Ethics has emerged as a lateral theme throughout the SOCIAM research and has become increasingly important over time. Ethical behaviour is a key social dimension of social machines, and providing frameworks and principles to guide responsible social machine engineering is an important challenge. Throughout our work, we have engaged in recognising and discussing the importance of ethical concerns connected to data handling, storage, ownership, transparency, and privacy.
We have explored opportunities for social machine innovation in this space, such as development of ‘ethical bots’ that mine the Terms and Conditions that underpin online services and social platforms. In synergy with related projects involving SOCIAM members, we have also dealt with the ethical governance of 'Smart Societies', an EU project tackling major societal challenges through engineered systems made up of people and machines, as well as as RCUK's medical and administrative 'Big Data' initiative which involve ethics, governance and public involvement aspects.