World first Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation: Government Statement

20 November 2018

Margot James, Minister for Digital and the Creative Industries, followed up a Government press release on the newly established Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation with a statement to the Commons

The press release announced the Board of the new initiative, which includes Robert Winston, Dame Patricia Hodgson and Kriti Sharma, as well as confirming early projects. It sets out the aims of the Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation as follows:

"It has been established to make sure the UK is leading the debate on how data-driven technologies are used for the maximum benefit of society. It will analyse and anticipate gaps in the governance landscape, agree and set out best practice to guide ethical and innovative uses of data, and advise government on the need for specific policy or regulatory action."

Speaking on behalf of the Government, the Minister said,

"As the UK moves rapidly towards a data driven economy it means that we have a real opportunity to improve decision making in many areas".

Highlighting the UK's position as joint first in worldwide Open Data Barometer rankings, she outlined the ethical concerns and responsibilities that come with this position. The establishment of the Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation aims to establish the UK as world leaders in this field.

Labour's Liam Byrne, Shadow Minister for Digital, welcomed the announcement, but argued that,

"If this new centre is going to be a place that simply writes voluntary codes, published best practice, then frankly it's not going to stop the online hate speech, it's not going to stop data breeches, it's not going to stop the risk of new algorithms coding old injustices into new injustices and inequalities."

He went on to criticise the Government's approach to data protection, the numerous regulatory and advisory bodies with some responsibility over the internet, and the new centre's lack of statutory basis for independence or focus.

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