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Camden Council adopts data charter


Mark Say Managing Editor

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Camden Council has agreed to adopt a data charter to guide how it collects, processes and shares data ethically. 

It comes along with a set of commitments following a public engagement programme on how it uses data.

The charter was agreed last week by the council’s cabinet and comprises seven principles on: building trust through transparency; providing accountability and oversight; making sure data is secure, safe and ethical; making sure it is used for public good while being mindful of residents’ data; using an outcomes based approach; being clear about how the council uses residents’ data; and protecting individuals’ rights and privacy.

Commitments within the charter include creating a register of data sharing agreements by next month, publishing all data privacy impact assessments by June, and creating an area on the council’s open data portal to include complaints about data protection and breaches.

Longer term and ongoing commitments include creating the post of chief data officer, holding a residents’ panel annually to ensure data enabled projects are meeting the principles of the charter, identifying individuals responsible for its adoption across the council, and publishing materials to help people understand how it uses data.

Camden will also encourage its partners and other organisations to pledge to the principles.

Significant challenges

Councillor Richard Olszewski, cabinet member for finance and transformation, said: “We are aware  that there are significant challenges around ensuring the public’s trust in companies and organisations, like Camden Council, that collect, hold and use people’s personal information.

“Therefore, to ensure that we can demonstrate how Camden engages with data in a spirit of openness and transparency, we undertook a comprehensive and open process with our residents to develop a data charter. This provides us with a framework and set of principles to guide our approach to collecting, processing and sharing the data we hold above and beyond the legal basis set out in law.

“The data charter is also a call to action to all organisations in the borough – we need to work together to have the biggest impact on building trust in data sharing.”

A resident panel provided input to the content of the charter. It was facilitated by Involve, a public participation charity, with support from The Alan Turing Institute, the national institute for data science and artificial intelligence.

Important precedent

Dr Christopher Burr, ethics fellow at the institute, said: “Camden has set an important precedent for how residents and councils can and should collaborate to ensure data works for the public good.

“There are many positive ways that algorithms and data driven technologies can support human decision making within local government. But they often presuppose that consensus has been built around key ethical and social values, such as ‘fairness’ or ‘respect for privacy’. 

“Camden’s data charter does not take such foundational values for granted. Rather, it is built on an ongoing process of open and accessible dialogue, which is inclusive to diverse communities and voices. Our next step at The Alan Turing Institute is to use this example to support more councils use data in an ethical, responsible, and trustworthy manner.” 

Image form iStock, 3D Generator

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