Data, Human Rights & Human Security
Primer 06.22.2015

MARK LATONERO, PhD—Fellow and Principal Investigator
ZACHARY GOLD, JD—Research Analyst

Introduction
In  today’s  global  digital  ecosystem,  mobile  phone  cameras  can  document  and  distribute  images  of  
physical  violence.  Drones  and  satellites  can  assess  disasters  from  afar.  Big  data  collected  from  social  
media  can  provide  real-­‐‑time  awareness  about  political  protests.  Yet  practitioners,  researchers,  and  
policymakers  face  unique  challenges  and  opportunities  when  assessing  technological  benefit,  risk,  and  
harm.  How  can  these  technologies  be  used  responsibly  to  assist  those  in  need,  prevent  abuse,  and  
protect  people  from  harm?  
For  some  years  now,  the  humanitarian  and  development  communities  have  explored  new  data-­‐‑driven  
approaches,  innovations,  and  interventions.1  However,  for  human  rights  and  human  security  
decision-­‐‑makers  distinct  questions  emerge,  particularly  when  collecting  personal  data  for  case  
analysis  and  protection  beyond  crisis  events.  Releasing  cell  phone  data  might  assist  first  responders  to  
track  disease  outbreaks.  But  should  the  same  data  be  shared  for  long-­‐‑term  issues  such  as  human  

1 See Big Data for Development: Opportunities and Challenges, UN Global Pulse (2012), http://www.unglobalpulse.org/projects/BigDataforDevelopment; Disaster Relief

2.0, UN Foundation http://www.unfoundation.org/assets/pdf/disaster-relief-20-report.pdf; Key Resources, Data Pop Alliance,
http://www.datapopalliance.org/resources#start.

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