Ethics in government should be guided by principles that reflect the values held by the society in which those decisions are made.
LOTI therefore suggests adopting common principles to guide all decisions about data: Creates Public Value, Transparency, Accountability, Privacy, Fairness and Safety.
These principles were chosen because LOTI research found them to be both relevant for local authorities and almost universally shared in other principles documents from around the world (such as from Camden, the Government Digital Service, or the OECD here or here).
To learn more about this research, or to read in more detail about each individual principle and other possible principles to include, read our guidance.
0. Creates Public Value
The zero-th principle, the default and fundamental principle for government in a democracy, government should always be trying to create public value, delivering positive outcomes for residents and the people they serve. Read more here about the LOTI Outcomes-Based Methodology which we suggest should guide data projects.
1. Transparency & Openness
To foster trust and enable accountability, local authorities need to be open about the technology they use, including why and how they use it, what decisions are made with it, and who is making those decisions.
As with all decisions and actions taken , residents will expect to hold a local authority accountable for any decisions made about them with data. Local authorities have a responsibility to create governance mechanisms that ensure they are accountable to the public.
Individuals (and occasionally groups of people or communities) have a right and expectation of privacy – that the government will do their utmost to protect and guarantee their privacy even when innovating in new ways with data.
New uses of data (and the decisions made with them) can very easily create new or amplify existing biases in how our society, organisations or data projects have functioned previously. To counter this, authorities must develop consistent standards and approaches to know how to eliminate this, to ensure that the benefits of data are felt by all, including (and especially) those historically marginalised by the benefits of innovation.
In some cases, advanced data uses or other technologies may even cause harm or compromise resident safety. Authorities need to actively work to ensure this doesn’t happen, and communicate how they have done this.
Camden created a Data Charter with its residents, which incorporates the following principles, which map onto those suggested by LOTI:
1. Build trust through transparency
2. Provide accountability and oversight
3. Make sure data is secure, safe and ethical
4. Make sure data is used for public good and be mindful of residents’ data
5. Be beneficial for all by using an outcomes-based approach
6. Be clear about how we use residents’ data
7. Protect individuals’ rights and privacy