The Basics of Data Ethics
Reading Time
Read if
Learn with Eskwelabs

The Basics of Data Ethics

This blog post is a simple introduction into the world of data ethics. Learn the principles and why they are important.

Basty’s Notebook

Hi, everyone! My name is Basty, and I’m a data scientist and educator from Metro Manila. If there’s something I value so much, that is education. Education has allowed me to not only dive into the amazing world of code and data, but also to encourage and inspire others to do the same. Read more about me here

Outside of work and school, I love playing video games like Valorant and League of Legends. I also love listening to Broadway musicals (HAMILTON, DEH, TICK TICK BOOM ALL THE WAY!). Lastly, I LOVE watching Friends, New Girl, HIMYM, and The Big Bang Theory.

Now, let’s take a look at my notebook!

November 2022 Notebook entry

With this month’s theme being guidance, it is now important for us to talk about a topic that has catalyzed discourse through in recent years: data ethics. At this point, I’m now assuming that you have a data role or you have an interest in data. If not, no worries! Here are some articles that you can check out to keep you up to speed: Journey into the World of Data Science and Data Science vs Data Analytics. Whether you are into data or not, this blog post will be an introduction to the world of data ethics.

What is data ethics?

Let’s first start by defining what data ethics really is. This term is the combination of two very different words. The technical definition of data is that it is a collection of an assortment of facts and these facts can either be quantitative or qualitative. Data is related to science and facts, while ethics revolves more on philosophy. If you combine the two words together, we come up with something that allows us to tackle both worlds. 

Data ethics is the study of ethical problems that arise from the use of data. It basically guides us on what is a good and right way of using data. You might be wondering why there is even a need to consider ethics in data. This is because of one main reason and that is because at the end of the day, data is people

The data that surrounds you is driven by people. If you’re a data scientist or data analyst, most of the data you’ll be encountering will come from people. That could be their age, address, income, images, and etc. 

Now when we talk about data ethics, the term data collection often comes up. Data collection is the first contestant that goes in a race. This is the starting point that the standards of data ethics first looks into. When we’re collecting data, we have to ask who’s collecting the data, why they are collecting data, and how they are collecting it. 

For years, most organizations have been fixated on the goal of making revenue without considering the implications of their methods. That is why it's important for us to ask these questions because most of the time we forget who the stakeholders are. Ask yourself who are those that will benefit from these reports, analyses, and activities being done by organizations. Will the people represented by the data you collected benefit from it? And if you’re someone who's in the data industry or interested in data, these are the questions you should never lose sight of. 

Principles of data ethics

There’s a lot of factors that come into play when it comes to data ethics, and it’s your responsibility to the people that are represented in that data to make sure that the aspects of their data are secured and private. 

There are a lot of principles out there that can be used to guide you, but here are 5 principles on responsible use of data by DataEthics that I think encapsulates everything:

  • The human being at the center - This principle tells us that we have to be human-centric when it comes to handling data. It requires us to use data that will benefit individuals and communities by using it to improve people’s lives, and not using it in ways that would cause them harm.

  • Individual data control - People should be in control and be empowered by their own data, not the other way around. We must respect people’s right to make decisions about their own data. This entails that people will have a say over how their data is used, and ensuring that they understand how it will be used.

  • Transparency - Letting the people know beforehand how their data is being collected, what happens to their data, where does it go, and how it is being used is a critical aspect of data ethics. Getting consent from the people should always be your number one priority.

  • Accountability - Accountability refers to the intention of the organization on how to utilize the data, and that also entails their responsibility for their actions, decisions, and consequences.

  • Equality - Special attention must be given that we use data fairly, in ways that are equitable and inclusive. This means ensuring that everyone has an equal opportunity to benefit from data, and that no one is unfairly disadvantaged by its use.


To recap, we first talked about what data ethics is about. It is the application of ethical values to how we should collect, store, process, and share data for different purposes such as business. 

We also talked about why you should care about data ethics. As we continue to progress with technology, the amount of data generated in the world will keep on increasing. As this happens, the issues and risks that affect the people represented by the data will become more important to think about. 

Lastly, we then talked about five different principles from DataEthics. Data Ethics as a study is still a bit broad, but as data professionals or as human beings who live in this digital world, it’s important for us to understand these to make sure that data is used in ways that are fair, responsible, and respectful of people’s rights. Always remember that data can be used in ways that can cause harm, so it’s crucial to have principles in place that guide our decisions about how to collect, use, and protect it.

I’d like to leave you a very famous and iconic quote that I think represents this blog’s topic and that is:

"With great power comes great responsibility." —Uncle Ben from Spider-Man

Never stop learning!

Data for Good with Eskwelabs

If you are interested in joining the ‘Data for Good’ movement, join the community by upskilling yourself with Eskwelabs. We can help you create your own data for good capstone project, too!

  • If this is your first time reading about the Data Science Fellowship, get started by learning more about it here.
  • Aside from our data science program, we also have one that focuses on data analytics. If this is your first time reading about the Data Analytics Bootcamp, get started by learning more about it here.