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Consuming disaster data: is IT ethical?



Most people use disaster apps infrequently, primarily only in situations of turmoil, when they are physically or emotionally vulnerable. Personal data may be necessary to help them, data protections may be waived. In some circumstances, free movement and liberties may be curtailed for public protection, as was seen in the current COVID pandemic. Consuming and producing disaster data can deepen problems arising at the confluence of surveillance and disaster capitalism, where data has become a tool for solutionist instrumentarian power (Zuboff 2019, Klein 2008) and part of a destructive mode of one world worlding (Law 2015, Escobar 2020). The special use of disaster apps prompts us to ask what role consumer protection could play in safeguarding democratic liberties. Within this work, a set of current approaches are briefly reviewed and two case studies are presented of what we call appropriation or design against datafication. These combine document analysis and literature research with several months of online and field ethnographic observation. The first case study examines disaster app use in response to the 2010 Haiti earthquake, the second explores COVID Contact Tracing in Taiwan in 2020/21. Against this backdrop we ask, ‘how could and how should consumer protection respond to problems of surveillance disaster capitalism?’ Drawing on our work with the is IT ethical? Exchange, a co-designed community platform and knowledge exchange for disaster information sharing, and a Societal Readiness Assessment Framework that we are developing alongside it, we explore how co-design methodologies could help define answers.
Date made available2021
PublisherHochschule Bonn-Rhein-Sieg
Geographical coverageSankt Augustin

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