What is data ethics?

Data ethics is concerned with the moral standards applied, and assessments made when working with data. It involves a range of considerations for which you use your discretion. Another way to frame data ethics is around the following question; “Just because I can, should I?” 

For more information on ethical data use, please refer to the Using Data Ethically information hub. 

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Why is data ethics important?

As data ethics is concerned around what companies can and cannot do with the data they collect, good data ethics is important to ensure the UQ community can retain trust in how UQ is using their data.  

Good data ethics facilitates privacy, transparency, fairness, and that those using the data are following all applicable regulations, and helps the UQ community to feel their data is safe. 

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How to use data ethically

If you use UQ data, or data in general, as part of your role (e.g. creating reports or dashboards), you should incorporate data ethics into decision making when using data. Some considerations include:  

  • Privacy: reasonable effort needs to be made to preserve privacy, especially if others are accessing this data. Do you have Personally Identifiable Information you need to de-identify? 

  • Consent: do you require consent or a Data Sharing Agreement to use the data? 

  • How is the data you are working with being used/interpreted by others (for example, downstream uses)?  

  • Always follow the law and UQ’s policies, but understand that this is just a minimum expectation. 

  • Be wary of collecting data just for the sake of having data.  

  • Use practices that incorporate transparency, configurability, accountability and auditability. 

The Enterprise Data Ethics Framework outlines the range of ethical considerations that should be examined when working with data. It also offers guidance on the responsibilities associated with the various Information Governance roles, and provides an overview of how ethical issues may change throughout the Information Lifecycle. 

Contact the ITS Data Strategy and Governance Team if you require more information or advice around data ethics. 

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