Loyola University Chicago

Department of Computer Science


Honors Students Author Book on Big Data and Discrimination

Honors Students Author Book on Big Data and Discrimination

Students in Dr. Mark Albert's Honors course on automated discrimination.

Big data meets big ethical problems for students in Dr. Mark Albert’s computer science course this semester.

The honors students enrolled in this unique class are working to put together a textbook that explains the rise of big data and its implications on discrimination and privacy concerns.

 Intended for beginners in the field of data science, the book explores legal and ethical issues with the collection and use of seemingly innocuous personal data we share on social networks and other websites.

“The book will serve as a source of information to provoke, spread, and assist discussion about the fundamental issues in applying current discriminatory policies to current practices, and to bringing to light additional concerns in the use of big data.”

The 30 students in the class oversee the entire production process of the book, from text editing to publicity and advertising. The book now has a Kickstarter campaign to help cover the publishing costs of the book, which will be available in print and online later this year. Backers pledging $20 or more will receive a PDF copy of the book as well as recognition for their donation.

Students Gage Grapperhaus and Anne Miller work on the advertising and publicity team. Grapperhaus is also working on a chapter of the book which explains how personal data can be used to fuel discrimination in processes that were once protected, such as applying for bank loans. Miller is interested in the use of big data by the healthcare industry to work around healthcare privacy laws.

Although neither of them have experience in the computer science field, they said taking this honors course has opened their eyes to the topic and its relevance in society.

"The great part of the Honors program is that it exposes you to new fields and experiences," Miller said.

Grapperhaus said they hope the book can work to inform others about the Big Data and what it means for them.

“It’s part of our everyday life,” he said. “You need to understand how it works to avoid being used.”