How can humanitarian organisations share mobile metadata in privacy-conscious ways?


/ December 19, 2014

As part of Brookings’ Issues in Technology Innovation series, Cameron F Kerry, Yves-Alexandre de Montjoye and Jake Kendall published a paper arguing for a more nuanced approach in protecting privacy related to mobile data. It builds a case for special exceptions where data may be used for significant public good or to avoid serious harm to people.

Humanitarian paper summary

Key recommendation: establishing systems and processes for recognizing trusted third-parties and systems to manage datasets, enable detailed audits, and control the use of data so as to combat the potential for data abuse and re-identification of anonymous data.

  • Despite the promise, regulatory barriers and privacy challenges prevent us from being able to use mobile phone metadata to its full potential.
  • There is a lack of commonly accepted practices for sharing mobile phone data in privacy-conscientious ways.
  • There is an uncertain and country-specific regulatory landscape for data sharing, especially for cross-border data sharing.
  • For policy-makers or mobile carriers looking for clarity, there is a lack of documentation and guidance to help them.
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About the contributor

Tom started out writing and editing for newspapers, consultancies and think tanks on topics including politics and corruption in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia, then moved into designing and managing election-related projects in countries including Myanmar, Bangladesh, Rwanda and Bolivia. After getting interested in what data and technology could add in those areas and elsewhere, he made a beeline for The Engine Room. Tom is trying to read all of the Internet, but mostly spends his time picking out useful resources and trends for organisations using technology in their work.

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