Ebola: A Big Humanitarian Data Disaster

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Session Description

This session will focus on the use of data in humanitarian crises, with a focus on the legality, proportionality, and impact of current practice on balance of power around the world. Specifically, governments and humanitarian organizations are increasingly calling for (and seizing) enormous amounts of personally identifiable information - or information that can be re-identified - to implement untested data models in complex and precarious contexts. Not only is this practice dangerous, it is illegal, in ways that imperil some of the world's best intentioned organizations. This session will focus on the current state of practice, through the case study of the Ebola epidemic, and discuss the legal and practical implications for future use.

Ebola: A Big Humanitarian Data Disaster
Presenter/s Sean McDonald
Bio/s Sean Martin McDonald is the CEO of FrontlineSMS. Frontline technologies are used by thousands of organizations to reach tens of millions of people, saving lives, improving healthcare, and building inclusive societies. Frontline was named the #1 Technology NGO in the world and was listed by the Nominet Trust Social 100 in 2014. Sean recently wrote an in-depth research analysis of the use and legality of data and technology implementation during the Ebola crisis in West Africa. Sean is an affiliate with Harvard University's Berkman Center. Sean is an advisor to Digital Democracy, DoSomething.org, ECPAT USA, the Law Without Walls Program, TechChange, and UNDP. Sean is a lawyer, barred in New York. He holds a J.D. and an M.A. in International Peace and Conflict Resolution from American University.
Language English

Session Comments

Session Notes:

Phase 1: The Epidemiology of Uncertainty

About 30,000 infected

When CDC got involved, estimates sky-rocketed to 500,000+

Phase 2: Digitizing Disaster

Phase 3: Contact Tracing Ebola

Cellphone data used to track and predict ebola’s spread - CDR (call detail record)

Phase 4: The Law

Some anonymization - Names and phone numbers were removed

Almost impossible to effectively anonymize CDRs

No applicable value to tracing contact via CDRs

However, many news orgs calling for it (e.g. Economist, etc)

Article: “Cloudy with a Conflict of Laws” - Vivek Krishnamurthy: "How cloud computing has disrupted the mutual legal assistance treaty system and why it matters"

Rule of Law Around the World (chart)

Quote by Dana Boyd, “What Kind of World Are We Building"

Proportionality and due process must be considered

Some guidelines for International Organizations and National Governments

Question about how this is working with Zika

Flowminder, www.flowminder.org - "Our mission is to improve public health and welfare in low- and middle-income countries. The data we provide are global public goods." [from their web site]

Opt-in opportunities for data a better idea