Responsibility and private sector data
New York, July 24 2014

/ July 24, 2014


The Rockefeller Foundation, 420 Fifth Ave New York, NY 10018



Private sector companies accumulate a tremendous amount of data in their day-to-day operations. Market research, communications tracking, client relationship management, and market activities generate a wealth of information, which tends to stay in the private domain. The call for increased privacy standards and opt-out conditions for such data has been reinforced by recent national and international security revelations. At the same time, there is increasing recognition of how private sector data and Big Data can be used for public good by the social sector. Private corporations have begun exploring how to open up or share datasets for civic hackathons, research or to support the work of social impact organizations, giving rise to a new “data philanthropy.”

The Forum

This Responsible Data Forum explored the ethical, privacy and security challenges posed by accessing and using private sector data, and share ways to meet those challenges. A blogpost on the event is here. Use cases were discussed to draw out practical experiences and elicit best practices from:

  • Civic coding hackathons or competitions that use private sector data such as social media data, cell phone data or other commercial data
  • Think tanks, academics and other institutions seeking to license private sector data for research
  • Data journalists or investigative journalists using private sector data for reporting and visualization

The forum had a limited number of participants to ensure dynamic participation and dialogue, and followed the Chatham House Rule (information from the discussion can only be used without attribution)



Forum outputs included:

  • Data Risk Checker: A project design tool for assessing potential harms associated with specific data points. This resource provides a framework to better understand the risks to the people reflected in your data. This tool is meant to inform mitigation and protection strategies.

About the partners

Global Pulse is a United Nations innovation lab established by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in 2009, in response to the need for more real-time information and insights on emerging vulnerabilities and changes in human well-being. Global Pulse works to increase the volume of proven Big Data for Development innovations, lower barriers to adoption and scaling, and improve coordination within an emerging community of practice. Through strategic public-private partnerships across its network of Pulse Labs, Global Pulse is working to drive a big data revolution for sustainable development.

The Data & Society Institute is a new, New York City-based think/do tank launching in 2014 dedicated to addressing social, technical, ethical, legal, and policy issues that are emerging because of data-centric technological development. Data & Society provides a space for researchers, entrepreneurs, activists, policy creators, journalists, geeks, and public intellectuals to gather, debate, and engage one another on the key issues introduced by the increasing availability of data in society.

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.

Leave a Reply

Related /

/ July 26, 2022

Takeaways from our Community Call on Responsible Data for Social Justice Organisations

/ June 7, 2022

Community Call: Responsible Data for Social Justice Organisations

/ March 2, 2021

Curating connections in the Responsible Data community