Ethics and equity: unstructured notes
Earlier this week, I had the honor or chatting with the current cohort of Code for Canada fellows about ethics and equity in the design of government digital services.
I took some notes from my chat, which focused on how to think like a social scientist and center ethics from the start of a project, and wanted to share them somewhere I won’t lose them; I’m sharing them here. (The notes don’t quite make sense on their own, but if you’re interested in some of the concepts I addressed, you can find a jumble of thoughts below.
Ethics and Equity in Government Digital Service Design
Research ethics in the social sciences
- minimize risk of harm
- obtain informed consent
- protect anonymity and confidentiality
- avoid deceptive practices (dark patterns)
- provide right to withdraw
Important things to remember
Abandon the idea of neutrality
- We are not neutral, we can’t aspire to be
- Shaped by our experience and context
Ensure diversity in both users for research, but also in design teams that do the research and build solutions
Build for the edges
- What does it mean to explore the edges?
- How do you discover the edge when you’re in the middle
Collect information responsibility
- privacy vs. transparency
- capture what you need based on your ends, but also be clear about your ends
Remember that you are a user too
- government services are used by everyone, not just “customers”
- there is no other option, no competitor product
Don’t hide accountability
- people should know who to call, who is responsible
- right to withdraw: there has to be other options
Be honest about your failures and when things didn’t work—especially when you have made the problem worse
- is the outcome a win for the government, the team building the product, or the user?
Publicly state your code of ethics
- promote an ethical culture
- ensure your partners adhere to that code