The tensions of data sharing for human rights: A modern slavery case study

Paper by Jamie Hancock et al: “There are calls for greater data sharing to address human rights issues. Advocates claim this will provide an evidence-base to increase transparency, improve accountability, enhance decision-making, identify abuses, and offer remedies for rights violations. However, these well-intentioned efforts have been found to sometimes enable harms against the people they seek to protect. This paper shows issues relating to fairness, accountability, or transparency (FAccT) in and around data sharing can produce such ‘ironic’ consequences. It does so using an empirical case study: efforts to tackle modern slavery and human trafficking in the UK. We draw on a qualitative analysis of expert interviews, workshops, ecosystem mapping exercises, and a desk-based review. The findings show how, in the UK, a large ecosystem of data providers, hubs, and users emerged to process and exchange data from across the country. We identify how issues including legal uncertainties, non-transparent sharing procedures, and limited accountability regarding downstream uses of data may undermine efforts to tackle modern slavery and place victims of abuses at risk of further harms. Our findings help explain why data sharing activities can have negative consequences for human rights, even within human rights initiatives. Moreover, our analysis offers a window into how FAccT principles for technology relate to the human rights implications of data sharing. Finally, we discuss why these tensions may be echoed in other areas where data sharing is pursued for human rights concerns, identifying common features which may lead to similar results, especially where sensitive data is shared to achieve social goods or policy objectives…(More)”.