Perpetuating data colonialism through digital humanitarian technologies

by Kristin Bergtora Sandvik

In recent years, humanitarian spaces have become technologized as aid agencies have turned to digital technologies to improve aid allocation. Wearables and other forms of digital humanitarian artifacts can foster improved surveillance of aid beneficiaries, their needs, and aid distribution, but raise serious ethical concerns. Through tracking devices, aid beneficiaries risk becoming the producers of commercial data extracted from emergency settings under the pretext of a reciprocal ‘gifting’ relationship between benefactor and beneficiary, writes Kristin Bergtora Sandvik.

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About the Author

Kristin Bergtora Sandvik, SJD Harvard Law School, is a Research Professor at the Peace Research Institute Oslo and a Professor of Sociology of Law at the University of Oslo.  Sandvik teaches robot regulations, legal technology and AI, legal sociology and ethics. Her widely published socio-legal research focuses on criminalization, technology and the struggle for accountability in humanitarian action. Most recently, she has published on humanitarian wearables and digital dead body management.

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