Data collection is an important mechanism for many private and public organizations to achieve their goals. Historically, research involving First Nations communities was done to them, not with them. Consequently, the research results were never returned to communities and only benefited those collecting the data.

Currently there is no law or concept in Western ways of thinking that recognizes community rights and in their interests in information collection. The principles of OCAP® were developed to ensure that First Nations own their information. Under OCAP® the data used reflects the cultural value of using and sharing in a way that maximizes the benefit and minimizes harm to a community.

The acronym OCAP® stands for Ownership, Control, Access and Possession and is the de facto set of standards that govern how First Nations data should be collected, protected, used and/or shared. 

The OCAP®  website defines the four components as;

Ownership refers to the relationship of First Nations to their cultural knowledge, data, and information. This principle states that a community or group owns information collectively in the same way that an individual owns his or her personal information.

Control affirms that First Nations, their communities, and representative bodies are within their rights in seeking control over all aspects of research and information management processes that impact them. First Nations control of research can include all stages of a particular research project-from start to finish. The principle extends to the control of resources and review processes, the planning process, management of the information and so on.

Access refers to the fact that First Nations must have access to information and data about themselves and their communities regardless of where it is held. The principle of access also refers to the right of First Nations communities and organizations to manage and make decisions regarding access to their collective information. This may be achieved, in practice, through standardized, formal protocols.

Possession While ownership identifies the relationship between a people and their information in principle, possession or stewardship is more concrete: it refers to the physical control of data. Possession is the mechanism by which ownership can be asserted and protected. 

When working with data that involves First Nations communities or individuals, OCAP® principles should be adhered to.