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Mobile Data Collection toolbox

3.3 Data protection


What means to “protect” data?

The larger concept is to remain mindful that data belong to beneficiairies. Their collection, use, storage, analysis can have consequences and Data protection refers to the means you will be putting in place to make sure whatever you do is not going to harm beneficiairies. And it might well mean deciding not to collect any data at all !

Remember Data protection is part of the “do no harm” humanitarian principle and is everyone’s responsibility.

Does all data collected need to be protected?

It depends on the sensitivity of the data. Generally speaking all personal data which would lead to identifying beneficiaries have the potential to harm and therefore need to be protected. Also, non-personal data can be sensitive in certain contexts as they may expose affected individuals or groups. If you do not know or are unsure, be conservative and consider them data to be protected !

Where is my data stored?

Each MDC solution has its own storage location. This being an important topic in terms of data protection, you should check their documentation on this point to ensure you are respecting legislation and data protection principles. For example the GDPR requires that for personal information the servers be located in the EU.

Can I use KoBoToolbox for the collection of sensitive data? If yes, how ?

It is preferable not to use KoBoToolbox to collect sensitive data, as the encryption features are not stable and the user management features at organizational level are not adequate. We recommend the implementation of other MDC solutions to collect sensitive data with mobile devices.

For more info see:

Is it safe to go to the field with a mobile phone?

In general, it is safe to bring mobile phones to the field provided that basic security rules are followed. Smartphones (of various quality) are nowadays a common item to have everywhere, even in very difficult contexts. As with any expensive belongings, one must always be careful with his/her mobile as they can correspond to an object of envy, regardless of the field context. It is recommended to use a phone model commonly used on the local market to avoid and prevent robbery.

However, mobile devices can be inappropriate depending on the context in which you are working. In some contexts, electronic devices can be considered intimidating for survey respondents, thereby creating a divide between the enumerator and respondent. Mobile phones can also be perceived as a military GPS-type device in certain conflict zones (in the Syrian context for instance). As such, a risk analysis must be conducted in the local context in which you are working to understand the appropriateness of MDC.