Consent and crowdsourcing
Nairobi, October 28 2014

/ October 28, 2014


Amnesty International, 3rd floor, Parkfield Place, Muthangari Road, off Waiyaki Way Nairobi 00600 Kenya


The Responsible Data Forum partnered with Amnesty International to explore the role of informed consent in crowdsourced and user-generated data for advocacy.

The concept of informed consent is poorly adapted to our contemporary communication landscape, and the infinite potential for digital information to be shared, adapted, manipulated and re-used. This reality poses principled and practical challenges for anyone using digital and mobile tools to collect, manage and share data for social impact and human rights chance. Initial conversations with the human rights research and campaigning community suggest that one of the most challenging areas in which to understand the necessity and the limits of informed consent is in regard crowd-sourced or user-generated data.

This event convened organizations that actively aggregate and mobilize crowdsourced and user-generated data for advocacy, to explore the necessity and the limits of informed consent for this type of data.

To do this, the event convened a solid mixture of tech-based and ‘traditional’ human rights perspectives. The event was structured to meet the specific needs of the actors as expressed in the event, and to address the following broad objectives:

  • Map potential risk areas for individuals/users in new and emerging crowd-sourced data technologies, information from which is used for advocacy
  • Identify, share and develop resources for mitigating these risks
  • Develop best-practices guidance for organisations using crowd-sourcing technology for human rights research and campaigning.

Structure and Focus:

Some of the questions to be addressed in this event included:

  • Do organisations collecting and using this information have a disclosure responsibility to the user? If so, might such disclosure effect the quality and quantity of information collected?
  • Are there certain thematic areas (such as working with children, sexual and gender-based violence, etc.) that warrant a more strict approach to consent?
  • Should crowd-soured data and traditional human rights research methods always be distinct? If not, how can we ensure maximum synergy between the two?
  • Can ethics-based and consent requirements be built right into software or are these responsibilities always with the organisation employing the software?
  • How can consent platforms be used to build digital literacy and empowerment among data providers?
  • How can we balance the principle of consent with efficiency and the need to act quickly to achieve human rights impact in urgent situations.
  • Is consent more appropriate as a precondition for data that is collected for “research” purposes than for other purposes?

What is an RDF event?

The Responsible Data Forum event series are small, issue-based convenings to bring together advocates, technologists, to collaboratively develop materials for addressing the unintended consequences of using data in specific sectors. Over the past four years, we have developed a participatory methodology to enable creative development of prototypes and resources at the event itself, making the most of our in-person time. After the event, we share the tools more widely and seek to continue working on them.

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