‘Who’s watching? Surveillance, big data and applied ethics in the digital age.’

December 2, 2020 - December 3, 2020
University of New England

The University of New England
Armidale 2350


Australian Catholic University
University of Strathclyde


University of New England (Australia)
Monash University
University of Notre Dame Australia
Adrian Walsh
University of New England

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‘Who’s watching? Surveillance, big data and applied ethics in the digital age.’

Over the past 20 years large institutions—be they corporations or government agencies—have developed, via the collection and use of big data sets, a remarkable ability to track and predict individual and group behaviours. The techniques are impressive and, furthermore, give rise, especially in the health arena, to many potential benefits. At the same time, there is growing unease about both (i) the surveillance this seems to involve and (ii) the growing potential for extensive manipulation of the public at large.

In this conference we would like to explore, amongst other things, the ethical implications of Big Data for us as a society and for professionals working with such data sets.

  • What, if anything, is wrong with Big Data? Are there genuine reasons for concern?
  • Does Big Data represent an unacceptable form of surveillance that threatens our freedom in a significant way?
  • What obligations might professionals working with Big Data have with respect to the obtaining of such information and the use to which this data is put?
  • From an historical point of view what distinguishes this system of data collection from earlier systems of collection? Is there something morally significant about any such differences?
  • What limits might there to the collection of such data?


Our keynote speakers are:

  • Dr Angela Daly, (University of Strathclyde, Glasgow)
  • Professor Tony Coady (University of Melbourne)
  • Professor Moira Paterson (Law at Monash Unviersity)

 Start time is 8:30AM Australian Eastern Daylight Time.

Zoom Link: https://une-au.zoom.us/j/88493995054

For the Zoom password, please email  [email protected]

Program PDF: https://www.une.edu.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0009/345096/AAPAE-2020-conference-program.pdf

2nd December

8:45AM – Mark Perry (UNE)  ‘The Façade of Privacy Protection? – the Rise of the Digital Panopticon’ (Opening Address)

9:00AM - Angela Daly (University of Strathclyde, Glasgow), ‘Laundering AI: Ethics Washing, Regulation and Reality’ (Keynote)

10:00AM - Simon Burgess and Matthew Wysel (UNE) “China’s social credit system: How robust is the human rights critique?”

10:30AM - Ben Robinson (University of Sydney) “Firm surveillance of worker productivity: empirical and ethical questions.”

11:00AM - Gordon Young (Ethilogical Consulting) “Big Data and Unnatural Justice: Scaling accountability to meet power concentrations.”

11:30AM - Break

12:00PM - Joseph Naimo (University of Notre Dame) - “Abuse and Misuse of Substitute Decision-Making (SDM) Powers: Guardianship and Administration Law and Associated Governance Institutions in the Spotlight.”

12:30PM - Break

2:00PM - Matt Allen (UNE) - “Bentham and Surveillance beyond the panopticon: Inspection, Information and Police.”

2:30PM - Caitlin Rowe (RMIT) - “Libraries, Democracy and Digital Citizens in a Contemporary Surveillance Culture.”

3:00PM - Alan Tapper and Andrew Hunter (Curtin) - “Three viewpoints on the digital world.”

3:330PM - Andrew Tulloch (UNE) - “Big Data: Republican Freedom and neoliberalism.”

4:00PM – Break

4:15PM - C.A.J. Coady (University of Melbourne) - “Religion, War and Terrorism.” (Keynote)

3rd December

9:00AM - Moira Paterson (Monash University) - “Big Personal Data and its potential risks” (Keynote)

10:00AM - Hugh Breakey, Charles Sampford and Melea Lewis (Griffith University) - “Integrity and Substantive Approaches to Institutional Reform: Turning Ethics Inside Out.”

10:30AM - Bligh Grant and Uday Kulkarni (UTS) - “Watching the watchers: Empirical and ethical dimensions of ICT management in NSW local government.”

11:00AM – Michael Vincent (UQ) - “Professional Ethics and the Authority of Philosophy.”

11:30AM - Break

12:00PM -  Rob Banks (UNE) - “The ethical dimension(s) of big data in agriculture.”

12:30PM – William Wentworth (UOW) - "Weight Watchers: Producing obesity under surveillance capitalism"

1PM - Break

1:45PM - Debra Comer and Michael Schwartz (Hofstra University, New York and RMIT) - “Michael Walzer, Diane Whiteley, Avishai Margalit & the Me-Too Movement.”

2:15PM - Alan Tapper (Curtin) - “Jeffrey Reiman and the Golden Rule.”

2:45PM – Leila Toiviainen (University of Tasmania) - “Is conversation a form of data transmission or something else, something more?”

3:15PM – Break

3:30PM - Matt Allen (UNE) -“Surveillance, Knowledge, Power: Bentham, Zuboff and Foucault.”

4:00PM - Daniel Brennan (Bond University) -  “How Might Hannah Arendt Approach Questions of Big Data?”

4:30PM - Howard Harris (UniSA) - “Big Data, scapegoat or hero – Ethical insights from René Girard.”

5:00PM - Adrian Walsh (UNE) - “Big Data and the role of the empirical in applied ethics – in defence of moderate immunity.”

5:30PM - End of conference

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December 3, 2020, 12:00pm +10:00

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