Independent report

The Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation's approach to the governance of data-driven technology

A developing framework through which the CDEI is analysing the governance of data-driven technology in the context of its work programme.



Existing work on ethical frameworks for data-driven technology

In recent years a plethora of governance and ethical frameworks have been developed by civil society, government and the private sector to help guide ethical development, deployment and governance of new technologies. These are in part a response to the rapid development of data-driven technology coupled with a general lack of consensus about how we as a society want to best capitalise on these technologies. The CDEI welcomes the recent commitment by 42 countries, including the UK, to adopt the OECD human-centred Principles on Artificial Intelligence:

  1. AI should benefit people and the planet by driving inclusive growth, sustainable development and well-being.
  2. AI systems should be designed in a way that respects the rule of law, human rights, democratic values and diversity, and they should include appropriate safeguards – for example, enabling human intervention where necessary – to ensure a fair and just society.
  3. There should be transparency and responsible disclosure around AI systems to ensure that people understand when they are engaging with them and can challenge outcomes.
  4. AI systems must function in a robust, secure and safe way throughout their lifetimes, and potential risks should be continually assessed and managed.
  5. Organisations and individuals developing, deploying or operating AI systems should be held accountable for their proper functioning in line with the above principles.

At the same time the CDEI recognises that the pace of the development of new technologies, the inherent uncertainty around how they might change our society and our ever-changing understanding of their impact means that there is a need to regularly revisit how we understand and implement any ethical principles. As such the CDEI always seeks to draw on the best and most up-to-date thinking from the UK and beyond. Some of the other frameworks we have drawn on to inform our work include: the European Commission High Level Working Group on AI, the UK Parliament Select Committee on Artificial Intelligence’s Report, AI in the UK, and the UK Government’s Guide to using Artificial Intelligence in the Public Sector.

From principles to practical guidance

These high-level principles are helpful. But it is also vital to translate principles into practical guidance. We have identified three areas to frame our thinking and to underpin the development of our work programme:

  1. Societal values: These values set out how we want the world to be and include notions such as fairness,autonomy and social cohesion. A vision of what constitutes a healthy society in the era of data-driven technology requires inclusive and informed debate. Such debates should be grounded in democratic processes about how what we value should be understood and balanced when in conflict.
  2. Principles for good governance: These principles set out how we ensure outcomes are consistent with our societal values and objectives. This includes principles such as proportionality, accountability, and transparency.
  3. Levers for achieving good governance: These levers are broad frameworks and mechanisms for how to achieve good governance. They include mechanisms for monitoring, enforcement and compliance. The levers may be a combination of (1) legislative and regulatory measures, (2) soft governance such as standards, codes of practice and corporate governance, and (3) technical approaches such as privacy enhancing technologies or design approaches for explainability.

Underpinning these three areas are also broader drivers such as better-informed public debate and the desire for the UK economy to benefit to the maximum degree from robust regulation of data-driven technology which will in turn shape global markets.

Our role

Different sectors and issues will require different responses. When considering the use of new data-driven technologies in well-regulated markets, this may be about strengthening or adapting the tools available for achieving good governance. However, where applications of these technologies are giving rise to new trade-offs where society has yet to form a clear view, the CDEI may be well placed to bring to the fore the issues and interests at play and help facilitate well-informed debate.

Our recommendations to government will draw on and expand on these three areas in order to progress the wider governance debate about data-driven technology.

Published 19 July 2019