This is part four of a four-part series on how we approach data at Mozilla. Read the others here: Part 1; Part 2; Part 3.

What does responsible data governance look like in practice, and how might stewardship of data help us act more collectively? This is a question we’ve been asking at Mozilla’s Data Futures Lab alongside a growing number of platforms and organizations attempting to re-think the way they collect, manage, use, and share data. While the Lab is focused on supporting this growing ecosystem of platforms, the Mozilla Foundation is looking internally to identify ways to improve how we collect and use data today to magnify and measure our impact as a movement building organization that advances trustworthy AI. Just as Mozilla has long been a trusted advocate and model for lean data practices, our hope is to evolve our thinking and serve a similar role with respect to responsible data stewardship.

We will begin this work in 2022 with a review of data governance practices and open questions within the Foundation. This work will include a look at data-centric projects like Common Voice and YouTube Regrets Reporter as well as how the Foundation uses data operationally. Everything that we do at Mozilla Foundation - activities like online campaigning and MozFest - rely heavily on data collected through the Foundation’s use of open-source and commercial software like content management, relationship management, event management and email marketing tools.

What would it look like for Mozilla Foundation to more fully “walk the talk” when it comes to data stewardship? What kind of processes might we need to put in place, to have our own organization’s use of data be a learning opportunity for how we shift power back to people, and imagine new ways to act collectively through, and with, our data?

Exploring collective approaches for how the Mozilla Foundation uses data

Mozilla is conscientious of, and builds on, best practices when it comes to privacy and how we handle people’s data when they engage with us through the many digital front doors that we have - from participating in MozFest to applying for a fellowship; to signing up for a newsletter or making a donation. However, that doesn’t address how the Foundation might link or otherwise use data about our supporters across these touch-points to advance our mission. How might we unlock the value in the data resources that we manage, in a manner that's consistent with (and demonstrative of) our values and Mozilla’s history?

We think we can do more to make that process more collective and participatory as we advance our strategy towards movement building for more trustworthy AI. How might we ourselves start to explore what collective decision-making might look like for how MoFo uses data? What do our supporters need in terms of transparency and control? What sorts of decisions warrant a higher degree of engagement and transparency with our community?

Defining “good data governance” for Common Voice and Regrets Reporter

Common Voice and Regrets Reporter are two relatively new initiatives within the Foundation that collect and steward large sets of user data. As we design how these projects, collect, share, and manage that data, we’re applying and testing some of the ideas coming out of the data governance research space. Through the practical implementation of these ideas we plan to distill and share what might be valuable guidance for other organizations building data-centric platforms.

Where we will start

Starting in 2022, we will start with a process of internal research and learnings to develop an understanding of our data governance “existing state” across the Foundation, with an eye towards surfacing opportunities where we might experiment ourselves with alternative data stewardship practices. This work will serve as the basis for designing the future of the Foundation’s data governance and stewardship practices, which will help us “walk the talk” and be an active participant ourselves in the Data Futures Lab.

We’ll embark on this work next year as an active peer to the organizations participating in our Data Futures Lab. Through the Lab we’ll share updates, what’s working and what’s not, insights and lessons, and hopefully best practices that can inform the ecosystem.