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Do Development Constituents Have a Right to Be Forgotten Too?

By Wayan Vota on September 11, 2014


Since Google started to comply with a European Union court ruling on individuals’ “right to be forgotten” by the search giant, its received 70,000 request for search result links to be removed.

Along with Jimmy Wales, I think the EU has started sliding down a slipper slope to censorship with this ruling, as it is effectively erases people’s sordid past, but it does bring up an interesting question.

Who Controls Development Data?

Every organization I talk to is doing some form of mobile data collection. Where is all that data going? And who controls it? Could a development constituent ask to have their data removed from the survey data?

Ethically, we should accept a request to remove a person’s data, but how would someone find out who collected their data? And if they did know, would they have the understanding they could ask for it to be removed? Do we, as development actors, even have the systems in place to accept and act on that request?

If these questions concern you, check out M&E Tech, a series of events to explore the role of ICT in monitoring and evaluation, where we will dive deep into the use and ethics of data in development.

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Written by
Wayan Vota co-founded ICTworks. He also co-founded Technology Salon, MERL Tech, ICTforAg, ICT4Djobs, ICT4Drinks, JadedAid, Kurante, OLPC News and a few other things. Opinions expressed here are his own and do not reflect the position of his employer, any of its entities, or any ICTWorks sponsor.
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One Comment to “Do Development Constituents Have a Right to Be Forgotten Too?”

  1. Neil Laslett says:

    An equally important question is what data, as a development actor, are you collecting? Google and social media tend to build rich data around a person’s identity and linked behaviors. Hence the need to be “forgotten”. But if you don’t need to collect personally identifiable information in your work, DON’T. There are lots of ways to do good M&E and even beneficiary registration without collecting the kind of data that needs to be “forgotten”. Issue registration IDs and use random demographic samples. Only collect identifying information when you need it, and don’t keep that data around longer than you need it. Need full names and phone numbers for a cash distribution program? Great. But you probably don’t need that data 6 months later, so purge it. Don’t wait to be asked (or told).