Data protection

Graphics: row of padlocks in red and blue in the background of computer screen with programming code

Development cooperation organisations must protect the data they collect in their projects and respect digital rights.

The use of data in development cooperation can allow organisations to achieve a great deal, but it can also have negative effects. In the age of mobile phones, online search engines and social networks, data collection by private companies and governments in particular has reached a whole new level. It is more important than ever to actively discuss and shape data protection.

Digital rights must therefore be respected in all development cooperation projects. It is not just a question of secure IT systems, declarations of consent and corresponding transparency and accountability mechanisms. Data protection, transparency and the right to privacy and freedom of opinion must be overarching guiding principles for the work of organisations and their partners.

This gives rise to a number of questions: Who does the data belong to? How and where is it stored? What is going to happen to the data? How could the data be misused?

It is also important to consider data analysis at an early stage. Big data can bring significant benefits, but large volumes of data – even in anonymised form – can provide insight into the identity of the individuals involved. In the case of potentially sensitive data, careful handling is essential – and requires both technical and organisational precautions to be taken. 

The biggest challenges to data protection often lie in the hidden effects of data – for example, the use of algorithms for automated data analysis or data aggregation.

Understanding and discussing the processes behind the development of data infrastructures is part of responsible data handling.