The Crisis Honeypot

by | Sep 12, 2020 | ICT4D |


‘We want to ensure everyone received assistance who needed it.’

Fair enough. But who is deciding ‘who needed it’? And what type of assurance do you need? Are you wanting to know the names of people and the details of what they received? Or just X number of unique people received the same assistance?

Often in a crisis there is a desire to reach as many people affected as quickly as possible. There is also a desire to coordinate efforts, reduce duplication, and so on. And often this comes with sharing data. Sharing data about people. About vulnerable people. People affected by the crisis. People hurting.

And here’s the thing. This data is valuable. Useful. For coordination, yes. For helping to reach as many people as possible, yes. But also for many other things. For politics and election targeting. For pitting one group against another and stirring unrest. And so on.

The data can be used for good. Or ill.

We often consider only the short term. The here and now. And we forget to put in safeguards. We forget to define how long we are going to keep sharing data and keep shared data. We forget to define how long ‘coordination’ will go on for. And then it doesn’t end. The data remains. It doesn’t get deleted. And it becomes a honeypot used for all kinds of purposes we’d be horrified to learn about.

Crisis data is easy to collect. Easy to share. But it is also easy to exploit.

This is the value of data governance. Governance is about power and politics. It’s about who has access to the honeypot and when the honeypot is destroyed. Data Trusts are one mechanism for this, but there are others. Yes, they are difficult questions and conversations. Have them anyway. They are essential.

Do the work.

Photo by Sonja Langford


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