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Ethical Review Big Data and official statistics

The ethical review and development of guidelines associated with the use of Big Data in official statistics is part of the Big Data study on ethical, communication, legal and skills issues commissioned by Eurostat.

In the light of the envisaged use of Big Data for the production of official statistics, the first step in this activity was an assessment of the ESS common quality framework[2] in terms of ethical considerations. In the context of Big Data, issues related to data ownership, privacy and reputation are more complex than with traditional data, and public perception about these issues can impact on the image of official statistics. The review was based on an analysis of ongoing projects related to Big Data and official statistics and included a consultation of various stakeholders.

It identified a number of ethical issues linked to the fact that Big Data sources are held by private entities, in particular:

  • accessing data that are suitable for statistical purposes
  • dependence on a certain data provider
  • risk of manipulation of data by the actors involved
  • availability of information to evaluate the quality of the data sources
  • development of partnerships and exchange of information between NSIs and private entities
  • ensuring transparency of the methods used by Big Data analytics to obtain statistical output.

Ethical Review of using Big Data sources for official Statistics

First draft of ethical guidelines for Big Data usage in the context of European Statisitcs


[2] The Principles of the ESS Code of Practice together with general quality management principles (see the Preamble to the Code of Practice, September 2011)