The findings of an independent public dialogue exploring location data ethics we delivered alongside researchers from the Ada Lovelace Institute, have been published by the Geospatial Commission.
As one of the first public dialogues on location data in the UK, the findings outlined in the report provide evidence on public perceptions about location data use, offering valuable insights into what citizens believe are the key benefits and concerns.
The project was launched in March and co-funded by the Geospatial Commission and the UK Research and Innovation’s Sciencewise programme.
People taking part in the public dialogue highlighted four key areas that are important to ethical location data use:
- Intent: how data is used and who benefits are key in considering ethics and trustworthiness
- Accountability: data collectors should be accountable to regulators and data subjects
- Transparency: information on use, access, and data storage should be succinct and accessible
- Agency: consent should offer genuine choice to people about how their data is used
85 people from around the UK took part in the conversation as part of four online workshops. They also heard presentations from seven location data specialists and considered the opportunities and ethical considerations of location data.
The consultation included focus groups with communities who might be specifically impacted by location data use. These included 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.
The findings of the report will inform government guidance on location data ethics to be published next year.
Skye McCool, senior consultant at Traverse, said:
“Public dialogue and deliberation were the ideal methodologies to involve citizens in discussions on a timely and complex topic like location data. It gave participants the space and time they needed to learn and reflect on the subject and consider a range of views as they shaped their own opinions.
“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. They were not only involved in the conversation about how their data is used, but also helped shape the dialogue design.”
Aidan Peppin, senior researcher at Ada Lovelace Institute, commented:
“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.
“These dialogue findings will be an invaluable resource for policymakers, innovators and data specialists as they work to ensure location data uses are aligned with societal values.”
Edwina Dunn OBE, 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 AI.”
Read and download the report.