The General Services Administration (GSA) released a draft of the Data Ethics Framework – part of the Federal Data Strategy action plan – earlier this week detailing Fed standards for using data appropriately and government use cases.

“The Framework’s purpose is to guide ethical decision making by Federal employees who collect, manage, and use data in order to support their agency’s mission,” GSA wrote in the document. “The Framework does not include requirements or mandates of its own but provides guidance in the form of foundational principles, called tenets, to encourage ethical decision making at all levels of the Federal government.”

An inter-agency team of 14 government leaders from different agencies came together to draft the framework with input from the Chief Data Officer Council, the Interagency Committee on Standards Policy, and the Federal Privacy Council. A final version of the Data Ethics Framework is expected to be released by December 2020.

The draft framework outlines seven initial tenets of data ethics:

  • Be aware of and uphold applicable statutes, regulations, professional practices, and ethical standards;
  • Be honest and act with integrity;
  • Be accountable and hold others accountable;
  • Be transparent;
  • Be informed of developments in the field of data science, including data systems, techniques, and technologies;
  • Be respectful of privacy and confidentiality; and
  • Be respectful of the public, individuals, and communities;

GSA also listed the benefits of incorporating these tenets at the Federal level, including better decision making, risk mitigation, transparency, and improved public trust. “The way data is used continues to touch almost every aspect of daily life,” the framework states. “Although the ethical challenges that come with data use are many, integrating the Framework’s guidance into everyday agency activities will help mature data ethics considerations – and with it, its benefits – across the Federal Government.”

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Katie Malone
Katie Malone
Katie Malone is a MeriTalk Staff Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.