The UK Data Service welcomes Open Data Manchester’s Declaration for responsible and intelligent data practice.
Open Data Manchester (ODM) is a not-for-profit Community Interest Company which turned 10 this year and which brings together a diverse group of open data advocates who promote good data practice, support organisations to release data and help people to use it.
Over the course of eighteen months, ODM conducted collaborative discussions aimed at producing not just a statement of intent, but also a vehicle for encouraging and maintaining best practice across Greater Manchester.
The Declaration recognises that data are part of a toolkit and have strengths and limitations. It is very clear on rights to privacy and that it is imperative that an ethical system is developed for using people’s data, which earns people’s trust, supports local people’s aspirations and prioritises the value the data can bring to the region.
The Declaration also emphasises that best attempts should be made to overcome biases and assumptions that exists within any data or digital systems and that the human impact of data collection be considered, with work undertaken to reduce or prevent unexpected consequences within data collection and processing.
The Declaration is clear and forthright that data collectors and processors have a legal, moral and ethical duty to handle data carefully. It embraces the principles of transparency and consent (including people’s right to withdraw consent). The Declaration also sets the expectations that only the minimum data needed will be collected and that all data will be collect and processed using a privacy-by-design approach. The Declaration expects that open and transparent governance will support this approach.
Improving data knowledge and skills is another important element of the Declaration, recognising this as an important part of sharing knowledge, developing collaboration and making data better work for all in the region.
Another key point in the Declaration is (understandably) a commitment to ensuring data is open where possible, especially data underpinning local policy decisions and democratic processes.
A final commitment is to reducing the environmental impact of data collection processing, recognising the climate change we are living through.
ODM plans to develop an implementation framework to turn the declaration into real actions and support for organisations.
Why is the Declaration important?
The Declaration was built collaboratively, working with data practitioners from public, private, academic, civil-society and voluntary organisations, ensuring that this is not an imposed or ‘top down’ approach, but one which truly builds on the expertise of people from a variety of areas.
Furthermore, we live in a world where we cannot always be entirely sure of the motives of data collectors and processors nor what they will do with our data. Where is a lack of transparency or trust, there is unease and sometimes uncovered examples of data misuse.
The Declaration is a positive starting point for countering some of these problems.
We welcome Open Data Manchester’s Declaration for responsible and intelligent data practice and look forward to discovering how it changes the open data landscape in Greater Manchester and perhaps further afield.
The UK Data Service holds different levels of data within its collection, including open data such as aggregate UK Census data and most of our international macrodata collection. These data have clear provenance in that they are collected by reputable national and international organisations and clear concern for privacy in that they are carefully aggregated so that individuals cannot be identified.
Other data we hold in the collection also has clear provenance and we demonstrate transparency in how it can be accessed and used. Our safeguarded data may have residual risk of disclosure and are consequently only available to registered users and for particular uses. Where data could potentially be identifiable (controlled data), they are held under our strictest control with additional training and restrictions.
Some previous blog posts give more information on how we approach access to data in the collection: Access to sensitive data for research: ‘The 5 Safes’, Becoming a safe researcher.
Read Open Data Manchester’s Declaration for responsible and intelligent data practice.