analysis are largely incompatible with the techno-political and techno-economic dimensions of data science. Over the course of the 20th century, computer science, cognitive psychology, operations research, statistics and other fields, have converged on an understanding of utility-maximizing agency that, combined with a neo-liberal legal configuration, guarantees the supremacy of private corporations over individuals that would know and defend their own individual interests. In particular, platforms have inverted the relationship between individuals and the market, making the former public and the latter private. It is this crisis of liberalism, and the degraded status of the individual in their relationship to data science platforms, that is at the heart of data science ethics. Therefore, data science ethics cannot be addressed from within liberalism; it requires new theory that builds on data science itself.

Keywords: data science, legal theory, liberalism, cybernetics, control, privacy, data protection, manipulation

Suggested Citation

Benthall, Sebastian and Goldenfein, Jake, Data Science and the Decline of Liberal Law and Ethics (June 22, 2020). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3632577 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3632577

Sebastian Benthall

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Jake Goldenfein (Contact Author)

Melbourne Law School - University of Melbourne ( email )

185 Pelham Street
Melbourne, VIC 3010
Australia

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