Responsible Data Challenges for Practitioners of Human Rights Documentation

/ March 20, 2015

RDFhumanrightsIn preparation for our Responsible Data Forum event on human rights documentation in Manila 21-22 March, we asked practitioners to share their responsible data challenges with us. We heard from about 20 people, through conversations and online Jitsi hangouts. The most common responsible data concerns included:

Security of the data, and the people (and communities) it represents.

Some of the concerns and questions raised regarding security included: How can practitioners secure the information they are collecting and their communications? How can practitioners protect themselves, physically? How to address challenges around data volume and secure data workflows? Are there tools that work in conflict situations with no internet and little training access? How to build security into applications and storage? How to support non-tech organizations to establish good, clear and actionable data handling policies?

Ensuring data quality, implementing sound methods, and fair data analysis.

Many people had questions about how to ensure that the data they are collecting is good quality, using sound methods. Questions included: How do practitioners ensure that their data is “representative”? How to include guidelines on digital evidence effectively into applications and workflows? What guidance can help design documentation efforts and methodologies, so that the outcomes are on a solid foundation (in terms of data quality and sound methods)? How do we ensure anonymity while keeping the advocacy value of the data?

Verification of data: How can we assess the integrity of third party data quickly and reliably (e.g. government data, public data)?

Regarding analysis challenges, questions that were raised included: When using data, how can we make sure to not cherry-pick to support our advocacy arguments, but remain fair and responsible? What tools are available to responsibly analyze human rights data, and how do practitioners pick the right one? How can we lower the threshold for non-specialists to analyse data and make responsible judgements?

Understanding what users need from technology, what tools may already available, and knowing when/how to use them.

A number of people thought it would be helpful to map the tools available for human rights data collection, storage, management, archiving, sharing, and analysis.

Strengthening our responsibility to understand and communicate outcomes to data owners.

There was discussion around the importance of determining and communicating realistic goals and outcomes of the data collection. Those who are sharing information with you – what are their expectations for the outcome of the project? Who will benefit from this effort, and how? Will the perpetrator be brought to trial? How will the actual outcomes be shared back to the community?

We’ll do our best to address these issues as a community of practice by developing new tools, adapting existing tools, and providing support and advice to each other. What are we missing? Add your comments below and/or join the listserv to continue these conversations!

We’re grateful to those who spoke with us and shared their experiences and concerns. Thank you! Better understanding the challenges is the first step to developing useful tools.

About the contributor

Kristin has a background in human rights and computer science, and has worked as a community-builder and technology problem-solver in the human rights community since 2007. As Director of Programmes at HURIDOCS, she strives to ensure the services and tools we provide to their partners truly help them achieve their human rights goals. She is passionate about peer-to-peer exchange and believes that if we do it well, we have so much to learn from each other.

See Kristin's Articles

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