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Mayor of London publishes Emerging Technology Charter

23/09/21

Mark Say Managing Editor

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Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has published an Emerging Technology Charter as a set of guidelines for tech that relies on data used by public services and in the public realm.

Digital nodes over London

Published on the mayor’s website, it is said to be the first of its kind for a UK city and provides a set of practical and ethical guidelines on openness, digital rights, the use of data and sustainability of technology.

Khan said it sets common expectations for tech buyers and makers to underpin innovation, gives people a framework to ask questions about the technologies proposed or deployed in London, and is intended to provide more transparency on products and services that could pose a risk to privacy.

The charter sets four principles for implementing technology in London: be open; respect diversity, be trustworthy with people’s data; and be sustainable.

Among the more detailed recommendations are to: set out in plain English to the public what a technology can do and why it is being used; share data protection impact assessments with City Hall; hire a more diverse and inclusive workforce; ensure privacy by design; ensure any collection of personal data is justified; and follow the lead of the Information Commissioner’s Office on the use of biometric data.

Framework for different technologies

The mayor said it will provide a framework for technology such as driverless cars, facial recognition software, drones, sensor networks, robotics, mobility services, augmented and virtual reality, and automated and algorithmic decision making. 

It is intended to be voluntary but he has encouraged public services, elected representatives, people in the tech industry and interested Londoners to adopt it.

He said: “The tech sector in London has a huge role to play in rebuilding a fairer city for everyone as we recover from the pandemic.

“My new Emerging Tech Charter will play a significant part in that recovery, making sure both Londoners and tech businesses are using data efficiently to get the most out of technological innovation."

The charter was developed in the open over 2020-21 following consultation with subject experts from the Smart London Board, innovators, Londoners and elected representatives.

Fostering trust

Theo Blackwell, the chief digital officer for London, said: “We want to foster a trustworthy environment for innovation to flourish, and to do so responsibly.  When a new technology is deployed it’s not easy for Londoners to find out about how privacy risks have been identified and managed. 

“Our principles create a central register of assessments organisations are required to carry out by law.  We think it’s important for transparency and good practice that these are published in one place and open to scrutiny.”   

Image from iStock, IR Stone

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