Sharing sensitive data on forced migrants

Can a  collaborative web-platform for sharing critical demographic information about displaced people improve delivery and response?

Prisca Benelli, Alessandro Guarino and Jen Ziemke

The development and relative accessibility of innovative software have led to the rapid growth over the last decade of a variety of tools to create, analyse, visualise and use real-time data for humanitarian response. The Italian NGO INTERSOS1 has used web-based Geographic Information System (GIS) platforms to help profile and track population movements and needs, and began publishing geo-referenced2 data on displaced populations in 2005. Data on affected populations in Darfur and, later, in neighbouring Chad was collected and published on a GIS platform. As much information as possible was collected about the make-up of the refugee populations, including historical and current population estimates, ethnicity and movements; sectoral data on health, education, security, shelter, agriculture and land tenure; settlement types (e.g. inhabited, abandoned, destroyed); and specific information on vulnerable individuals. The data gathered was made available to a broader audience through ad hoc semi-private webplatforms.

Read more Forced Migration Review 38


About jenziemke

• Associate Professor, International Relations, John Carroll University • Board of Directors, Open Geospatial Consortium • Co-Founder & Co-Director of The International Network of Crisis Mappers and the International Conference Series on Crisis Mapping (ICCM). • Principal Consultant, Endogeneity LLC
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2 Responses to Sharing sensitive data on forced migrants

  1. However amazed I am with new technologies and their input into crisis and development, the issue of protecting vulnerable populations while using web 2.0 mapping and alike (rarely discussed?) seems very crucial to me, may be because I have been moulded by ICRC culture of confidentiality. That one may be specific to the organization, though, some basic / guiding working principles for the protection of victimes and vulnerable populations should be understood and taken into account by all NGOs in the field, and, more critically, shared with external actors like digital activists / V&TCs, who are taking more and more importance and deal with sensitive data now, without sometimes having the full picture at every moment. However instant can be the publishing of some data, I hope there are some good interface set up for the purpose of both sensitizing V&TCs to that problem, setting standards on a crisis per crisis basis, and controlling the flux of sensitive info.

    Patrick Meier was recently tweeting how ICRC standards for protection make also sense for mapping, here is some reference:


  2. Jen Ziemke says:

    Many thanks, Agnes, for your thoughtful reply, which I will forward to Prisca & Alessandro for their review given their extensive experience specifically with respect to forced migration.

    Thanks for calling attention to this issue. There are many potential solutions. In this case, INTERSOS restricted access to sensitive data to actors in trusted networks working in this space.

    Not all mapping needs to be shared on the web, as the redacted Libya Crisis Map shows, and significantly, many partners are not publishing such information on the web in the first place. Rather, they share and work within trusted networks precisely because of the concerns you raised.~ Jen

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