Data Governance: Law, Ethics and Politics

Course content

The increasing datafication of the world brings with it a range of ethical, legal, and political challenges. From the ethics of data privacy to legal frameworks such as GDPR and legislation regulating tech giants, new data governance issues surface rapidly. This course introduces students to key legislation, as well as political and ethical debates concerning the governance and security of data. Students are taught how to make data collection and processing ethically sound and legally compliant, providing them with the necessary knowledge, skills, and competencies regarding data protection and data management, complementing the social data science and programming skills they acquire on the other courses on the Master’s degree programme in Social Data Science.


Mandatory course on MSc programme in Social Data Science at University of Copenhagen. 

The Course will be open for up to 20 students from SAMF.

There will be room for 5 students from Anthropology, 5 from Sociology,  5 from Political Science (+Social Science and Security Risk Management) and 5 from Economy.

If more students apply there will be a draw.

Learning outcome


  • Account for ethical, legal, and political aspects and consequences of the collection and use of data for a range of administrative, scientific, and commercial purposes.
  • Explain key legal and social science concepts, ideas, and debates pertaining to the use of different types of data in private and public contexts, including the ethical debates regarding the use of algorithms and machine learning (e.g. FATE: Fair, Accountable, Transparent & Ethical).
  • Demonstrate insight into the content and implications of national and EU legal frameworks for data collection, processing, and storage (i.e., GDPR).



  • Evaluate the quality of own as well as others people’s use of methods, datasets, and analytical approaches in relation to the ethical, legal, and political aspects of data protection.
  • Communicate central questions around data ethics – academic as well as policy-oriented – to peers and non-experts.
  • Formulate efficient, ethically, and legally sound procedures for managing data, including data stewardship, ownership, compliance, privacy, data risks, data sensitivity, and data sharing.



  • Navigate and understand existing key legislation, rules, and ethical frameworks for personal data management and governance, especially GDPR.
  • Critically discuss possibilities and risks associated with the use of data when implementing data governance policies and rules in organizations and institutions based on frameworks from social science and law.
  • Assess concrete cases of data governance, including the identification of problems, risks of misuse, as well as the benefits of data analysis.

The course combines lectures, workshops, quizzes, group exercises, student presentations and peer-feedback seminars. There will be guest lectures by experts, especially with respect to teaching related to GDPR and Danish data protection legislation.

500 pages mandatory, plus 200 pages of non-mandatory literature, selected by the teachers. Literature will be in the form of articles, book chapters, blog posts, guidelines, and policy documents.

Continuous feedback during the course of the semester
Feedback by final exam (In addition to the grade)
Peer feedback (Students give each other feedback)
7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Written assignment
Written assignment, 3 days
Group-based written assignments (a free essay and a 3-day take-home essay).
The first essay is a free assignment with an independently formulated problem called the Data Governance Issue Essay. The essay must include an analysis of the legal, ethical and political issues pertaining to a real-world case study related to the application, management, and governance of data. Students are expected to draw on arguments and theories from the course literature. The essay should have a clear problem statement and a number of sections analysing the case study from legal, ethical, and political perspectives. Students can choose a case themselves.
The second essay is a three-day take-home assignment called a Data Management Plan. The essay must include an account of how to make a dataset legally compliant and ethically sound. Students are supplied with a dataset that resembles the types of datasets that they will be working on in other courses on the Master’s degree programme.
The total length of the two essays must not exceed the general length prescribed for written exams, cf. section 5. The number of pages should roughly be evenly distributed between the two essays.
All aids allowed
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship
Criteria for exam assessment

The exam will be assessed on the basis of the learning outcome (knowledge, skills and competencies) for the course.

The two essays are assigned equal weight towards the final grade.

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Lectures
  • 28
  • Preparation
  • 56
  • Exercises
  • 42
  • Project work
  • 80
  • English
  • 206


Course number
7,5 ECTS
Programme level
Full Degree Master

1 block

Block 3
The course will be open for up to 20 students from SAMF.

There will be room for 5 students from Anthropology, 5 from Sociology, 5 from Political Science (+Social Science and Security Risk Management) and 5 from Economy.

If there is more students applying than seats there will be a draw.
Social Data Science
Contracting department
  • Social Data Science
Contracting faculty
  • Faculty of Social Sciences
Course Coordinators
  • Rebecca Adler-Nissen   (3-776673456e6b7833707a336970)
  • Kristoffer Albris   (17-71786f797a756c6c6b7834677268786f794679756a677934717b346a71)
  • Andreas Bjerre-Nielsen   (3-636470427571666375306d7730666d)
Saved on the 02-02-2022

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