WEF Wants to Standardize Ethical Data Collection

The World Economic Forum (WEF) is designing a global governance framework for the ethical collection and sharing of data, the organization announced Tuesday.

WEF’s Data for Common Purpose Initiative (DCPI) is the first of its kind and aims to “responsibly enhance the societal benefit from data” by creating guidelines to ensure governments and researchers can more readily rely on data for making decisions that benefit the public, especially in crises like the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the announcement.

Sheila Warren, head of Data, Blockchain and Digital Assets at WEF, told CoinDesk that having siloed, or isolated, data led to a delay in humanity’s ability to respond to the pandemic with the necessary speed and agility.

“While [siloing data] often comes from either good intentions or, more realistically speaking, business imperatives, it has really meaningful consequences,” said Warren, who also co-hosts CoinDesk’s Money Reimagined podcast, referring to the problems surrounding personal protective equipment (PPE) provisions and supply chains during the pandemic.

The DCPI hopes to refocus data policy and models towards a range of “common purposes” like public health, environmental protection and disaster management, while ensuring people’s personal data cannot be used for non-permissioned purposes.

The project already has the support of 10 governments and over 50 global partners, the announcement said, including consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) and blockchain platforms such as Elastos.

A number of pilot projects have launched in Japan, Colombia and India, Warren said, though it’s important to note that WEF focuses on policy pilots as opposed to traditional tech proof-of-concept.

‘Differentiated Permissioning’

One goal of the initiative is to enable differentiated permissioning of the same data for varied purposes. This means people would be able to set permissions around how their data can be used.


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