Data ethics – Keeping people at the centre

Anne Gilbert

TINZ Public Sector Project Manager

Director GCSB, Andrew Hampton, chairs the Leaders Integrity Forum, March 2019

Data Ethics was the topic of rich and well considered discussion at the public sector Leaders Integrity Forum held in March. It was co-hosted by Transparency International New Zealand (TINZ) and the Office of the Auditor General (OAG).

The session lived up to its name through the skilled chairing of Andrew Hampton (Director General of the Government Communications Security Bureau). Presentations were provided by Liz McPherson (Government Statistician) and Jon Duffy (Assistant Privacy Commissioner).   

All three speakers recognised that data is an incredibly valuable resource. It has the power to do great good, but only whilst people have trust and confidence in how data is used.  

Data ethics

Govt Statistician &
Chief Data Steward, Liz MacPherson, addresses the Leaders Integrity Forum, March 2019

Data ethics is about making moral judgements on how data is collected and analysed, while also being transparent about those judgements.   It means being very clear about how people’s personal information is protected, what data they are being asked to provide, and how their data is analysed. For example,

Assistant Privacy Commissioner, Jon Duffy, addresses the Leaders Integrity Forum, March 2019

transparency of algorithm coding is a key requirement to maintain public trust in what data is being used and for what purpose. 

Keeping people at the centre of data policy and strategy is essential to ensure decision-making tools reflect community and stakeholder expectations.

Use of effective communications requires common jargon-free terminology to gain stakeholders’ trust and engagement, while not misleading them. When there is possible doubt about people’s perceptions and opinions on useage of their data , it is essential to pro-actively seek to engage with them, to gain respect and understanding.   

The OAG provides a more detailed blog on each of the Leaders Integrity Forums.