Report on General and Child-specific Ethical Issues by Gabrielle Berman, Karen Carter, Manuel García-Herranz and Vedran Sekara: “The last few years have seen a proliferation of means and approaches being used to collect sensitive or identifiable data on children. Technologies such as facial recognition and other biometrics, increased processing capacity for ‘big data’ analysis and data linkage, and the roll-out of mobile and internet services and access have substantially changed the nature of data collection, analysis, and use.
Real-time data are essential to support decision-makers in government, development and humanitarian agencies such as UNICEF to better understand the issues facing children, plan appropriate action, monitor progress and ensure that no one is left behind. But the collation and use of personally identifiable data may also pose significant risks to children’s rights.
UNICEF has undertaken substantial work to provide a foundation to understand and balance the potential benefits and risks to children of data collection. This work includes the Industry Toolkit on Children’s Online Privacy and Freedom of Expression and a partnership with GovLab on Responsible Data for Children (RD4C) – which promotes good practice principles and has developed practical tools to assist field offices, partners and governments to make responsible data management decisions.
Balancing the need to collect data to support good decision-making versus the need to protect children from harm created through the collection of the data has never been more challenging than in the context of the global COVID-19 pandemic. The response to the pandemic has seen an unprecedented rapid scaling up of technologies to support digital contact tracing and surveillance. The initial approach has included:
- tracking using mobile phones and other digital devices (tablet computers, the Internet of Things, etc.)
- surveillance to support movement restrictions, including through the use of location monitoring and facial recognition
- a shift from in-person service provision and routine data collection to the use of remote or online platforms (including new processes for identity verification)
- an increased focus on big data analysis and predictive modelling to fill data gaps…(More)”.