Camden publishes Data Charter promising safer and ethical use of data

Camden Council has agreed to adopt a Data Charter for the borough, following a presentation at yesterday’s (19 January) Cabinet meeting by resident panellists, officers and councillors, who worked with community groups, residents, and partner organisations to develop the charter.

Camden’s Data Charter will guide how the Council collects, processes and shares data ethically.

Councillor Richard Olszewski, Cabinet Member for Finance & Transformation

“We strongly believe that data rights are human rights.

“In Camden we make extensive use of a wide range of data to improve the lives of our residents and their experiences with council services to achieve the most effective and timely results.

“We are aware however that there are significant challenges around ensuring the public’s trust in companies and organisations, like Camden Council, that collect, hold and use people’s personal information.

“Therefore, to ensure that we can demonstrate how Camden engages with data in a spirit of openness and transparency, we undertook a comprehensive and open process with our residents to develop a Data Charter. This provides us with a framework and set of principles to guide our approach to collecting, processing and sharing the data we hold above and beyond the legal basis set out in law.

“The Data Charter is also a call to action to all organisations in the borough – we need to work together to have the biggest impact on building trust in data sharing.”

Councillor Richard Olszewski, Cabinet Member for Finance & Transformation

In response to the Data Charter, the council have made a set of commitments to achieve what residents have asked for. These include:

  • Publishing a Data Sharing Register to publicly share all data sharing agreements, subject only to the need to redact or withhold publication to protect third party personal data and commercially confidential information.
  •  Holding a Resident Panel annually to make sure data-enabled projects are meeting the principles of the Data Charter.
  • Encouraging partners and other organisations across the public and private sectors in Camden to pledge to the principles of the Data Charter.

Councillor Leo Cassarani, Cabinet Adviser for Camden Data Charter said:

“The principles, vision, success criteria and governance of the Data Charter were developed in collaboration with residents and community groups.

“Key to this was a Resident Panel, representative of Camden’s communities, which spent three day-long sessions learning about how we currently use data in Camden, the challenges and benefits of data, and then helping us in developing the foundations of the Data Charter.”

The Panel was facilitated by Involve, the UK’s leading public participation charity, with support from The Alan Turing Institute, the national institute for data science and artificial intelligence.

Dr Christopher Burr, Ethics Fellow at The Alan Turing Institute, said
“Camden has set an important precedent for how residents and councils can and should collaborate to ensure data works for the public good. There are many positive ways that algorithms and data-driven technologies can support human decision-making within local government. But they often presuppose that consensus has been built around key ethical and social values, such as ‘fairness’ or ‘respect for privacy’.

“Camden’s Data Charter does not take such foundational values for granted. Rather, it is built on an ongoing process of open and accessible dialogue, which is inclusive to diverse communities and voices. Our next step at The Alan Turing Institute is to use this example to support more councils use data in an ethical, responsible, and trustworthy manner.”

Simon Burall, Senior Associate at Involve, said:

"The past two years have shown the value of sharing health and social care data in order to tackle the pandemic. But they have also clearly demonstrated the need to maintain public trust in how data is shared and used.

“In the long term, trust will only be maintained if the public are effectively involved in the decisions about the collection and use of their data. We were delighted to work with Camden Council and the Alan Turing Institute to design and deliver Camden's Citizen Data Panel to draft a Data Charter for Camden. This citizen-generated Charter will support the Council to make decisions about when to use data and when not.

"We are looking forward to working with the Council in the coming months to engage community groups in using the Charter to assess potential projects and shape Camden's approach to the use of data."

The Council also carried out wider public engagement including workshops with community groups, and invited residents to share their views on real uses of data in Camden, from linking NHS and social care records to allow Camden to share vital information about residents’ health and social care with professionals in both public services, to using a joined-up data-led approach to installing electric vehicle charging points.

You can read Camden’s Data Charter here.

Members of the Residents Panel said:

  •  “I am certainly more aware of my rights as a Camden resident. I feel that the ideas or principles panellists have contributed to the formation of the Data Charter and inclusive and beneficial to all.” - Aysha
  • “As a Camden resident, I am pleased that the Council is proactive in setting up the Data Charter consultation panel, which is both inclusive and representative of Camden citizens.” – C
  •  “I really enjoyed meeting fellow panellists to debate ideas and share experiences.” - Tejesh