Reporting from Oxford, England, where the Skoll World Forum is underway, a Reuters article quotes CEO Jim Fruchterman’s discussion during a Forum’s session that focused on the promise and peril of big data.
“Almost every government is vacuuming up any data you send through the net,” Reuters correspondent Laurie Goering cites Jim’s warning. Sometimes that data is used for good—for instance, in the cases of tracking and treating disease outbreaks, or helping get assistance to people displaced by disasters. But it can also present significant risks.
Goering highlights Jim’s example of an LGBTI group in Uganda, where the government last December passed a law making homosexual sex a criminal offense punishable by up to life in prison. The Ugandan government sought out online information identifying members of that LGBTI group, then outed them to their landlords or their families, putting lives at risk in a country where homosexual activists have been murdered. Goering then continues to quote Jim:
“In cases where governments gather data on sensitive issues from sexual orientation to HIV/AIDS status, there’s a risk of being victimized in the future, if not by the current government then a future government. As non-governmental organizations and social enterprises gather data on the communities and people they help, they need to be keenly aware that ‘we should treat other people’s data the way we want our data treated.’”