Places and populations that were previously digitally invisible are now part of a ‘data revolution’ that is being hailed as a transformative tool for human and economic development. Yet this unprecedented expansion of the power to digitally monitor, sort, and intervene is not well connected to the idea of social justice, nor is there a clear concept of how broader access to the benefits of data technologies can be achieved without amplifying misrepresentation, discrimination, and power asymmetries.

We therefore need a new framework for data justice integrating data privacy, non-discrimination, and non-use of data technologies into the same framework as positive freedoms such as representation and access to data. This project will research the lived experience of data technologies in high- and low-income countries worldwide, seeking to understand people’s basic needs with regard to these technologies. We will also seek the perspectives of civil society organisations, technology companies, and policymakers.

We will relate our findings to current governance and rights frameworks in order to understand whether they match with people’s subjective needs, and build our findings into a conceptual framework. We will begin from a conceptualisation of data justice along three dimensions of freedom: (in)visibility, autonomy with regard to technology, and combating data-driven discrimination. The framework will be tested and further shaped by debates held in nine locations worldwide.