Data Ethics Policy


This page discusses Colouring Sydney and the Colouring Cities Research in the context of the data ethics agenda, and includes discussion of issues relating to data privacy, security, quality, accessibility, platform transparency, inclusivity, governance and sustainability.

Further information on privacy and security, and on our code of conduct, can be accessed on our Menu pages. Progress on open code development relating to the privacy and security also can be viewed on GitHub site at and

The Colouring Cities Research Programme (CCRP) has been designed to test a new type of free public information tool, to encourage knowledge and data sharing about buildings and cities, for the public good. Colouring Sydney is being designed as a safe, positive, constructive space for users of diverse ages, genders, cultural backgrounds, skills and abilities to enjoy and benefit from. Users need to be sure their contributions will be treated with respect and principles of lawfulness, fairness and transparency, purpose limitation, data minimisation, accuracy, storage limitation, integrity and confidentiality (security), and accountability, will be met. We in fact actively discourage users from giving us personal data wherever possible. The privacy of building occupiers is also an important issue for us and is prioritised in our data collection approach. It is carefully balanced against the increasingly urgent need to collect information on building stocks to aid emissions reduction and increase urban sustainability as a whole.

Our open code and open data licenses mean that our data can be experimented with in any way. The CCRP has been set up at the City Futures Research Centre to support testing of Colouring Sydney prototype design with international research partners, and to promote ethical standards and principles for information management systems that deal with built environment data.

Ongoing effort is made to make data accessible to the widest possible audience, and to also highlight uncertainty, and sources of data wherever possible. Breakdown of trust in any of these areas is considered to pose a significant risk to the long-term sustainability of the project. One of the main questions asked by the CCRP is 'How do we balance the need to open up data on buildings, to increase sustainability, resilience and inclusivity in cities, with the need to protect the security and privacy of platform users, and of building users and occupiers as well?'

Key methods tested include:

  1. making Colouring City platforms accessible to everyone in view-only mode, without sign-up being required;
  2. requesting minimum personal data from platform editors but requiring them to adhere to a clear code of conduct;
  3. avoiding collection of private/potentially sensitive data on buildings through ongoing research and consultation with stakeholders, (e.g on private space within homes);
  4. developing collaborative monitoring systems to pick up issues as quickly;
  5. using security software and firewalls where applicable to manage data and prevent malicious attacks;
  6. constantly reassessing our security and privacy procedures and ethical framework.

Our programme's usefulness, success and longevity also relies public trust. We try to be as transparent as possible regarding what our project is designed to do, what types of data it collects and why these are needed to support the public good, how the project is managed, and what security and privacy features/mechanisms are in place. We work with a 100 year+ time horizon in mind, believing that though technologies will change, low-cost, accessible databases, providing free, high quality, detailed information on national stocks, will always be required and desired, and that these databases must, to prevent major breaches of privacy and security, and to ensure inclusivity, be built from the outset to rigorous ethical standards, which are constantly assessed.

Below, information is first provided on existing principles we follow:

1. Open Knowledge Foundation (OKF) Open definition 2.1


The OKF defines knowledge as 'open if anyone is free to access, use, modify, and share it - subject, at most, to measures that preserve provenance and openness'.

2. The 'Open Data Chapter'


  • Open by default
  • Timely and comprehensive
  • Accessible and useable
  • Comparable and Interoperable
  • For improved governance and citizen engagement
  • For inclusive development and innovation

3. The Open Data Institute's Data Infrastructure Principles


  • Design for Open
  • Build with the web
  • Respect privacy
  • Benefit everyone
  • Think big but start small
  • Design to adapt
  • Encourage open innovation

4. The Open Data Institute's personal data questions


In Colouring Cities the following questions handling personal data are also extended to people's homes

  • What are we collecting? 
  • How are we using it? 
  • How are we sharing it? 
  • How are we securing it? 
  • How are we making decisions about it? 
  • How are we accountable? 
  • How can we make analysis/outputs accessible
  • See also  ODI's data ethics canvas below

5.The Gemini principles


The CCRP promotes the Gemini Principles, developed by the Centre for Digital Britain at the University of Cambridge (2019) to provide a 'conscience' for the framework for information management systems on the built environment/infrastructure, and for national digital twins, and to ensure these remain focused on the public good.

  • Public good
  • Value creation
  • Insight
  • Security
  • Openness
  • Quality
  • Federation
  • Curation
  • Evolution 

6. The New Urban Agenda

Link: and Link:

The CCRP promotes the UN New Urban Agenda, created to drive global commitment to the goal of sustainable, inclusive, healthy and resilient cities and stocks:

  • Provide basic services for all citizens (e.g. housing, water, sanitation, food healthcare, education, culture, communication technologies)
  • Ensure that all citizens have access to equal opportunities and face no discrimination.
  • Promote measures that support cleaner cities (air pollution, greenspaces, energy/transport).
  • Strengthen resilience in cities to reduce the risk and the impact of disasters (better urban planning, quality infrastructure and improving local responses).
  • Take action to address climate change by reducing cities' greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Fully respect the rights of refugees, migrants and internally displaced persons regardless of their migration status.
  • Improve connectivity and support innovative and green initiatives (including supporting cross sector partnerships).
  • Promote safe, accessible and green public spaces

7. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights


The CCRP works to support the UDHR, and specifically the following (of 30 Articles):

  • Article 1: All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
  • Article 2: Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.
  • Article 3: Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.
  • Article 12: No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.
  • Article 19: Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers. (Note: Such speech must also respect other UDHR Articles).
  • Article 21. Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives. Everyone has the right of equal access to public service in his country.
  • Article 25: Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.
  • Article 27: Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits. Everyone has the right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author.
  • The Data Ethics Canvas
  • Data ethics are described by the Open Data Institute (ODI) as a  " A branch of ethics that evaluates data practices with the potential to adversely impact on people and society-in data collection, sharing and use."

Ethical use of data brings about trust and helps allow data to work for everyone. The Colouring Cities Research Programme uses the ODI Data Ethics Canvas to help identify and manage ethical issues throughout the lifecycle of its prototype platform Colouring Sydney.