Data Privacy Day Roundup

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The international data privacy and data protection landscape has been evolving over the past several years. From the United Nations Resolutions on Privacy in Digital Age, to the new mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Privacy, the adoption of the Resolution on Privacy and International Humanitarian Action by the 37th International Conference of Privacy and Data Protection Commissioners, to the new European Data Protection Directive.

Simultanelously, with the adoption of the new Sustainable Development Goals, a historic climate change agreement and emerging humanitarian crises around the globe, 2015 also showed the importance of a data revolution.

As an innovation initiative within the UN, Global Pulse is committed to serve as safe space for innovating and catalyzing the ecosystem needed to advance the responsible use of big data for sustainable development and humanitarian action.

Today, on Data Privacy Day (also known as Data Protection Day), here is a roundup summarizing Global Pulse’s relevant engagements and activities for advancing the dialogue on this issue, and resources of interest:

Events & Projects


"Mapping the Risk-Utility Landscape of Mobile Data for Sustainable Development & Humanitarian Action": Project Summary

This project, done in collaboration with researchers from MIT, aimed to determine how insights from mobile data might be used to maximum effect in support of policy planning and crisis response with minimal risk to privacy. In particular, the study explored the impact that aggregating mobile data to protect privacy has upon the utility of the data for two use cases: (i) transportation planning and (ii) pandemic control and prevention. It lays the groundwork for development of evidence-based data standards and policy frameworks to ensure proportionality between the risk of harm resulting from misuse of mobile data and the risk of harm resulting from a failure to use it.

Read a summary of the study here.


Global Pulse Privacy Advisory Group Annual Meeting

Global Pulse's Data Privacy Advisory Group is an independent group of international experts from the private sector, public sector, academia and civil society who lend their advice and guidance on critical matters with regard to data protection and data privacy. Global Pulse convened the Group to enable inclusive and transparent discussion on different perspectives related to data protection and privacy, and to propose solutions for enabling the responsible use of big data for humanitarian and development causes. In October 2015, the two-day Global Pulse Data Privacy Advisory Group Annual Meeting was held in the Hague on 23-24 October 2015. With over 100 attendees, open and closed sessions, the event provided opportunity for discussions and working group sessions on data privacy and protection in the context of international development and humanitarian action.

A recap of the 2015 meeting can be found here. Reflections on the meeting, by colleagues from Pulse Lab Jakarta and guests from Indonesian government and regulatory bodies, can be found here.


Workshop on Improving Data Privacy and Data Security in ICT4D

Global Pulse hosted a workshop at UN Headquarters, on the topic of Data Privacy and Security in technology-enabled development projects and programmes, as part of a series of events about the Principles for Digital Development. The objective of the day was to refine the understanding of privacy and data security concepts, and exchange expertise and practical experience on common challenges and solutions for how to incorporate data-securing and privacy-protecting measures into development programs.

A summary of the event can be found here & read the synthesis report from the workshop here.


"Big Data for Development: Privacy Risks and Opportunities” workshop at Internet Governance Forum (IGF) 2015

Global Pulse co-hosted a workshop during the IGF in Brazil which brought together a multidisciplinary panel of experts from various regions of the world, who each presented examples of how big data has been used in their respective contexts to date, and offered strategies on how risks to privacy could be reduced. Questions related to the movement of data across borders, the retention of data by telecommunications companies, and the importance of consent and data accuracy, were raised. The discussion also included debates on the taking a risk-benefit approach to big data, and the potential of establishing global big data frameworks or regulations.

Background paper for the panel [PDF], as well as detailed description and summary of the workshop presentations can be found here. Video from the workshop can be viewed online here


The International Conference of Data Protection and Privacy Commissioners 2015

The International Conference is the assembly of all accredited data protection and privacy commissioners from around the world. Global Pulse has been accredited as an observer to the International Conference closed sessions, and participated in the 2015 conference.

Summary of highlights from the 2015 conference as related to big data and humanitarian response here.

Forums for Discussion & Debate


  • The Global Working Group (GWG) on Big Data for Official Statistics was created by the Statistical Commission in 2014. Global Pulse contributes to several task teams within the GWG, including one on Data Access & Partnerships which addresses data access, legal, and privacy issues. (
  • The World Economic Forum's Global Agenda Council on Data-Driven Development leverages work in the area of human-centred, trustworthy and accountable data flows to transform the lives of some of the most vulnerable people in the world. As a member of the Agenda Council, Global Pulse joins a community of leading government, civil society, academic, NGO and business leaders to develop frameworks and business incentives for the creation of shared data resources for the purposes of international development. (
  • Broadband Commission for Digital Development was set up by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) and UNESCO in 2010, in response to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon's call to step up UN efforts to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The Director of UN Global Pulse serves as a member on the Commission, and contributes to working groups that advance policy debates around safe and responsible use of data and technology for development. (
  • The Global Partnership on Sustainable Development Data is a multi-stakeholder initiative comprised of governments, international organizations, companies, civil society groups, statistics and data communities dedicated to achieving the Global Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. Global Pulse is an anchor partner and member of the Interim Steering Committee and contributes to the Partnership’s work on “data colalboratives” and “principles & protocols.” (
  • International Data Responsibility Group is a new network and knowledge platform of academics and researchers exploring various initiatives on how to leverage data in a responsible and ethical manner. Its intention is to ensure that research efforts in the field of responsible data are coordinated and not duplicative. ?On 19 February 2016, Global Pulse will discuss challenges and solutions linked to "Responsible Data in Humanitarian and Development Contexts: Practical Pathways" during the Data Responsibility Conference in The Hague, hosted by Leiden University. ( (


Selected Relevant Op-Eds and Articles



Selected Relevant Reports & Resources

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