Responsible data is:
The duty to ensure people’s rights to consent, privacy, security and ownership around the information processes of collection, analysis, storage, presentation and reuse of data, while respecting the values of transparency and openness.  (Responsible Data Forum, working definition, September 2014)

Information and data are an increasingly important part of advocacy work and, intentionally or not, activists and civil society groups are collecting a lot of it — through surveys, mappings, record keeping and everyday communications. And while data and communication tools can strengthen advocacy work, they can also put communities and activists at risk if they are not managed carefully and responsibly.

‘Data in the project lifecycle‘, composed at RDF Buda

Anecdotes of data mishaps attest to a range of risks: from wasted resources to damaged relationships and credibility, to arrests and violence when vulnerable groups or individuals are inadvertently identified. But little is known about what leads to these harms, or what could have been done to prevent them. Despite some interest in the international support community, abstract discussions about “ethics” and privacy almost never relate broad and conceptual issues to the working realities of advocates, for whom data has become a suddenly accessible and promising tool. For activists and organizations leveraging data towards real life objectives of social justice and political accountability, such discussions can seem academic at best, intrusive and paternalistic at worst.

The Responsible Data Forum is an effort to engage activists and organizations that are actually using data in advocacy towards better understanding and strengthening responsible data practices. The project is built on the premise that using data in advocacy carries with it a responsibility to avoid contributing to the harm of people reflected in that data or who might be affected by its use, and that responsible data practices will also inevitably lead to stronger, more efficient and impactful advocacy.

Responsible Data Forum activities include organizing events; fostering discussion between communities; developing and testing concrete tools; disseminating useful information; and advocating for advocates and their supporters to improve the way they work with data. The Forum is a collaboration between Amnesty International,  Aspiration, The Engine Room, Greenhost, HURIDOCS, Oxfam, Leiden University’s Peace Informatics LabSchool of Data and Ushahidi. RDF issue-based partners include: Benetech, Berkman Centre for Internet and Society, Center for Economic and Social Rights, Central European University, Data & Society Research Institute, DataKind, iHub Research, HIVOS, Kurante, Magnum Foundation, MIT Center for Civic Media, Privacy International and UN Global Pulse.

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For more information, send an email to contact AT responsibledata DOT io.