Today I heard about yet another ‘big data’ research project on ‘refugees-and-migrants’ and it became time to write something.  The project aimed to interview undocumented migrants in Europe, then combine those interviews with data from mobile phones, bank accounts and national databases, and also with data from the organisations responsible for controlling the presence of […]

I  just wrote a paper about claims I’ve heard in the development/humanitarian research world that big data should be treated as a public good. It’s called The ethics of big data as a public good: which public? Whose good? And you can find a pre-print here. I argue that there’s a reason mobile operators are […]

I just published a commentary in IEEE Internet Computing that argues that treating internet access as a right is having some unexpected consequences for other rights. Here’s an excerpt: By arguing for a universal right to the internet, we turn the internet into something universal, decontextualised and apolitical, whereas in fact it is precisely the opposite. […]

The Centre for Internet and Society recently released a groundbreaking paper on the practical, legal and ethical implications of using mobile phone data (CDRs, or Call Detail Records) in emergencies, with Liberia’s experience of the recent Ebola epidemic as the case study. Written by Sean Martin McDonald, the paper is brilliant, insightful and well researched, […]

In a recent paper, Dennis Broeders and I suggested that in the era of big data, we see rather than read. States have traditionally gathered data on their citizens in person, through survey methods, and have used those data to inform policymaking. James C Scott, in his book Seeing Like a State, refers to this […]

In a recent post on the World Economic Forum’s blog, Kate Crawford argues that two of the biggest challenges posed by big data are preserving due process and reducing power imbalances at a time when data scientists have an unprecedented ability to ‘classify and quantify human life’. In contrast to her focus on the human […]

Accra is in tears today. Last night a heavy rain storm descended on the city, flooding it to a depth of metres in some places. A crowd of people took refuge in a petrol station in the centre of town near Nkrumah Circle, not realising that the tanks below them were overflowing due to the […]