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LOTI sets out principles and pillars for data ethics in local government


Mark Say Managing Editor

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Signpost to Integrity, Respect, Ethics, Honesty
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The London Office of Technology and Innovation (LOTI) has set out eight principles and three pillars for the ethical use of data by local authorities.

It has published a draft Data Ethics Capabilities Framework as part of its programme to promote the responsible use of data and artificial intelligence in local government.

This comes soon after its launch of a data ethics case study library.

LOTI, which has around 20 London boroughs as members along with the Greater London Authority and London Councils, is working with Barnet, Brent, Camden and Hounslow Councils on the programme, which is aimed at supporting boroughs in making sound ethical decisions on the use of data.

The capabilities framework outlines a set of eight principles that have frequently emerged from different organisations’ engagement with citizens, and which LOTI says reflects its own conversations: privacy, accountability, safety and security, transparency and explainability, fairness and non-discrimination, human control of technology, professional responsibility and promotion of human values.

Trust, processes, empowerment

These are supported by three pillars, the first of which is fostering public trust through communicating with citizens, becoming more transparent in how data is used and moving towards more participatory processes.

Second is to develop meaningful and accountable processes through steps such as identifying any ethical risks in a project early on, and ensuring that once a project has begun it will be subject to continued monitoring, checks and guidance.

Third is to empower data users to be ethical, which can need some training for staff working with data and building the relevant culture in an organisation.

The case study library currently includes eight examples of how different organisations have set up processes for data ethics. They come from Brent, Essex and Camden Councils, Transport for London, the Metropolitan Police Service, Police Scotland, the NHS and the City of Amsterdam.

“As this is a new ethics domain for the public sector across the world, we are still seeking to establish what exactly best practice is and would look like in London,” LOTI says in the introduction to the library. “These case studies provide the foundation for our analysis and the subsequent support that we will deliver for LOTI boroughs as part of our ongoing data ethics investigation.”


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