On Friday 31 March, HumanityX organised a panel session at RightsCon in Brussels, one of the largest gatherings for Human Rights and technology experts worldwide. The session was hosted in close collaboration with Benetech, Data & Society, Harvard Humanitarian Initiative.

 

Our session ‘Private Sector & Data Responsibility: Helping Refugees in a Digital Age’ featured contributions from Orange Telecom, Stripe, Mapbox and GeoPoll and was set up as a ‘moderated consultancy dialogue’, in which participants from various angles were invited to provide their perspectives on the sharing of digital data collected by the private sector, to help inform refugee assistance efforts.

 

Outcomes of the session

There was broad agreement on the need for adequate governance of digital data sharing by the private sector, highlighting that the rights for data subjects should be accompanied by adequate remedies, to make sure that people can actively enforce those rights. Given the uncertainty regarding risk and potential harms it is better to err on the side of caution: if it is not clear whether an organisation has the proper information security infrastructure in place, it is advisable not to share sensitive information, even if it could be valuable.

 

There is willingness among private sector actors to engage in data sharing for humanitarian efforts, but for this to happen, both the precise demand from the humanitarian side, as well as the appropriate governance of the data sharing arrangement need to be clear. Educational tools are key to inform those working on data use to ensure that best practices are adhered to.

 

Small scale experimentation in safe spaces will inform the next steps and several organisations present at the meeting expressed their interest in exploring collaborations. As platforms that bring together a wide variety of partners, HumanityX and the International Data Responsibility Group will continue to facilitate and support such explorations.