Ethical data - we declare it a basic human right

Jan 27 2020

We’re all familiar with the data scandals that have been dominating press stories of late and it's something that affects every one of us on a daily basis. Advances in digital tech, combined with increased adoption, have seen our grip over what others do with our data, quite literally, spinning out of control.

With this in mind, we’re keen to support Open Data Manchester’s work in this space. Their recent Declaration project is informed by a broad range of sectors and has been stress tested against the hurdles each organisation may face in order to comply with ethical data practices.

Open Data Manchester
Open Data Manchester

Who better to explain the work and everything it stands for than its CEO and Co-Founder, Julian Tait...

Can you tell us a bit about The Declaration?

The Declaration is created by people and organisations that want to make the right decisions with data. Through taking a stand and signing up to a 'Statement of Intent’ outlining how they will create and use data ethically, legally and in a socially positive way, signatories seek to differentiate themselves from those that seek to exploit data without regard for its consequence.

Open Data Manchester is developing the Declaration as we believe that Greater Manchester as a crucible of new ideas and endeavour, can lead the way in bringing people that want to change the way data is used together, so creating benefits for all of society.

The million dollar question, who’s responsible for the ethical use of data?

We all create and use data and therefore we are all responsible to some degree. There are defined legal obligations when using data, but there is also a growing understanding of using data ethically and its impact socially, economically and environmentally. As data producers it is often hard to understand who uses or how our data gets used too.

In your opinion, which sector faces the most challenges?

Although all sectors face challenges, I think the public sector faces the greatest, as it seeks to balance the increased needs and expectations of citizens whilst also having diminished resources to be able to assess the implications of certain types of data use.

At this point in time, no doubt every organisation’s policies are ever-changing, who do you think we can learn the most from and why?

The world of data is a very complex environment, but there are many organisations doing good work in this space. The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) creates guidance as do the Open Data Institute with their Data Ethics Canvas. Organisations such as the Waag Society in Amsterdam develop data practice from a citizen centric focus too.

How do you plan to keep the framework accurate and representative?

The Declaration is not a static document. Data practice is always evolving and new ways of working are emerging. It is one of the reasons why the Declaration has to be pragmatic rather than absolute. As part of its development we are creating a governance regime that will enable the Declaration to maintain its relevance and utility as new practice emerges.

When’s the plan to launch and implement it?

We are hoping that we’ll have the draft version of the Declaration in January 2020. After necessary revisions we’ll then launch version 1.0 of the Declaration in March so that it can be adopted more widely. In parallel to this, the framework that allows people to comply with the Declaration’s statement of intent will be created. From the very start the Declaration has been a collective endeavour and it has sought to represent the aspirations and concerns of all the individuals and organisations that have participated. The more people who get involved with the development and implementation of the Declaration the better it becomes.

It’s important to acknowledge the amount of work that’s gone into creating this initiative so that it’s representative of the challenges we face here in Greater Manchester. This is just the first step in the journey towards creating a best practice example that hopefully other city regions can take inspiration from, showcasing our progressive ideas around ethical data.

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