Computer Science today is not just about programming computers to perform certain routine tasks. In the past computing intensive operations were primarily the focus of computer science. But today the focus has shifted to data intensive operations. And this data is of Exabyte and Zettabyte magnitude. Who is generating this data? What is this data being used for? How do enterprises use this data to promote their own growth? Where does the “individual person” feature, if he/she does feature, in how this data is being used?

More than just issues of privacy, security and data ownership, questions can also be raised about how algorithms are making social decisions, decisions that impact society at large. Further, do such applications limit the choices available to an individual? Do such applications determine (or at least greatly influence) the choices one makes? Being bombarded with catchy advertisements usually with a time-bound offer may “force” individuals to fall prey to the offer. Is such a practice “right”? In addition, other themes we may explore include threats to and possibilities for human freedom, concerns about depersonalization posed by new forms of technology, and how Facebook and other social networking sites impact moral and social development.

This inter-disciplinary symposium was held on Friday, 22 April 2016 (9 a.m. to 7 p.m.) at Marquette University. It was jointly organized by the Department of Mathematics, Statistics & Computer Science, and the Department of Philosophy at Marquette University and was sponsored by the Klingler College of Arts and Sciences.

The symposium sought to create an awareness and provide a forum for discussing ethical issues related to big data applications. Faculty and graduate students in Computer Science, Information Technology, Business Studies, Health Sciences, Law, Philosophy and other such departments from colleges and universities in the Milwaukee-Chicago area were the target audience. This was the first time that a symposium on this topic was being organized at Marquette University and in the Midwest area. Many business enterprises engaged with us in this discussion.