What is the Data Ethics Canvas?
The Data Ethics Canvas is a tool for anyone who collects, shares or uses data.
It helps identify and manage ethical issues – at the start of a project that uses data, and throughout.
It encourages you to ask important questions about projects that use data, and reflect on the responses. These might be:
- What is your primary purpose for using data in this project?
- Who could be negatively affected by this project?
The Data Ethics Canvas provides a framework to develop ethical guidance that suits any context, whatever the project’s size or scope.
The Data Ethics Canvas is based on the Ethics Canvas, a higher-level framework for assessing the ethical implications of any project, developed by the ADAPT Centre for Digital Content Technology. The ADAPT Centre’s Ethics Canvas is itself based on the original Business Model Canvas by Alex Osterwalder.
What is data ethics?
The Open Data Institute defines data ethics as:
‘A branch of ethics that evaluates data practices with the potential to adversely impact on people and society – in data collection, sharing and use’
Data ethics relates to good practice around how data is collected, used and shared. It is especially relevant when data activities have the potential to impact people and society, directly or indirectly.
For example, an automated data model might make decisions about whether someone is eligible for a mortgage, or what insurance they can be offered. And decisions about what data to collect – and what to exclude – might affect groups in a society.
Data ethics should be addressed at all stages:
- Stewarding data – collecting it, maintaining it and sharing it
- Creating information from that data – in the form of products and services, analysis and insights, or stories and visualisations
- Deciding what to do – informed by information from multiple sources along with experience and understanding
The Data Ethics Canvas: tools and guidance
This guide and template explains when and how to use the Data Ethics Canvas, whether for an organisation or sector, and which aspects of data practice to consider in the process.
View the Data Ethics Canvas template and guide [Google Doc]
This paper explores the relationship between data ethics and legal compliance, some existing data ethics frameworks and ethical considerations in data collection, sharing and use.
Download the whitepaper
Get help using our Data Ethics Canvas
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Data and Public Services Toolkit
We’ve developed these tools, along with the Data Ethics Canvas, to help people designing and delivering public services to overcome barriers to using data effectively: