Responsible Data Forum: One Day Event on Hosting in Amsterdam, 19 May

What: This Responsible Data Forum will explore the decision-making and responsibilities facing public good and social justice initiatives who host data online, and hosting providers who provide them with services.

Who: hosting providers, rights groups and advocacy organisations – project managers, technologists, system administrators and everyone else who feels strongly about protecting sensitive data from loss and interference.

When/Where: May 19 in Amsterdam, hosted by Greenhost.

This one day event will bring together advocates, technologists and hosting providers to map out best hosting practices and create materials that guide those embarking on a project in the right direction. While the event will not answer open questions, it will set the agenda and provide a number of useful materials. Some of the use cases to be considered include:

  • An NGO mapping crisis data and providing online tools to access that data.
  • A hosting provider active in the civil society sector wanting to adhere (and be known to adhere) to high privacy, security, and ethics standards
  • An organization designing a website that allows anonymous reports of citizens towards a specific subject.
  • A technology firm doing development work for an activist group

If you are interested in coming, please contact Friedhelm. Note that unfortunately travel and accommodation expenses cannot be covered. The event is jointly organised by The Engine Room, Greenhost and HURIDOCS. Download the concept note.

Background:

Rights groups and organisations are often hosting several kinds of sensitive data – including their email and internal databases – while relying on websites as one of the main advocacy tools. However, often staff and volunteers at these organisations lack capacity to protect this data, and to do contingency planning to mitigate malicious attacks launched against their information assets. While often aware of the problem, they are at loss knowing what an external provider would need to deliver for their high risk context.

At the same time, hosting providers are operating in a cut throat market that pushes them towards making decisions driven by cost, and not by security. While also lacking awareness of the specific need of advocacy organisations, doing business with them is seldom economically sensible, as they need more attention and service than most clients, and attacks launched against them have the potential to have repercussions for other customers.

Against this background, there is strong need to map out what the best practices are, what non-technical staff need to know and which set ups provide good service to advocacy organisations, while fitting within the business model of hosting providers.

Focus:

This Responsible Data Forum will explore the responsible data challenges faced when hosting data.

  • Web applications including databases to store documentation of human rights violations, litigation, or CRMs.
  • Websites used for advocacy purposes that may be attacked.
  • Program staff who feels overwhelmed by the technicality on choosing a hosting set-up, but understands protection needs and risks.
  • Hosting providers who want to learn and exchange on the particularities of hosting this sensitive data.
  • Guidance on legal and ethical requirements for hosting, and choosing hosting set ups.

Outputs:

By gathering a significant number of practitioners grappling with these issues, this Responsible Data Forum aims to pose practical and critical questions to the hosting of sensitive data (with advocacy purposes in mind). Through collaborative sessions and group work, the Forum will identify the common pressing issues for which there may be a a practical and feasible solution. The Forum will focus on prototyping and surfacing the contours of tools and strategies to respond to responsible data challenges in development.

Some outputs from the event may include:

  • Strategies and guidelines for hosting providers working with public good and social justice initiatives;
  • Best practices and ethical controls for maintaining a hosting solution.
  • Detailing and documenting risks for irresponsible hosting.
  • Checklists and materials for NGOs choosing a hosting provider based on technology considerations and jurisdictions.
  • Materials and strategies for including hosting in responsible program development.
  • Mitigation strategies for problems that are likely to occur in any project supported by online components.

Participants will leave the Forum having strengthened their capacity to respond to responsible data challenges when designing, hosting and running online systems, but also having contributed to a public knowledge resource for the same. The outputs created in Amsterdam will be further refined, prior to and during the Responsible Data Forum: Budapest in June 2014. These activities will aim to validate and refine Forum outputs, towards future initiatives to operationalise them.

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