Some people say that digital data will radically change our world. We are going to have to wait a while until we have artificial intelligence that can pass us humans a glass of water. But you just can’t start thinking about your use of digital data early enough: who does it belong to? Who is allowed to make money from it? Who needs to protect their privacy, and from what? NGOs need to ask themselves these questions sooner rather than later. But do they even ask themselves these questions at all? Our study has yielded surprising findings.

For example, everyone we surveyed finds privacy important “to some extent”. But only a few actually use tools to protect the privacy of their own data or those of their donors. And trust develops above all on an interpersonal level. Automatic trust mechanisms are hardly recognised at this point. Overall, it is clear that the majority of those surveyed only have a feeling of data security and digital privacy. So it’s high time to improve our understanding of this issue.

Because even for the social sector, data offers enormous potential. In our 2013 trendreport, we already took a closer look at the use of “Big Data”. At the same time, the risks posed by the evaluation of increasingly large amounts of data are beginning to become more apparent – not the least since the Wikileaks revelations of 2013. That’s why people involved in the social sector also need to seriously engage with the issue of data privacy and transparency, both now and in the future. To date, there are few studies which answer the question of how these people should be thinking about such issues. Does the NGO in Brazil actually consider the privacy of the data of their beneficiaries? How does a German foundation conceive of “transparency”? And how does it differ from a Chinese foundation? Do Indonesian activists worry more about surveillance by their government or the analysis of their data by corporations?

During our research trip lab around the world, we carried out interviews with individuals from the social sector in China, Brazil, India, Indonesia and Germany. At the centre of this were questions about their views on, and practices in, the fields of data privacy, transparency and trust. The Mozilla Foundation supported us in producing this 40 page study. Here is a preview, but you can also download the full study.

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