The Epistemology of Non-distributive Profiles

Philosophy and Technology 33 (3):379-409 (2020)
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The distinction between distributive and non-distributive profiles figures prominently in current evaluations of the ethical and epistemological risks that are associated with automated profiling practices. The diagnosis that non-distributive profiles may coincidentally situate an individual in the wrong category is often perceived as the central shortcoming of such profiles. According to this diagnosis, most risks can be retraced to the use of non-universal generalisations and various other statistical associations. This article develops a top-down analysis of non-distributive profiles in which this fallibility of non-distributive profiles is no longer central. Instead, it focuses on how profiling creates various asymmetries between an individual data-subject and a profiler. The emergence of informational, interest, and perspectival asymmetries between data-subject and profiler explains how non-distributive profiles weaken the epistemic position of a profiled individual. This alternative analysis provides a more balanced assessment of the epistemic risks associated with non-distributive profiles.



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Patrick Allo
Vrije Universiteit Brussel