Data, Human Rights & Human Security

16 Pages Posted: 15 Aug 2015

See all articles by Mark Latonero

Mark Latonero

Data & Society Research Institute; USC Annenberg School of Communication

Zachary Gold

Data & Society Research Institute

Date Written: July 1, 2015


In today’s global digital ecosystem, mobile phone cameras can document and distribute images of physical violence. Drones and satellites can assess disasters from afar. Big data collected from social media can provide real-time awareness about political protests. Yet practitioners, researchers, and policymakers face unique challenges and opportunities when assessing technological benefit, risk, and harm. How can these technologies be used responsibly to assist those in need, prevent abuse, and protect people from harm? The problem is that we simply do not know all the positive and negative impacts these new technologies will bring, which makes it difficult to make informed decisions in the present. We do not yet know how data science, computation, and design thinking might influence traditional legal, interventionist, economic, and protectionist frameworks.

This primer seeks to highlight and anticipate the emergent complexities at the intersection of data, human rights, and human security. More tensions and questions than definitive answers are identified below and some concepts blur into others. That is to say, this primer argues that more foundational work and leadership is needed in this area. Indeed, these issues should be addressed early and systematically, before well-intentioned data-driven interventions fail to assist — or even harm — intended beneficiaries. Eventually, common frameworks and guiding principles will need to come from this field of research in order for stakeholders across sectors to accelerate data benefits and mitigate risks. Naturally, overlap exists in current efforts to establish responsible data guidelines from intergovernmental organizations, NGOs, business, and researchers. Integrating human rights and security perspectives should make for a more robust conversation.

Keywords: data, human rights, ICT, technology, security, privacy, ethics, development, power, data science

Suggested Citation

Latonero, Mark and Gold, Zachary, Data, Human Rights & Human Security (July 1, 2015). Available at SSRN: or

Mark Latonero (Contact Author)

Data & Society Research Institute ( email )

36 West 20th Street
New York,, NY New York 10011
United States

USC Annenberg School of Communication ( email )

2250 Alcazar Street
Los Angeles, CA 90089
United States

Zachary Gold

Data & Society Research Institute ( email )

36 West 20th Street
11th Floor
New York,, NY 10011
United States

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