Introducing the Benchmark Initiative

While the American Geographical Society (AGS) is based in New York City, the EthicalGEO Initiative is international in scope. Given the global reach of GeoTech and GeoData, it is no surprise that a related conversation about the ethical implications of its utilization is taking place across the pond. 

Launched earlier this year, the Benchmark Initiative is an exploration of the challenges facing responsible users of geospatial technology and geo-enabled data. The project is led by Geovation, a community of location data and property technology start-ups based in London, with support from Omidyar Network. 

Benchmark will host a series of lectures convening thought leaders and innovators in the geospatial sciences to discuss the ethical usage of GeoData and its potential for social impact. The first such lecture, held in October of 2019, featured AGS Chairman Dr. Christopher Tucker in conversation with Ms. Caroline Bellamy, Chief Data Officer of Ordnance Survey, about the ethics of geospatial enterprise data. Watch their discussion here. Benchmark’s next event, a discussion on representation, inequity, and bias in geospatial data collection, will be held in London on January 15, 2020.  

The Benchmark Initiative has also launched an Entrepreneur in Residence program that will aid in the development of applications and services that illustrate the risks, opportunities and ethical considerations of location data. Up to 10 innovators will receive £10,000 to £50,000 in funding to build applications and programs dedicated to addressing ethical challenges posed by the proliferation of location data and geospatial technology. Benchmark is accepting proposals for the Entrepreneurs in Residence Program until December 14, 2019.

Like EthicalGEO, the Benchmark team is tracking their progress through a series of blog posts that highlight current events and topical issues in ethical location data collection. Their most recent post discusses the balance between the value use of location data to monitor human behavior and impacts with its potential misuses for surveillance and political repression. Check out their blog page for more information. 

As EthicalGEO and the Benchmark Initiative continue to develop in parallel, be on the lookout for our coordinated efforts to spread further the word about the ethical implications of GeoTech and GeoData in the modern age.