As Real Estate becomes more data driven and complex, it will become increasingly important for the sector to get to grips with the ethical challenges that this presents.
We will increasingly have to address how we collect, manage and use data in the most ethical way for our businesses and society.
The RED Foundation has established a steering group of leading experts and 6 principles that we are asking companies to sign up to demonstrate that they are working towards.
DATA ETHICS PLAYBOOK
Step by step guide to embedding data ethics
RED Foundation Data Ethics Principles
Six high level principles that we would encourage all real estate companies to work towards. Demonstrate to staff, clients and society that you are doing so by signing the form below.
Find out more about the Data Ethics Steering Group here.
Find out more about the RED Foundation Data Ethics activity and FAQ's here.
For the data collected and used. This includes taking responsibility for using the data in an appropriate and secure way.
4. Confidential & Private
All activity with data should at all times consider confidentiality and protect privacy; both within necessary legal requirements, but also according to the expectations of wider society.
About what is collected and why. Whilst this cannot be expected for every data point, at a minimum a general data policy should be published for each building and company explaining what is collected and why.
All data should only be used within all relevant local and international laws and regulations.
Not only should data be collected within legal and technical requirements, but is also proportionate to the benefit and the expectations of wider society
Security principles should be built in ‘by design’ into all applications and appropriate steps should be taken to keep data secure.
RED Foundation Data Ethics Steering Group
The RED Foundation Data Ethics steering group, is made up of experts from across all corners of the sector with the purpose of raising the topic of data ethics up the sector’s agenda. It will:
Provide a credible voice for data ethics in real estate
Own and promote the RED Foundation Data Ethics principles across the real estate sector
Act as a 'Data Ethics' sounding board for other activity across the RED Foundation
Produce regular 'RED Foundation Data Ethics' updates on market activity or specific topics
Be responsible for external Data Ethics proposals to be carried out on behalf of the RED Foundation
RED Foundation Data Ethics latest news
What is the background to the letter?Connecting data and using identifiers has been talked about in parts of property for a long time, but last summer the Government made the UPRN more open. Many organisations recognise the benefits of a widely used single identifier, but the biggest benefit is when it is used across the whole market by everyone. Property is very fragmented and so the RED Foundation, working with IRPM and TLIC, set about leading an initiative to build a consensus in the market to recognise the steps taken by Government with the UPRN, encourage its adoption to achieve a wide range of benefits, but also to call on Government to take action to help the sector achieve this adoption. The breadth of organisations and companies that have signed up to this is unprecedented and it is encouraging to see how the sector has come together around this topic.
Why not just use the address?The most common way we identify a building is by its address, but this is often not captured consistently over time, for example: Address format - We record addresses in different ways; do you call it St. James’ Street, St James Street, St James’s Street, St James St.? Crossroads - Where a building is on a corner of two streets whilst it may only have one official address, people might address it to both streets in everyday life. All of this causes confusion, in particular for computers to match and compare data sets. Capturing addresses in an inconsistent format has often caused problems, but this is going to become an ever-greater challenge as we become more reliant on technology. The UPRN provides a widely used single reference number meaning that we are always talking about the same building and different bits of information can more easily be combined. This lack of confusion and ability to easily combine data sets is where many of the benefits come from.
If we need a single number, why not just use the title number?"The title refers to the ownership of land. This is recorded in the title deeds and is then represented by a line shown over a map. This information captured in a title is attributed a unique reference; a title number. It is certainly true that sometimes a title number might represent a single building, but it is also possible that it will cover a number of different buildings, or a single building with numerous units. And, not all properties are registered. The UPRN provides a more granular and inclusive reference number.
Do we really need another new initiative and when will it be available?The cost of creating a nationally managed and accurate reference number system from scratch is significant, but in the UK we already have this. The UPRN has been established for many years and is ‘owned’ and managed by GeoPlace, a joint initiative between Local Government and Ordnance Survey.
What is the catch, who is making money out of this?"There is no catch, and this is not a money making scheme, in fact the general consensus is that this will save money from efficiency gains. Address data is licensed by Ordnance Survey so any fees would go to them to fund the addressing system. However, the letter identifies one of the conditions as "The UPRN must be in a clear and useable format that allows the UPRN to be widely identified, used and shared at no cost on an individual or market level basis." Once in wide use, the UPRN has very few downsides. It doesn’t favour one way of doing things over another, nor does it favour one company over another.
How much will it cost?It is possible to look up your, or someone else’s, UPRN today for free at https://www.findmyaddress.co.uk/ (up to 30 times per day) – this will let you find your UPRN and you can then use it as widely as you like, so there is no cost at all. If you are a company and want to adopt the UPRN across a whole organisation, this will mean updating your databases and systems. Today, this will bring with it a cost. However, the letter specifically identifies conditions for the wide adoption of the UPRN being: "The UPRN must be in a clear and useable format that allows the UPRN to be widely identified, used and shared at no cost on an individual or market level basis."
Sounds good and I would like to get involved, but I am not at all technical and have no idea where to start?"The open letter calls for Government to do more about its communication and engagement around the UPRN with the property sector. If you are not technical, you are not alone. The property sector is huge, but often made up of SME’s which don’t have lots, or any technical resource. In the short term as a starting point, talk to your technology providers and look at the GeoPlace ‘UPRN in Property’ webpage (www.geoplace.co.uk/addresses-streets/location-data/addresses-underpin-everything/uprn-and-property)
What about the UARN, UDPRN, Postcode, TOID, title number and the other million identifiers out there – why are there so many and why not use them?"One of the challenges for property and property data is we mean different things when we talk about a property depending on its use or our perspective on it. Codes created by Royal Mail, the Valuation office, HM Land Registry, etc. are all important and represent something slightly different. The most complete and granular identifier that we have today is the UPRN and this not only acts as an identifier, but also provides a link to many of the other identifiers providing even more ability to bring different data sets together. To find out more about property identifiers, how a look at this blog ‘Persistent and well-behaved identifiers’. (https://blog.geo.place/2018/09/27/persistent-and-well-behaved-identifiers/)
Why do I need to replace my existing numbers with new ones?You don’t, many people already use the UPRN today and for those that don’t, all you need to do is record it alongside the details you already record. This might mean making a note by hand on a folder, adding a column to a spreadsheet or adding a new field in a data base.
So, the UPRN is going to solve everything?"No, the wide use of the UPRN is a single step towards improving the residential market, albeit a significant one. Whilst often behind the scenes, many of the challenges we face today are entirely, or in part down to, not being able to correctly identify a building or an inability to connect data sets. If everyone used the UPRN, this would big a significant step towards solving this and allow the sector and consumers to benefit from the speed and efficiency that technology can deliver in the future.
If the letter is calling on Government to take steps to enable the use of the UPRN in residential property, do I need to wait, or should I be doing something now?"The letter identifies certain conditions that the signatories believe need to be created by Government to make the wider adoption of the UPRN possible and effective. However, there are things that you can do today: Talk to your software providers to encourage them to engage with the UPRN and allow for it in their systems or the ones they build for you. When you are dealing with individual properties, look up and use the UPRN. This does not need to be instead of anything that you use today, but can be used alongside it. The letter calls for a clear view on the ethics of data use, the Real Estate Data Foundation has established 6 high level Data Ethical Principles that all companies working in property are encouraged to work towards. This is a complex area, but the ethical principles will be a good first step in the right direction. (www.theredfoundation.org/data-ethics-principles)