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Ministry of Social Development: Is it right to use data just because there's access to it?

10 May 2018

The Minister for Social Development, Carmel Sepuloni, introduced the Government department's new set of “smart tools” to ensure certain initiatives don’t breach clients’ privacy or human rights.

Entitled The Privacy, Human Rights and Ethics framework (PHRaE ), the framework was developed by the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) for internal MSD use.

PHRaE is a set of tools that users of information can utilise to ensure privacy, human rights and ethics have been considered from the design and development stage of an initiative.

“The PHRaE helps those designing services to question whether it is ‘right’ to use information just because there is access to it,” Sepuloni says.  

“Answering these questions can be complex and challenging but it is essential. In many cases information shared with MSD can be deeply personal and sometimes disclosed in situations of particular vulnerability.”

The PHRaE encourages projects to think about the rights of the people whose information they’re using as they are designing what they’re going to do with the information.  

The tools prompt discussion and consideration of rights and capture the evidence of how the project have considered these rights and the basis for decision making in relation to these rights.

“I want to see a culture at MSD where people are treated with dignity and respect and this has to extend to how we collect and use people’s information. If we don’t get that right it can have a huge impact on whether people have trust and confidence to access the support they need from Government.”

Sepuloni adds, “Data and analytics has a valuable role to play in designing and delivering services that work for people. However, we need to carefully consider the potential harm new and innovative data uses may cause.”

“The ability to get greater value from our data relies on people being aware of, and comfortable with, how we use information.”

Sepuloni says there is potential to develop this approach for use further afield.    “The PHRaE has been developed for MSD use but, over time, could be used across government. Some other agencies are exploring trialling it in the coming months.”

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