One type of guardian behaves like he is the person who’s data he has been asked to steward or ‘guard’. So decisions about who to share data with, how to store it, and so on become his. This guardian act as a controller.
Another type of guardian acts more like a guide or teacher. She asks the person who the data actually is about to make decisions or at minimum consults with them before taking action. She sees her role as one to assist and enable, rather than to control.
Unfortunately, most humanitarian agencies with core values to ‘putting the vulnerable at the centre of what we do’ tend to behave like the first guardian type. And yes, there are lots of justifications given, most of which have good logic and reason attached to them. And yet, this reason is too often attached to a larger logic or story that is opposing the core values the organisations seek to uphold.
Most of our humanitarian agencies need to reconsider our view of guardianship. While we can have a role to play in helping do things other cannot, it does not mean we should do those things without the other. Even if we are doing it with ‘good intention’ or even ‘good reason’.
The choice is up to us.