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DCMS publishes Data Ethics Framework



Seven principles come with workbook and consultation on how Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation should be run

The Government has set out its new ethics framework for how data should be used by the public sector, with seven principles and a focus on the need for technology, policy and operational specialists to work together.

It follows the publication two years ago of a guide on data science ethics and comes with a workbook to record ethical decisions made about a project.

Writing in the foreword of the Data Ethics Framework, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Matt Hancock, says it reflects the need for collective standards and ethical frameworks in response to rapid changes in technology, and that ethics and innovation are not mutually exclusive.

“Thinking carefully about how we use our data can help us be better at innovating when we use it,” he says.

“Our new Data Ethics Framework sets out clear principles for how data should be used in the public sector. It will help us maximise the value of data whilst also setting the highest standards for transparency and accountability when building or buying new data technology.”

Need for clarity

It includes seven principles for projects, services or software procurement, beginning with being clear about the user need and intended public benefit, then being aware of relevant legislation and codes of practice.

The others are: use data that is proportionate to user need; understand the limitations of data; ensure robust practices and work within your skillset; make your work transparent and be accountable; and embed data use responsibly.

They come with a workbook to help decide how to align them with a project and design an implementation plan that includes mitigating risks.

Hancock also launched a consultation on how the new Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation should be run. It is being set up in response to concerns about the implications of using more data and artificial intelligence in public and private sector services.

Among the questions in the consultation are how best it can work with other institutions, what activities should it undertake and what projects should it prioritise.

The centre will be chaired by Roger Taylor, co-founder of Dr Foster, a provider of healthcare data management and analysis. He has also been chair of the Open Public Services Network at the Royal Society of Arts.

Image from GOV.UK, Open Government Licence v3.0

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