Linda Raftree, Digital Safeguarding Consultant, here to remind us that data privacy starts at the design phase. These days, discussion about data privacy and security seems to be everywhere. This increase in awareness has been spurred in part by legislation like the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), however high profile data breaches and manipulation of our personal social media data in ways that were unthinkable just a few years ago have placed data privacy and security at the front of mind for the general public too.
So, what about evaluators? Though there is a robust history of discussion on ethics ad consent practices, many evaluators and non-profit organizations working in international development and humanitarian spaces have not completely made the connection between this world and our own activities, which include the collection of extremely sensitive data from some of the most at risk populations in the world. Not only do we collect, share, use and store this data in insecure ways, we often do not have a full picture of the various ways that it could be breached, leaked, or used in unanticipated ways by both friendly and non-friendly actors.
As our use of new approaches, including the use of big data in evaluation, grows, so does our responsibility to get on top of data privacy and security. Evaluators risk falling behind in our thinking if we don’t stay up to date on emerging threats to the data privacy of vulnerable individuals and groups.
At the recent European Evaluation Society (AES) conference, Kecia Bertermann and I walked people through how Girl Effect thinks about data privacy and digital safeguarding starting at the design phase, and how we manage it adaptively throughout the lifecycle of an initiative based on changes in the project itself and when the context of users shifts or changes.
This approach includes ways in which the insights team collects real-time data and qualitative data using new methods as well as traditional methods, and how we think through safeguarding from a fluid online and offline perspective during the design research process, during implementation, and when measuring performance and impact. Girl Effect recently developed Digital Safeguarding Tips and Guidance to support teams with concrete tools and templates, and to help teams assess partners and third party data analytics outfits. The step-by-step guide can support evaluators to think about designing research and evaluation with digital safeguarding in mind.
If you’d like to know more about combining traditional and data science tools and how to design data collection, use and sharing in ways that also protect privacy, stop by the AEA session on New Practices in Mixed Methods Evaluation, Friday, November 2 at 2.15pm.
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The American Evaluation Association is celebrating International and Cross-Cultural (ICCE) TIG Week with our colleagues in the International and Cross-Cultural Topical Interest Group. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our ICCE TIG members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to firstname.lastname@example.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.