The United Nations Global Pulse initiative focuses on using Big Data Analytics for humanitarian and social good and has for the past few years been developing codes of practice and ethical standards for the use of data including personal data from location information and credit card usage in areas of natural disaster or migration. The outcomes of the analytics enable the United Nations to direct much needed food and accommodation to those connected to individuals but there are obvious information security and personal data challenges in such large scale analytics.

In June 2017 the United Nations Global Pulse together with the GSMA (The GSM Association represents the interests of mobile operators worldwide) published a report highlighting the challenges, including risks of data misuse and potential harms to those whose data is being used as well as negative consequences for those who are collecting and using the data, like reputational damage or legal liability, and sets out suggestions as to how to develop suitable standards to balance the positive outcomes of using mobile data for social good against the risks in respect of data protection issues. The report states that “privacy and the application of ethical standards for data use must be a top priority for all key stakeholders. Protection of privacy is the key element to making data for social good projects successful.”

The report goes on to state that “while the data protection landscape has been shaped for decades, the protection of privacy in the world of big data and emerging technologies continues to be one of the most frequently cited challenges to the wider use of mobile networks for social good.”