Jeroen van den Hoven chair of new Data Ethics Committee at UWV

News - 04 April 2022 - Webredactie

UWV (Employee Insurance Agency) develops and uses data applications to improve or renew services to clients and employers and considers it important that this is done carefully and in a well-considered way. For this reason, UWV has established a Data Ethics Committee which can give solicited and unsolicited advice on data applications that have an impact on clients. The committee consists of external and internal experts and is chaired by Professor Jeroen van den Hoven, Professor of Ethics and Technology at Delft University of Technology.

UWV wants to make more and smarter use of data to further improve services to clients and entrepreneurs. More personal and more tailored. 'Data-driven work is an essential tool for doing our job,' says Johanna Hirscher, temporary member of the UWV Board of Directors. 'For example, when a client calls, you need to be able to see at a glance who he is, what he needs from us, in what way. With more than one million people on file, you can't know such things by heart. We need databases and data applications for that.'

The main thing is that UWV wants to deal with the collection and interpretation of data in an ethically responsible and transparent way. UWV therefore previously published the Data Ethics Compass. It describes the principles which UWV applies when using data and developing algorithms. For example, the use of data and technology may not result in certain people or groups being unintentionally or unconsciously disadvantaged or advantaged. The use of data is always under the control of UWV employees; there is always human intervention.

The Data Ethics Committee is a next step. The committee is formed with external experts from the ethics field and UWV employees with expertise in privacy, service delivery, information security and legal matters. They will ensure that the values and principles of the Data Ethics Compass are applied everywhere. Hirscher: "Citizens must be able to trust the UWV to handle their data properly and with care. By setting up the Data Ethics Compass, the Data Ethics Committee and setting up an algorithm register, we are going beyond the minimum requirement set by law. Because of that necessary trust in us - and therefore in the government and in society - we have not only a legal, but also a moral obligation.'

UWV takes responsible use of data applications seriously'

The committee is chaired by Jeroen van den Hoven, professor of Ethics and Technology at TU Delft. 'The task of the Data Ethics Committee is to help think about ethical dilemmas that arise from the application of data technologies,' he says. 'It's up to us to look at these issues and advise on solutions. UWV is thus demonstrating that it takes the responsible use of data applications seriously. Not only as chairman, but also as a citizen I am happy that UWV is taking this up at an early stage.'

Besides chairman Van den Hoven, there is a second external member of the committee. Sandjai Bhulai, professor of Business Analytics at the VU University Amsterdam, will also take a critical look at the use of data and algorithms at UWV. Bhulai: "Data technology can lead to great improvements in services. But with the opportunities come the risks. For every possible application you have to ask yourself: what does this application do, how, with what goal, what are the risks. And above all: can I explain this to my clients? If you can't, then the application is not ethically responsible.

Collaboration with TU Delft

In addition to the commitment of both professors in the committee, UWV will enter into an agreement with TU Delft. A PhD position will be created there for a TU doctoral student in the field of data ethics in social security. The research fits within TU Delft's expertise in digital ethics, which also works closely with numerous Delft initiatives in the field of Data Science and AI.

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