Where privacy legal compliance seeks to answer the ‘can we?’ question in relation to the handling of personal information, data ethics seeks to answer the ‘should we?’ question.
Our Principal Anna Johnston is a member of the Xero Responsible Data Use Advisory Council, which offers this useful working definition:
“Data ethics is a field of ethics concerned with what is right and wrong when it comes to the generation, collection, processing, sharing and use of data.
Concepts such as data privacy, data security, and data retention are all integral to data ethics. However, data ethics goes further than compliance with rules, regulations and policies.
At heart, it is about extending dignity and fairness to the individuals represented in datasets. Data ethics focuses on issues (among others) like:
- who should benefit from the use of data
- how organizations can be more transparent and accountable in their data practices, and
- how to reduce harm and unintended consequences”.
Both compliance with privacy laws, and ensuring that data use projects meet ethical commitments, require strong ‘data governance’. Data governance typically refers to the planning, oversight, and control over management and use of data.
Salinger Privacy can work with you to identify and manage ethical issues in relation to the use of data, which go beyond legal compliance concerns.
Salinger Privacy has provided advice on data ethics issues for clients including:
- Victorian Department of Premier & Cabinet – on the establishment of the Victorian Centre for Data Insights
- NSW Ministry of Health – on the ethical implications of creating a synthetic dataset
- NSW Department of Education – we developed a series of four cascading data management assessments, to help data owners answer the legal and technical ‘can we’, ethical ‘should we’ and security ‘how to’ questions about safe data use for any particular project
- Australian Taxation Office – a Masterclass on Data Ethics for the Senior Executive Service within the ATO, and other invited agency representatives
- The Ethics Centre – on the testing and refinement of a set of responsible data use principles, and development of a model for a Data Ethics Impact Assessment, for a corporate client
- University of Technology, Sydney – on the ethical risks raised by ‘big data’ analytics
In 2021 we ran a Masterclass in Data, Privacy and Ethics as a free webinar for Privacy Awareness Week.
Our PIAs also routinely traverse community expectations, and we maintain a comprehensive library of research into data ethics and the role of trust in maintaining social licence.
We have also published Big Data – An Ethical Framework for Protecting Privacy, and explored how fairness, ethics, accountability and transparency (‘FEAT’) can be built into algorithmic systems in our guide to Algorithms, AI, and Automated Decisions.