Earlier this month, GSA was given the opportunity to develop a Data Ethics Framework to assist agencies in making ethical decisions as they acquire, manage, and use data. A completed version of the report is expected by the end of 2020. (GSA Data ethics framework action 14 draft, September 2020)

The Framework incorporates four parts:

  • About the Data Ethics Framework — explains the purpose and audience of the Framework.
  • Data Ethics Defined
  • Data Ethics Tenets — provides seven principles for using data ethically within the federal government.
  • Data Ethics Tenets in Action — details data ethics benefits and demonstrates how the Tenets guide data activities within agencies as well as federally sponsored programs. (ibid)

The Framework originated to guide ethical decision making by federal employees who collect, manage, or use data to support their agency’s mission. It acts as guidance to encourage ethical decision making, but isn’t required. Its audience includes “anyone in the Federal Government who works with or leads work involving data, which includes all employees, contractors, researchers, and other partners who work on behalf of the government.”

According to the Framework, “Data leaders and professionals should adhere to all applicable legal authorities, as ethics are reflected and reinforced in existing laws.” Additionally, “agency leaders are encouraged to maintain up-to-date, comprehensive ethical standards regarding data use and staff are responsible for learning and applying agency guidance. In addition, if a person works in an area with recognized professional ethical codes of conduct, they should be aware of those standards and strive to uphold them.” (ibid)

Have a question about the Framework or the definition of data ethics? Give us a call we can explain.