Data ethics canvas: helping us make good data decisions from the start

Being ‘trusted with data’ is something we talk about a lot at the Co-op and part of the Data team’s role is to make sure that every team is thinking about data responsibly. To help, we provide guidance and practical support to colleagues across the business.

Last June we started introducing our Digital teams to the Open Data Institute’s (ODI) Data ethics canvas. The ‘canvas’ is a template. It’s designed to help teams anticipate potential ethical issues associated with data they’re using, or coming into contact with, right from the beginning of a project.

A year on, the canvas has been gladly received and well-used, and now we’re rolling it out further.

Here’s a call to anyone making data decisions to use the Data ethics canvas.

The benefits and why they matter

The canvas allows teams to design with data in mind, making sure we maximise its value and understand associated risks. Tackling data-related questions early, with support from our expert teams at the Co-op can help minimise or even avoid any rework or surprise challenges or unintended consequences. Dedicating time to map out and consider the possible consequences of their data decisions has helped teams move forward quickly and autonomously and feel confident that they’re doing the right thing for our members, colleagues and communities.

Data ethics are here to stay

A clear message is emerging from regulatory bodies: the ethical use of data is a growing priority, and rightly so. The ODI has referred to ‘trust as the new currency’ and responsible technology think tank Doteveryone has launched their ‘Consequence scanning’ event to help tech companies replace the ‘move fast and break things’ culture with a more considered approach.

Using the data ethics canvas for the first time

If you’re working on a new project, product or service, we recommend running a workshop to consider the decisions you’ll need to make about the data you’ll come into contact with.

The sooner in the process you do this, the better.

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To get the most out of your workshop you should:

1. Scope and prepare it beforehand. You can do this with fewer people but try to include the project expert, the product manager and a delivery manager who can later facilitate the workshop. You’ll need to get a shared understanding of the importance of the canvas, pin down the benefits of working through it in the context of your specific project and decide what you want to get from the workshop.

2. Invite your digital product or service team as well as data experts to the workshop itself. You’ll need to around 90 minutes of their time. The data representatives could be from data management, data protection and information security depending on the project so email co-opdatamanagement@coop.co.uk to find out whose expertise would be best suited.

3. Print out the canvas and the topic headers (you can download them). The bigger you print, the more space you have to write which makes things feel more inclusive. 

4. Enlist scribes from the delivery team. Make it clear that everyone can and should contribute but delivery managers usually feel comfortable being on their feet, taking a lead when it comes to capturing thoughts, encouraging participation and collaboration and generally making workshops more dynamic.

5. Together, work through the 15 topics.

Topics and discussion points  

The canvas has more detailed discussion prompts but here’s an overview of the questions it asks the team to think about.

  1. Data sources (Where does it come from?)
  2. Limitations with the data (Is the data poor quality or does it have a known bais?)
  3. Sharing this data (Who are we sharing it with? Why? How?)
  4. Laws, policies and classification (Are we in line with GDPR; the Data Protection Act 2018; Co-op Information Classification and Handling Policy; is the information confidential?)
  5. Rights over data sources (Do we have permission to do what we’re planning to do with it?)
  6. Existing ethical framework (Does it align with the Co-op ethical values?)
  7. Purpose for using this data (Is there a good, mutually beneficial reason for collecting or using the data? Does collecting the data make things better for members, or, can we gain insights into products from it?)
  8. Communicating your purpose (When we ask for data, are we explaining why, in the most appropriate way?)
  9. Positive effects (How can we increase the positive impact of the project and how can we measure it?)
  10. Negative effects (Are there any points where there’s potential for a data breach?)
  11. Minimising negative impact (Where can we reduce harm and how can we measure the impact?)
  12. Engaging with people (Describe how people can engage with you and your project, are the people affected able to appeal or request changes to the product or service)
  13. Risks and issues (Where are the financial and reputational risks?)
  14. Reviews and iterations (When should we revisit the canvas?)
  15. What happens next (Who’s doing what and where should they go for support if it’s needed?)

Checking in and following up

As with all workshops, you’re likely to have a list of actions. Check in with the team on their progress against them. Schedule in another workshop when a product or service enters a new delivery phase.

Wider data support for Co-op colleagues

The Data ethics canvas is an introduction to thinking about data, and there’s more information on our intranet and Confluence pages. Our ‘Privacy by design’ playbook gives teams design considerations at the next level of detail.

You can find more support on running the workshops in our Data ethics canvas guide. Or you can email co-opdatamanagement@coop.co.uk for further support.

Find out more

You can read our commitment to data ethics in the Co-op Way Report 2018, and we’ve recently published our internal data ethics policy. We’ll be sharing our latest news and progress on data ethics to other ODI partners and members at an ODI Fridays lunchtime lecture on 10 May 2019.

Dale Upton
Data education and awareness manager

One thought on “Data ethics canvas: helping us make good data decisions from the start

  1. Bill Wilson May 3, 2019 / 12:14 pm

    Good to hear that the canvas has stood up to sustained use, Rob. We’ve used it as the basis of our Data Ethics Policy at Kainos and are recommending it to customers. I can say from first-hand experience that the Co-op Data Privacy Playbook is a comprehensive resource, but for those without access to the Co-op intranet, the ODI has a couple of useful resources on the Data Canvas page here https://theodi.org/article/data-ethics-canvas/
    Including the original report “Helping organisations navigate ethical concerns in their data practices” and more recently a user guide

    Like

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