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[liberationtech] Ebola: A Big Data Disaster

Sean McDonald seanmartinmcdonald at
Wed Mar 2 09:21:34 PST 2016

I'm excited to present some new research: "Ebola: A Big Data Disaster
<>," published by the
Center for Internet & Society (with support from the Media Democracy Fund).
It's a look at the way that technology was used during the Ebola response -
with a focus on Call Detail Records, the experimental nature of data
modeling in humanitarian response, and how that likely violates West
Africa's well-developed (but under-implemented) data laws.

My hope is that it will kick off a larger discussion about the risks (legal
and operational) of digitizing humanitarian response - especially when it
involves the use of large scale, sensitive data like CDRs (all
anonymization and re-identification caveats apply). As practice stands,
international organizations are likely putting themselves and the people
they help at considerable risk, in violation of human rights law, data
protection law, local regulation, and potentially commercial property law
(among other theories of litigation).

This case study focuses on Liberia, which didn't turn over CDR access - but
many of the same operational considerations and laws apply in Sierra Leone
and Guinea, where several mobile network operators did.

I'd love any thoughts, connections to people working on these issues, or
critical feedback.

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