“Data at scale” — digital information collected, stored and used in ways that are newly feasible — opens new avenues for philanthropic investment. At the same time, projects that leverage data at scale create new risks that are not addressed by existing regulatory, legal and best practice frameworks. Data-oriented projects funded by major foundations are a natural proving ground for the ethical principles and controls that should guide the ethical treatment of data in the social sector and beyond.
This project is an initial effort to map the ways that data at scale may pose risks to philanthropic priorities and beneficiaries, for grantmakers at major foundations, and draws from desk research and unstructured interviews with key individuals involved in the grantmaking enterprise at major U.S. foundations. The resulting report was prepared at the joint request of the MacArthur and Ford Foundations.