EthicalGEO and The Benchmark Initiative announced the Locus Charter for the ethical and responsible use of spatial data in February 2021.
By July 2021 initial signatories of the Charter represented its high-level international support, including the American Geographical Society, Association for Geographic Information (UK), Environmental Information Systems Africa, the National Institute of Statistics and Geography (Mexico), Open Geospatial Consortium, PLACE, Radiant Earth Foundation, the Royal Geographical Society, and the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors.
But the real utility of the Locus Charter will be its incorporation into the day-to-day work of companies, government agencies, foundations, and academic institutions, as well of individual GIS professionals, geographers, and data scientists. GIS managers are the key change agents to put the Charter to work within their organizations. The Locus Charter provides GIS managers and key stakeholders with 10 founding principles that establish the imperative to protect individuals and communities from negative impacts, suggest actions to use location data ethically and responsibly, while recognizing the societal and economic benefits that spatial data can provide.
GIS Management Consulting Services has now subscribed to the Locus Charter. We will incorporate its principles into our consulting offerings and GIS Management Academy workshops. Most GIS professionals are familiar with the GIS Code of Ethics. Certified GIS Professionals (GISPs) are required to formally pledge to adhere to the Code of Ethics. But in recent years limitations to the GIS Code of Ethics have become evident. The presentation of maps within political discourse that are not based on the scientific application of geographic information poses a threat to both the effective functioning of democracy and to respect and trust in cartography. The explosion in the quantity and level of detail of ‘Big Data’ provides potential societal benefits, but also poses risks to privacy for at-risk individuals and communities.
The focus of GIS Management Consulting Services is to assist organizations and GIS managers to be more effective in applying geographic information science and technology on a responsible basis. The Locus Charter helps to facilitate this responsible approach by providing a framework Location Service Lifecycle. The Lifecycle can be incorporated into GIS projects, operations, and maintenance procedures to ensure that both the business use case is achieved while protecting individuals and at-risk communities.
The 2019 EthicalGEO Fellowship projects included at least two that touch on issues related to ethical use of location data: Dr. Dara Seidl’s GeoPrivacy Video Series and Father Michael Rozier’s GeoLocation and Self-Identity Survey.
Another source to learn about issues related to geo-ethics and the responsible use of GIS data is the Geographic Information Science and Technology Body of Knowledge.
Government agencies, foundations, and companies that want to utilize location data ethically and responsibly should learn more about the Locus Charter and consider joining the Locus Charter Community. Read more, take the pledge, and join today.