Posted 18 December, 2013 by Christopher Wilson

Who’s working on ethics, privacy and responsible data?

Updated: April 18th, 2014

Our last post on responsible data concepts and resources noted how much interest there is in these issues, from a variety of fields and sectors. Here’s a quick overview of of some of the initiatives and groups we’ve got on our radar.

The Commons Lab An initiative that focuses on the social, legal, policy, institutional, and ethical issues of emerging technologies for mass collaboration, and has published numerous reports and articles on privacy, liability, and security of social media and crowdsourcing for disasters. It is currently working with a variety of partners on the ethics and privacy issues in citizen science.

Data & Society A non-profit “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.”  This is being set up by danah boyd and Kate Crawford. More here.

Capture the Ocean Project This project is being organized by the Social Impact Lab (the group behind Frontline SMS) to map the national and international laws and legal frameworks regulating the collection, storage and use of data.

#ET4DA (Ethics and Technology for Aid and Development) An effort led by Kurante and Internews, this work is taking a broad view of ethics and technology in development. A resource and initiative mapping is planned. You can see some thinking behind the initiative here.

Ethics of Data Conference This is being organized by Stanford University, the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, DataKind and others for September 2014. The focus is on considering ethical standards and practice for using data towards social change. Website forthcoming.

Human Data and Development Overseas Development Institute (ODI) is organizing a project together with Harvard Humanitarian Initiative and MIT Media Lab on human data and development that will include a component on ethics and data in development. The project will be announced in early January 2014.

Open Data / My Data Open Knowledge Foundation and Open Rights Group have teamed up to address privacy and open data issues. Some early thinking on the issues can be seen here, but they are soon to be hiring a project lead, so there should be more updates soon.

Oxford Internet Institute It’s not clear if this is taking shape as a dedicated program stream, but there was an important event earlier this year, and the recent Guidelines for Privacy and Mobile Connectivity Measurements was to my mind a huge benchmark for the field. Key people seem to be Linnet Taylor, Ian Brown and Ben Zevenbergen.

Privacy International Following the provocative report, Aiding Surveillance, Privacy International has initiated the Aiding Privacy project, to advocate for critical perspectives on technology use, and privacy protections, in development and humanitarian interventions, and to support national actors in critical debate.

the engine room The Responsible Data Program is working to make responsible data practices easier for advocacy initiatives. It focuses on understanding practical challenges, and providing tools that can be easily integrated into the practices of initiatives that are collecting data.

Ushahidi Ushahidi doesn’t have a dedicated program or work stream on these issues, but has been convening small conversations on ethics and research for quite a while now. They have been doing some important internal analysis around the ethics and security risks for mapping. They also manage one of the most important and engaged networks of digital advocacy initiatives, and sit on an incredibly rich collection of crowdmap data, whose responsibility implications they’re working hard to understand. Key focal points are Chris Albon and Angela Oduor.

Malavika Jayaram  A practicing lawyer and fellow at both the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University, and at the Centre for Internet and Society in Bangalore, India, Malavika will explore the business case for protecting privacy and free expression in India, in the context of big data projects, and follow legislative and policy developments in the privacy and internet governance domains, respectively.

There’s a lot of fantastic resources at play here and a lot of opportunities to collaborate, magnify and complement. Here’s to working towards a coherent ecosystem of advocacy for ethics, responsibility and critical approaches to data and technology. If we, organizations and institutions focusing on understanding and promoting technology for social good, can’t avoid duplication and make the most of modern tools to coordinate and complement our work, we have some hard questions to ask ourselves.

Let  us know if you’ve got some ideas for collaboration, or if you know of other initiatives we missed. And if we’ve butchered any of these descriptions or generally misunderstood, let us know in comments or via email, and we’ll be quick with updates and corrections.

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