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 22 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.


Full-degree students enrolled at the Faculty of Social Science, UCPH 

  • MSc in Security Risk Management
  • Master Programme in Social Data Science
  • Master Programmes in Sociology
  • Master Programmes in Psychology
  • Master Programmes in Anthropology 
  • Master programme in Political Science
  • Master Programmes in Economics


Mandatory course on MSc programme in Social Data Science at University of Copenhagen. The course is only open for students enrolled in the MSc programme in Social Data Science.

Learning outcome

At the end of the course, students are able to:


• 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
Type of assessment details
The exam consists of two separate written essays that students are expected to write in groups.

The first essay is a free assignment with an independently formulated problem. 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.

The second essay is a three-day take-home assignment. The essay must include an account of how to make a dataset legally compliant with GDPR and the Danish Data Protection Act, and how to assess its ethical compliance with established ethical frameworks, for example the European Code of Conduct for Research Integrity. Students are supplied with a dataset that resembles the types of datasets they will be working on in other courses on the master’s programme. They are asked to give an account of how to make the dataset legally and ethically compliant, including the collection of the data before it was constructed, in how it is processed and analysed, how it is stored, and how it is potentially re-used or repurposed.

The total length of the exam must not exceed:
• For two students: 15 standard pages (approximately 7.5 pages per essay)
• For three students: 20 standard pages (approximately 10 pages per essay)
• For four students: 25 standard pages (approximately 12.5 pages per essay)
All aids allowed
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship

The second and third exam attempts will be different from the ordinary examination in two regards: 1) for the first essay, students should answer a substantially new problem statement of their own choosing; 2) for the second essay, the dataset will be different from the ordinary examination.

It will be possible to do the re-examination individually or in groups. For individual submissions, the total length of the essays must not exceed 10 pages (app. 5 pages per essay).

Criteria for exam assessment

The exam is graded in accordance with the Danish 7-point grading scale. 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
70 students.
Social Data Science
Contracting department
  • Social Data Science
  • Department of Anthropology
  • Department of Psychology
  • Department of Political Science
  • Department of Sociology
  • Department of Economics
Contracting faculty
  • Faculty of Social Sciences
Course Coordinator
  • Kristoffer Langkjær Albris   (17-71786f797a756c6c6b7834677268786f794679756a677934717b346a71)
Saved on the 07-06-2023

Are you BA- or KA-student?

Are you bachelor- or kandidat-student, then find the course in the course catalog for students:

Courseinformation of students