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Oxford University Oxford Internet Institute

A multidisciplinary research and teaching department of the University of Oxford, dedicated to the social science of the Internet.

Ethics and Philosophy of Information

Information is the fundamental component of the technological advances that characterise our time. Increasing technological interactions between people, organisations, and artefacts generate, transmit, and process immense quantities of data about the social and physical world at an unprecedented rate and scale. We are investigating the conceptual aspects of such radical transformations of reality brought about by this information revolution.

We aim to understand the power of information and the influence of information technologies, which have come to mediate human experience in the modern world. Our ultimate goal is to advance philosophically robust assessment and design of emerging technologically-mediated realities.

People: Luciano FloridiPatrick Allo, Brent Mittelstadt, Mariarosaria Taddeo, James WilliamsCorinne Cath

Research

If we’re to create good law and public policy, we must have a deep and clear understanding of the nature and power of information, and how ICTs are mediating and shaping our experience of the modern world. Areas we’re working  on include work towards the development of a European framework for the ethical use of big data (such as genomic information) in biomedical research; the civic responsibilities of increasingly powerful online service providers, for example when asked to comply with state-sponsored filtering and surveillance regimes; the adequacy of existing laws and ethical frameworks for regulation of cyber warfare; the ethics of persuasive technologies and environments (think the UK Cabinet Office’s behavioural insights team, aka the ‘nudge unit’); and issues around the regulation and ethics of search engines, including the ‘right to be forgotten’.

Selected Publications

The below are a few publications in this area: for complete lists of outputs, please refer to individual faculty biographies.

  • Mittelstadt, B.D. and Floridi, L. (2016)  “The Ethics of Big Data: Current and Foreseeable Issues in Biomedical Contexts.”, Science and engineering ethics. 22 (2) 303-341.
  • Stahl, B.C., Timmermans, J. and Mittelstadt, B.D. (2016)  “The ethics of computing: A survey of the computing-oriented literature“, ACM Computing Surveys. 48 (4).

Our research is organised in eight broad themes, where the Internet is having a significant effect on social, economic and political activity worldwide.