Data Responsibility on the Front Lines: Protection and Security in Humanitarian Response


Photo credits: Gregor Fisher / cc-by-sa 2.0

Mutwakil Omran für Shifted News

War and conflicts cause humanitarian crises, result in hunger, war-torn zones, mass migration and internal displacement. International humanitarian agencies work on the front lines always in direct contact with those affected by the crisis. Their work often also requires collecting data - including personal data in order to provide services covering basic needs.

At re:publica, humanitarian workers and researchers discussed the responsibility for data security when responding to crises.

Humanitarian data and protection

Daniel Brown from German Federal Ministry of International Cooperation and Development discussed the potential of online health management platforms, how Blockchain can be used for transparency in developing countries and what the risks of digitalization are?

He maintained that data collected by agencies from people affected by the crisis help agencies deliver required services. But exploring personal information of those affected by humanitarian crises could put them at risk.

Handling data, handling the life of people

Nathaniel A. Raymond, director of the Signal Program on Human Security & Technology pointed out that for the humanitarian actors, trust is their currency. They depend in establishing trust with affected populations.

Data in and from social network, on devices as much as what happens on the battlefield is important. And social media misinformation can be a critical issue. Handling data in these situations means handling the lives of people.

Humanitarian agencies and data protection

Massimo Marelli, data protection chief at the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) explains how his organization has adopted a set of rules to protect personal data. He also insists that safeguarding personal data in armed conflicts is essential to protecting people’s lives.

The panel concluded that humanitarian agencies need to be aware of the risks. This is key to safeguarding personal data in humanitarian crisis settings.