Property owners must challenge themselves on data ethics

data ethics - A woman uses her fingerprint to open a door
Smart homes, buildings and cities raise data ethics concerns (image: © Insidestudio |
Property developers and owners will need to challenge themselves on their use of data.

That’s one of the key messages in the Data Ethics Playbook, published by property sector think tank, the RED Foundation.

The foundation has established a steering group of experts and six principles it is asking companies to sign up to.

“We will increasingly have to address how we collect, manage and use data in the most ethical way for our businesses and society,” the foundation said.

The six data ethics principles

  • Accountable
  • Transparent
  • Proportionate
  • Confidential & private
  • Lawful
  • Secure

The playbook authors note: “Compliance with legal requirements in respect of data use, in particular with privacy laws governing the use of personal data, should be seen as a minimum standard. The implementation of ethical principles and policies requires consideration of more profound, moral questions about whether, for example, proposed uses of data are the ‘right’ thing to do, or whether any improvements can be made to the ways in which data is handled.

“In line with existing privacy legislation and the RED Foundation principles, ethical data use requires businesses and authorities to act in a transparent manner, making absolutely clear, rather than obfuscate, how they use data. Perhaps more fundamentally, before gathering and exploiting any data, lawful, legitimate, and ethical grounds for doing so must be established, and organisations should seek to achieve positive or beneficial outcomes from the use of that data – so-called ‘data for good’.”

All data subject to ethics

The playbook includes use cases for applying the six principles for smart homes and for smart cities.

The playbook authors make the point that all data is subject to ethics: “While some data processed in the context of the built environment will be personal data (e.g. details of an individual’s access to a particular building), much of it will not be (e.g. building level data about footfall over a given period) – ethical considerations will be equally relevant to personal and non-personal data.”

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