myths of anonymized data sets
In their talk they debunked myths of anonymized data sets, demonstrated how data visualization steers interpretation, and discussed how bias in models and data affect the working of algorithms. They invited their audience to engage in a thought experiment, a not so fictional case of a Dutch municipality replacing their old streetlights with smart streetlight. What sounds like a great smart city initiative with enormous potential, also raises issues concerning private ownership of a public infrastructure, questions concerning ownership and access to data collected by the smart streetlights. A member of the audience shared that her municipality indeed had purchased some smart streetlights. "The deal was just too tempting, but later we noticed that we have neither access to the data nor do we own them.”
Data Ethics Decision Aid
The urgency for ethics as a means of navigating through the many issues and the complex long term effects of data projects became clear in this and other responses from the audience. On their stand, Utrecht Data School staff informed the many visitors about the Data Ethics Decision Aid and how it can be of use when developing data projects.
The Data Ethics Decision Aid is a process for structurally assessing data projects in view of ethical issues. It helps development teams, project managers and decision makers to detect and address possible risks and ethical pitfalls. Developed in close cooperation with the City of Utrecht and their data analysts, DEDA functions as a dialogical tool for brainstorming, reviewing and deliberating data projects.
Consortium on data ethics
Licensed to the Association of Dutch Municipalities, it has been used for data ethics trainings at more than 50 municipalities. But there are also other areas where DEDA has been used (health and journalism). This year, UDS started to work with corporations and industry associations to test DEDA for implementation. An IOS Seed money grant supports to develop this initiative for building a consortium on data ethics.
DEDA as a research tool
While DEDA is a great tool for reviewing data projects, it also doubles as a research tool for participatory observation. UDS researchers utilize their DEDA workshops to learn more about how organisations work with data, which data projects they develop, and how they deal with data ethics. Recently, UDS received an IOS seed money grant for developing a research programme revolving around DEDA as method for analysing how data practices transform organisations. Currently, they work together with the Ministry of General Affairs in developing responsible data practices.