In January this year I signed the datafordemocracy pledge as it struck a chord with my personal ethics and as the managing director of Data Agile, the ethics by which I run my business. I think it’s useful to lay out further what this means in terms of Data Agile and how it works with clients and suppliers.
The surge of data and its applications is everywhere and if you keeps a skeptical and open mind you will be aware of the potential for misuse of data. Nowhere is this made more apparent than in Cathy O’Neil’s book , Weapons of Math Destruction, How Big Data Increases In Inequality and Threatens Democracy. The book reveals how citizens find themselves denied job opportunities, unfairly criminalised, sacked from their jobs, and denied credit all because of biases encoded in the algorithms used to make decisions about people.
There is also on-going controversy over misuse of social media data in the democractic process and the attempts by nations to influence elections in other countries. The potential for and implications of misuse of data are profound and its apparent to me that a business that specialises in data should have an explicit policy regarding Data Ethics. So here it is.
In addition to signing the datafordemocracy pledge I have also adopted the Data Manifesto of the Royal Statistical Society. These combined, form the Data Ethics Policy of Data Agile as laid out below. These, I believe go beyond the legal minimums set out in legislation such as GDPR but we should strive for the highest standards possible and not just meet the legal minimum. I will be continually reviewing and updating this policy to ensure Data Agile maintains this commitment.
Furthermore, potential clients and suppliers of Data Agile will be assessed against these criteria. Failing to meet similar standards is likely to exclude such suppliers or clients from a potential relationship with Data Agile. However Data Agile would welcome the opportunity to work on projects helping clients move towards higher standards of Data Ethics.
Data Agile will adhere to the following
Consider informed and purposeful intent
Make best effort to guarantee security of data
Make best effort to protect anonymous data subjects
Practice responsible transparency
Identify, acknowledge and mitigate unfair bias
Hold up datasets with provenance
Respect relevant tensions of stakeholders
Exercise ethical imagination to increase benefit and prevent harm
Encourage and support the use of data in evidence based policy making
Use data to strengthen democracy and trust
Use data to drive prosperity
Use data to drive sustainability