Data Futures

Research to shift power through data governance

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What could go wrong?

In this research series, Mozilla Insights assumes that there could be opportunity to shift power imbalances through responsible innovation on data governance. However, we also recognize that any data initiative is accompanied by serious risks and hurdles to overcome. To keep our feet firmly planted on the ground, we have commissioned Keith Porcaro to imagine theoretical scenarios, inspired by reality, where data initiatives may fail or go wrong.


Download the full report: Failure modes for data stewardship


Failure modes for data stewardship

by Keith Porcaro


Mozilla Insights commissioned a “red team” brief to help examine failure modes for data stewardship projects. The brief’s goal was to help Mozilla and its partners improve their strategic planning, and help them determine how best to support the data stewardship field.

The brief itself is composed of miniature speculative narratives: small stories about hypothetical future projects that have failed, and why. While no single document can comprehensively capture all of the ways a data stewardship initiative might fail, we hope this brief will help spark imaginations inside Mozilla and in the wider data stewardship field, and prompt thoughtful approaches to mitigating the harm to people that failure can cause.

The full brief is divided into three parts. Part I explores how data stewardship initiatives might fail to get off the ground, attract enough users, accomplish their missions, or win user trust. Part II explores how data stewardship initiatives might create or further discriminatory or exclusionary practices. Finally, Part III explores how even if data stewardship initiatives succeed, they may fail to meaningfully change the power dynamics of our digital world. A brief afterword contemplates what else is needed to truly remake the digital economy, beyond just new ways for managing data.

True to the red team form, this brief was drafted in isolation from the rest of the research outlined here, and does not represent the opinions or positions of Mozilla or any of its staff, affiliates, or partners. The stories are fictional, and should not be read as descriptions of any current or past initiatives.

This is part of a broader movement for a healthy internet. See more.