Introducing The Project

We’re immensely excited to launch the Global Data Justice project, made possible by a grant from the European Research Council. For the next five years we’ll be exploring the concept of data justice.

There are several currents of thought at the moment about what data justice is and why we might want to better define it, but they all go in different directions and address different problems. Our objective is to find overarching principles that can link together the work going on around the world that is trying to think through what we want data technologies to do for us, what we don’t want them to do, and how to achieve that.

This is going to be a largely conceptual project, but it will be based on insights from individuals, activists, technology developers and policymakers around the world. We are going to ask people in different regions what they find positive and negative about the way data technologies are developing, and we are going to try to figure out why they feel that way, and how their perspective relates to others.

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These are the main ideas that are coming out of current research as important to the way people think about data’s potential. We should be visible in ways that benefit us, but also have privacy when visibility is counter to our interests. We should be free to use data technologies in ways that we choose, but should not be used by those technologies. Finally, we should have the ability to challenge discrimination, and should also be guarded from discrimination by those in charge of governing technology development and use.

This project is going to be a huge and wonderful challenge, and one that will hopefully bring together a lot of people thinking about data and justice from around the world. We’re excited to begin and we welcome your thoughts and ideas on how to do it!

About the project

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.