Presented By O'Reilly and Cloudera
Make Data Work
Sept 29–Oct 1, 2015 • New York, NY

Protecting the humanity in data I: Ethics of algorithms/ethics of data activism/targeting services without excluding the needy

Jake Porway (DataKind), Cathy O'Neil (Weapons of Math Destruction), Vladimir Dubovskiy (, Kamalesh Rao (DataKind)
1:15pm–1:55pm Wednesday, 09/30/2015
Law, Ethics, & Open Data
Location: 3D 04/09 Level: Intermediate
Average rating: *****
(5.00, 2 ratings)

DataKind founder and executive Jake Porway hosts two sessions back-to-back that explore ethical questions in data science projects.

In this first session, Cathy O’Neil, author of Weapons of Math Destruction, will present on the ethics of algorithms; Vlad Dubovskiy, Data Scientist at, will present on the ethics of data activism and Kamalesh Rao, DataKind volunteer, will present on his recent project with social enterprise Simpa Networks targeting services without excluding the needy.

The ethics of algorithms – Cathy O’Neil
Mathematical modeling has become a pervasive and destructive force in society—in finance, education, medicine, politics, and the workplace. How are current models exacerbating inequality and endangering democracy and how we might rein them in?

The ethics of data activism – Vlad Dubovskiy
Data for good can hurt a social mission. How does one expose data-backed underfunding of schools in low income communities without being in the business of public shaming, alienating public figures and hurting a broader cause of education reform?

Targeting services without excluding the needy – Kamalesh Rao
Simpa Networks is a technology company with a bold mission: to make modern energy simple, affordable, and accessible for everyone. In a project financially underwritten by MasterCard, DataKind volunteers are using Simpa Networks’ historical data on customer payment behavior, and to predict which new applicants are likely to be a good fit for their model and able to successfully unlock the system. More customers successfully making payments means more families and households with reliable access to clean electricity they wouldn’t have had otherwise.

Stay put for our second session and don’t miss Jake’s talk on the main stage on October 1!

Photo of Jake Porway

Jake Porway


Jake Porway is the founder and executive director of DataKind, a nonprofit that harnesses the power of data science in the service of humanity. He is an alum of the New York Times R&D Lab and has worked at Google and Bell Labs. A recognized leader in the Data for Good Movement, he has spoken at IBM, Microsoft, Google, and the White House. Jake is also a PopTech Social Innovation fellow and a National Geographic Emerging Explorer. He holds a BS in computer science from Columbia University and an MS and PhD in statistics from UCLA.

Photo of Cathy O'Neil

Cathy O'Neil

Weapons of Math Destruction

Cathy O’Neil a data scientist for the startup media company Intent Media. Cathy began her career as a postdoc in MIT’s Math Department. She has been a professor at Barnard College, where she published a number of research papers in arithmetic algebraic geometry, and worked as a quant for the hedge fund D.E. Shaw in the middle of the credit crisis and for RiskMetrics, a risk software company that assesses risk for the holdings of hedge funds and banks. Cathy holds a PhD in math from Harvard.

Photo of Vladimir Dubovskiy

Vladimir Dubovskiy

Vlad is a Chief Data Scientist at Aside from working with “datasets that change mindsets”, Vlad likes good design, nature and backpacking. Before he was a co-founder at The Unreasonable Institute and Startup Festival, India. He’s currently learning construction by building a DIY tiny house on wheels.

Photo of Kamalesh Rao

Kamalesh Rao


Kamalesh Rao is a North Carolina native who moved to New York City during the second term of Grover Cleveland. He entered the family trade because he was not cool, talented, or brave enough to attempt a career in something interesting or worthwhile like dance, parkour, or accounting. He really likes to write about himself in the third person.