Pierre-Nicolas Schwab @ DISUMMIT 2017: “What we desperately need are ethical algorithms”

DiS17_Speaker_11:15_Pierre-Nicolas Schabb

Pierre-Nicolas Schwab is in charge of the Big Data/CRM program at RTBF, the French-speaking public broadcasting organization of Belgium. He holds an MSc in chemistry, a MBA in finance and a PhD in marketing.  As external consultant, he has carried out some 70 assignments in various industries, combining his passion for data and deep interest for consumer behaviors.

About Pierre and setting up rules to have more ethical algorithms

Pierre’s passion for linking data with consumer behaviour led him to share with us why there should be more focus to make algorithms more ethical. While algorithms are present everywhere, people have are just questioning their integrity. Little by little, the dark side of algorithms is becoming more visible, and -most likely- in a deliberate way.

The fact that organisations are using algorithms against the benefit of their user base raises eyebrows and threatens its relationship. For instance, in an era in which “fake news” is a common topic, personalising the content may be perceived as hiding some key facts which provide a full view of the context, breaking the users’ trust. This is crucial for companies like RTBF.

The reality is that algorithms are not neutral, and either by their technical limitations or by the vision of their developers, they pose serious threats. At the end, it is essential to set up rules towards algorithms design and use. This means that the whole algorithm cycle (design, implementation and follow-up) is subject to a transparency and governance process supported by showing the algorithms (taking them out from their “black box”) and educating the users on how the algorithms work.

Organisations need to include rules and procedures towards algorithms. This is key to ensure both a healthy reputation and relationship with their users.

Our favorite phrase from Pierre-Nicolas’s presentation

“Cow-boy behaviors must end!”


We thank Pierre for the handy tips he shared to help organisations to aim for more ethical algorithms, hoping that many organisations consider them!

Pierre’s interview:

Pierre’s presentation recording:

Pierre’s deck:

[To be uploaded asap]

Pierre’s presentation drawing:


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