It's important for customers to trust us with their data at the same level as they do with their money

The brief

Barclays UK wants to work with data in a way that builds trust with customers and society. They also want to document their decisions around data and data ethics in a standardised, consistent way to provide an evidence base for future use. As put by Barclays: ‘It’s important for customers to trust us with their data at the same level as they do with their money.’ 

To do this, Barclays decided to use a third-party tool that ensures they are working to an objective standard that others are confident in, and that also reflects their needs and Data Principles.

Our response

At the Open Data Institute (ODI), we worked with Barclays to adapt the Data Ethics Canvas to best suit their needs.

We worked closely with the Barclays team to develop a bespoke version of the Data Ethics Canvas which would fit with their particular business needs. This included embedding the 10 Barclays Group Data Principles into the tool and aligning these to specific areas of the canvas, and reflecting feedback from key stakeholders. 

After a successful pilot and some further adaptations (including making a second ‘lite’ version of the tool to ensure it was completed for smaller data projects), the Data Ethics Canvas was then rolled out to the full 250+ staff in the Data and Analytics team, who are responsible for overseeing data projects across Barclays UK. 

At the start of every new piece of work, analysts now work through the tool, documenting their decisions and following any suggested actions. If no adverse ethical findings are identified (and it’s decided that the project can and should continue), the completed Data Ethics Canvas is then filed with other project documentation. 


Barclays told us that the rollout of the Data Ethics Canvas throughout the organisation has been a breakthrough in terms of being able to demonstrate an ethics-thought process for every piece of data analytics, and has brought data ethics to the forefront of everyone’s minds. 

The Data Ethics Canvas has been fully embraced, with the Data and Analytics team completing around 20 per month. This has enabled them to build up a substantial library of use cases that they will be able to refer to in the future – whether that’s to guide future decisions internally, or to be used to demonstrate Barclays’ ethical thinking outwardly. Use of the canvas has increased confidence in the ethics of the data projects that Barclays UK are undertaking, and has also changed the course of some data projects (with analysts realising that they didn’t need to collect as much data as they initially thought, or feeling empowered to push back on certain decisions). 

Barclays UK received external recognition of its work in this field, having recently won the ‘Best Data and AI Ethics Initiative’ category in the 2021 DataIQ Awards. 

The ODI has been very flexible, and your experience has been brilliant. The project has been much more beneficial than if we’d have developed a tool ourselves, as it gives us a new lens – it’s an objective, external standard that others (and not just Barclays) are confident in. It’s been one of the most interesting pieces of work I’ve been a part of at Barclays.

– Russell Barton, Head of Information Management & Policy, Barclays UK