Principles for Digital Development

Establish people-first data practices

People-first data practices prioritize transparency, consent, and redressal while allowing people and communities to retain control of and derive value from their own data.

Digital services and initiatives generate, rely on, and/or use data derived from people or their assets. This principle emphasizes the need to avoid collecting data that is used to create value (financial or otherwise) for a company or organization, without delivering any direct value back to those people from whom the data is derived.

It is thus critical to consider people and to put their rights and needs first when collecting, sharing, analyzing, or deleting data. In this context, ‘people’ includes those who directly interact with a given service, those whose data was obtained through partners, and those whose are impacted by non-personal datasets (such as geospatial data.)

When collecting data, it is important to consider and follow relevant data standards and guidelines set at the international, regional, national, or local level.

People-first data practices include ensuring that people can understand and control how their data is being used; obtaining explicit and informed consent from people before collecting, using, or sharing their data; and investing in people’s capacity to navigate the tools, redressal systems, and data practices.

People-first data practices also include sharing data back with people, so that they have agency to use this data as they see fit, and providing access to individual, secure data histories that people can easily move from one service provider to the next.

When this principle is violated, people may be subject to undue and unpredictable harms, stemming from data breaches, exclusion from services, or discrimination based on their digital data trail.