The Ethics of Personal Data Collection: A Spectrum of Experiences from Kenya, India, and The Gambia

The increasing use of mobile communications technology, the greater reliance on big data, and the ubiquitous influence of social media networks are transforming the ways human rights advocates and technology entrepreneurs conduct data collection in fragile environments. At New York University, the Bosch Workshops bring together colleagues, human rights advocates, NGO leaders, and university professors who otherwise would not meet, to discuss local initiatives that rely on societal engagement. These initiatives depend on mobile apps, crowdsourced data, and forensic science to address violations of human rights ranging from sexual violence in conflict in Kenya to physical assaults on women in India to genocidal rape in Kosova and Kosovo. In each context, there are ethical concerns. In the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, it is imperative to ask how inappropriate and illegal use of personal data by companies is likely to intersect with civil society movements and digital humanitarianism, particularly in “areas of limited statehood” (Livingston and Walter-Drop Oxford, 2014).

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