back to article Another toothless wonder? Why the UK.gov's data ethics centre needs clout

Amid myriad bodies offering advice, opinions and rulings on the use of data springing up all over the shop, the government used the Budget to announce plans to create yet another. The Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation is described (PDF) as "a world-first advisory body to enable and ensure safe, ethical innovation in …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "If it ends up ... lacking the requisite backbone to speak truth to power"

    then the govt will have be seen to have "done something" without upsetting any lobbyists.

  2. Caltharian

    how can a government that has no idea of ethics deal with creating an organisation to deal with ethics!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      >how can a government that has no idea of ethics deal with creating an organisation to deal with ethics!

      Unethically!

      Maybe we should do as they say, not as they do.

  3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    At least it's from the Ministry of Fun and not the Home Office. That's a start.

  4. D Moss Esq

    We need something better than utilitarianism

    19 May 2016, the Cabinet Office published 'Data Science Ethical Framework' [1], a document which betrays not the slightest understanding of ethics, is ethics-free and provides no framework whatever, ethical or otherwise. This farrago was issued over Matt Hancock's signature and makes no contribution to the debate about disclosing personal information.

    The CIA, among others, have looked into ethics and determined that there are lots of theories with just one common factor – do as you would be done by. Seems like a good starting point. Not mentioned by the Cabinet Office, who must have already forgotten care.data.

    The only ethical theory mentioned in the UK in connection with public services is the ghastly utilitarianism, "that action is right which promotes the greatest happiness of the greatest number". Utilitarianism justifies the tyranny of the majority [2]: "Lenin and Hitler were pious utilitarians, as were Stalin and Mao, as are most members of the Mafia". Avoid.

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    1. https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/524298/Data_science_ethics_framework_v1.0_for_publication__1_.pdf

    2. https://www.wsj.com/articles/SB114800167750457376

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: We need something better than utilitarianism

      "'Data Science Ethical Framework' [1], a document which betrays not the slightest understanding of ethics, is ethics-free and provides no framework whatever, ethical or otherwise."

      The difficult bit was got rid of in the title. It sounds like a very competent piece of work.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Don't those in power think ethics are for the little people?

    Peasants in other words.

    One rule for them, another for everyone else.

  6. Harry Stottle

    I predict a whitewash

    Generously we should allow them a year from first recruitment.

    If after that time they haven't pronounced on the major elements of the Surveillance State - such as ANPR - and ruled its implementation unethical on the basis of its obvious Accountability Theatre, then its credibility will be on a par with fig leaves...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I predict a whitewash

      "Again, aside from the fact it would be refreshing to see the government choose someone who isn't a white man pushing 50 for this kind of role,"

      Whilst the track record of government quango appointees is poor, I think you'll find that's not about age or gender, but because they're picked for being uncontroversial, and often have no experience in the area that they're regulating, and an education in something useless (like classics, PPE and similar). AFAICS, the performance of female and ethnic minority minsters and MPs appears every bit as patchy, mediocre and self interested as their male and white counterparts. And thus far, Sharon White's not exactly bucking any trend at Ofcom.

      I propose a ban on the unattractive. Competence won't be arriving any time soon whatever we do, so lets at least rid ourselves of people who look dull, and dress to unimpress. Under my Hunks and Babes Guaranteed Interview Scheme, and my "photograph before CV" selection process, the outlook will definitely be a whole lot brighter.

  7. Doctor Syntax Silver badge
    Coat

    OK, you known someone had to say in and the rest of you have had your chance.

    Ethics? Isn't that north-east of London?

    Mines the one with the UK Road Atlas in the pocket.

  8. NeilPost Bronze badge

    London?

    Sigh.... is it in London again??? As every government tech initiative is is London.... feeding the London bubble.

    Why not Carlisle, Perth, Bridgend etc

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