Data Hazard labels#

Version 1.0

On this page you can see an overview of the current Data Hazards with short descriptions. Click on each for their full information. We welcome you to suggest changes, so please check our contribution guidelines if you would like to or scroll down for current suggestions below.

You can download a printable set of Data Hazards cards here.

Each individual Data Hazard page contains:

  • A title, description and icon to describe the Hazard.

  • Examples to clarify what the hazard covers.

  • Safety Precautions as suggestions of how Hazards could be mitigated.

Why are the Hazard Labels designed this way?

Please know that we don’t want these labels to scare anyone away from considering ethics or from doing data science, and we will do everything that we can to make applying Data Hazards labels as welcoming and approachable as possible, but also have some good reasons for choosing these images.

We chose this format because of the similarity to COSHH hazard labels - hazard labels for chemicals. We made this choice because we want a similar response from people:

  1. Attention-grabbing, asking people to stop and think, and take the safety precautions seriously, rather than as an optional extra.

  2. We’re asking people to “handle with care”, not to stop doing the work. We still use chemicals, but we think about how it can be done safely and how to avoid emergencies.

  3. They are familiar, especially to scientists, who (within universities) tend to have the least experience of applying ethics.

A red diamond shaped outline (like a warning sign) with an exclamation mark in the middle.
General Data Hazard

Data Science is being used in this output, and any negative outcome of using this work are not the fault of “the algorithm” or “the software”.

Hazard: General Data Hazard
A red diamond shaped outline (like a warning sign) with two connected cogs that have arrows coming out of the top of them.
Automates Decision Making

Automated decision making can be hazardous for a number of reasons, and these will be highly dependent on the field in which it is being applied.

Hazard: Automates Decision Making
A red diamond shaped outline (like a warning sign) with a hammer raised above a bent screw in the middle.
Danger Of Misuse

There is a danger of misusing the algorithm, technology, or data collected as part of this work.

Hazard: Danger Of Misuse
A red diamond shaped outline (like a warning sign) with an image of a closed box and a question mark next to it.
Difficult to Understand

This may apply if the technology itself is hard to interpret (e.g. neural nets), or documentation is poor/unavailable.

Hazard: Difficult To Understand
A red diamond shaped outline (like a warning sign) with an image of a globe on fire in the middle.
High Environmental Cost

Indicates methodologies that are energy-hungry, data-hungry, or require special hardware with rare materials.

Hazard: High Environmental Cost
A red diamond shaped outline (like a warning sign) with figures in the middle who have a speech bubble above their heads with a big cross through it.
Lacks Community Involvement

This applies when technology is being produced without input from the community it is supposed to serve.

Hazard: Lacks Community Involvement
A red diamond shaped outline (like a warning sign) containing a magnifying glass hovering over a cross on a piece of paper.
Lacks Informed Consent

This hazard applies to datasets or algorithms that use data which has not been provided with the explicit consent of the data owner/creator.

Hazard: Lacks Informed Consent
A red diamond shaped outline (like a warning sign) with a skull in the middle.
May Cause Direct Harm

The application area of this technology means that it is capable of causing direct physical or psychological harm to someone even if used correctly.

Hazard: May Cause Direct Harm
A red diamond shaped outline (like a warning sign) with three people standing on a podium of first, second and third place.
Ranks Or Classifies People

Ranking and classifications of people are hazards in their own right and should be handled with care.

Hazard: Ranks Or Classifies People
A red diamond shaped outline (like a warning sign) with a dark head and shoulders, who has a white triangle in their mind. They are looking out at a black circle, a black square and a larger white triangle just ahead of them. This indicates that the largest shape is the one that they think of.
Reinforces Existing Biases

Reinforces unfair treatment of individuals and groups. This may be due to for example input data, algorithm or software design choices, or society at large.

Hazard: Reinforces Existing Biases
A red diamond shaped outline (like a warning sign) with a picture of a surveillance camera in the middle.
Risk to Privacy

This technology may risk the privacy of individuals whose data is processed by it.

Hazard: Risk To Privacy

Future development#

Suggestions for future versions of the Data Hazard labels are curated as GitHub Issues. Click here to see the current suggestions.

Change log#

The change log records when changes that have been made to the project and gives a brief description of what the changes were. The change log started in March 2022. The most recent changes should be at the top of the list.

29.05.2024: Put labels in alphabetical order @ninadicara

06.12.2022: Update new Hazard labels @ninadicara
Updated all the images of the Hazards with our new labels designed by the amazing Yasmin Dwiputri!

07.03.2022: Move Data Hazards to individual pages @ninadicara
Moved all of the Hazards to their own individual pages, and linked them from the original sphinx panels. Also capitalised all of the names so that they are consistently named. This should make it easier for people to contribute to a single Hazard and record their contribution against it :)