NEWS17 December 2021

Location data ethics project completed

Data analytics News Privacy Public Sector UK

UK – The Geospatial Commission has published the findings of one of the first public dialogues on location data ethics, following a project carried out with social purpose consultancy Traverse and the Ada Lovelace Institute.

Map of London

The findings, which will inform a government report on the subject to be published next year, will focus on how data is used, accountability, transparency and giving people agency on how their data is used.

The project was launched in March and was co-funded by the Geospatial Commission and the UK Research and Innovation’s Sciencewise programme.

The research is based on four online workshops which were carried out with 85 people from around the UK, involving hearing presentations from seven location data specialists and considering the opportunities and ethical considerations of location data.

The consultation included focus groups with communities who might be specifically impacted by location data use, including women who have experienced abuse, refugees and asylum seekers, and disabled people.

The main workshops also included an increased number of digitally excluded people and Black British people.

Edwina Dunn, independent commissioner of the Geospatial Commission and interim chair of the Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation, said: “This independent report on public attitudes about location data is one of the first of its kind and I look forward to exploring how it can help inform the Geospatial Commission’s work on location data ethics.

“The findings will also play an important role in supporting the government’s vital work to enable the trustworthy use of data and artificial intelligence.”

Skye McCool, senior consultant at Traverse, said: “The use of location data impacts us all, but some communities are more likely to be affected than others.

“We designed an inclusive process to make sure people from different communities across the UK were listened to, particularly those who are often excluded.”

Aidan Peppin, senior researcher at Ada Lovelace Institute, said: “There is a wealth of research about public attitudes towards data, but very little of it focuses on people’s views towards location data specifically.

“This dialogue has provided crucial insight that addresses this gap. It reminds us that the public have thoughtful, nuanced views about the ethics of data use when given the time and space to explore information about it.”