Camden updates Data Charter promising ethical use of and accessible communications about data
Camden Council has updated its Data Charter for the borough. In early 2023, the council brought together a new Residents’ Panel to discuss the principles of the Data Charter and make further recommendations for how we use data now and in the future.
This process consisted of three day-long sessions with around 20 residents from Camden (who make up the “Residents Panel”). The sessions were organised by Camden Council, facilitated by Involve, and supported by experts from The Alan Turing Institute, and they engaged residents around case study uses of data and AI systems designed to get participants to think about recommendations to be made to the Data Charter.
The council originally developed its Data Charter in 2021 with a diverse and representative group of residents to make sure the council could collect, process, and share data ethically in Camden and ensure we are transparent about how we use data.
Camden Council’s Data Charter has been co-created by residents and I am grateful to the residents who took part in this year’s panel as part of our continued dialogue about how Camden uses data ethically. They gave us valuable insights into how Camden’s Data Charter is working and good practical suggestions for how it can be updated.
In Camden, we believe that data rights are human rights. It is vital that we have the trust of our residents in how we handle their data, which is why it is so important that we hear from them on how we can secure their trust.
An additional principle was added by this year’s Resident Panel to ensure that the council is committed to sharing clear and accessible information about how we use data. This is to ensure that we fulfil our commitment to transparency by making information understandable to as wide an audience as possible. This will also mean more face-to-face events to explain how data enables services to be better for residents and allows them to provide feedback.
There was also a strengthening of an existing principle to ensure the council encourages its external partners to sign up to the Data Charter principles.
Following the recommendations from the second Residents’ Panel, the council have made the following updates to the data charter.
- By August 2023, we will develop accessible communications around the Data Charter and data use in formats including easy read for people with learning disabilities, British Sign Language and translated materials. We will also create printed information about the Data Charter and data use to distribute in libraries and community spaces.
- By May 2024, we will move from a Resident Panel approach to less formal engagement events, Camden Talks. These will be held in each of the five neighbourhood areas in the borough in partnership with our voluntary and community sector partners. These will focus on changes to services and proposed data enabling those changes. Residents will be able to have discussions and give feedback in these sessions.
- By May 2024, we will develop communications materials that break down particular aspects of data use, including in making changes to council services. Residents will be able to feedback on these uses.
- We commit to improving how our Open Data Camden platform displays information, and to make its contents more visual where possible.
- The Council will communicate with its residents through an appropriate channel, either Resident Panel or through Camden Talks, if a new technology or methodology for data use is proposed which significantly alters the delivery of Camden’s frontline services.
Camden has written a new Data Strategy within which the Data Charter Principles are embedded, outlining our commitments to ensure that the recommendations from both our Resident Panels are adopted, creating real accountability for data and across all departments.
Moving forward, Camden Council hopes to continue to work with The Alan Turing Institute including on the series “Camden Talks”, building on the traditional town hall meeting with a flexible workshop-style approach that allows discussion of a range of topics.
Claudia Fischer, Public Policy Programme Research Assistant, The Alan Turing Institute:
"Our research highlights the importance of public trust as a crucial component of the ethical design, development and deployment of AI systems. Holding inclusive participatory panels that engage impacted stakeholders and communities and during which residents’ ideas are taken into account is a vital way to foster this trust. We are pleased to have worked with Camden Council and Involve in the process of updating the Data Charter and empowering residents in the exercise of their data rights."
“Camden's Data Charter shows that local communities can get together to create solutions to complex issues, such as how the council should use people’s data. Public data plays an increasingly important role in prioritising, reforming and delivering public services. However, there is often a fear that data is too challenging a topic for the public to engage on. This charter shows it can be done. Involve is proud to support Camden's ongoing commitment to centring the voices of residents in decision making.”
Members of the Residents Panel said:
“Taking part in the Data Charter has strengthened my trust in Camden Council as I know how and where my data is stored and used.”
“I was good to be asked to take part. I felt included not excluded!”
“I enjoyed sharing the process with other residents with diverse perspectives.”
The Alan Turing Institute is the UK’s national institute for data science and artificial intelligence.
The Institute is named in honour of Alan Turing, whose pioneering work in theoretical and applied mathematics, engineering and computing is considered to have laid the foundations for modern-day data science and artificial intelligence. The Institute’s purpose is to make great leaps in data science and AI research to change the world for the better. Its goals are to advance world-class research and apply it to national and global challenges, build skills for the future by contributing to training people across sectors and career stages, and drive an informed public conversation by providing balanced and evidence-based views on data science and AI.