GuideStar International's Blog

December 7, 2012

Thoughts on Big Data for NGOs from the OECD Technology Foresight Forum

Filed under: Uncategorized — guidestarinternational @ 13:26

OCED logo_0The Internet Society recently named TechSoup Global Communications Manager Keisha Taylor as one of two Fellows to participate in the 2012 Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Technology Foresight Forum held in Paris October 22, 2012. The Forum focused on the topic of “Harnessing Big Data as a New Source of Growth”. She  spoke about big data and its relationship to Internet governance and development at an Internet Technical Advisory Committee to the OECD (ITAC) meeting, which was also held in Paris  She was interviewed by TechSoup Global about the Forum and her thoughts on what she learned about what “Big Data” might have for NGOs.  Read the Interview

September 14, 2012

Global Cloud Computing Survey on NGOs – 2012

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In 2012, TechSoup Global and its network of partners conducted a survey of NGOs, nonprofits, and charities around the world. The goal was to better understand the current state of their tech infrastructure and their future plans for adopting cloud technologies.

TechSoup Global received answers from more than 10,500 respondents in 88 countries and this data adds to its ever-evolving resources for NGOs, foundations, and the nonprofit community. This extensive study, the first of its kind has also been translated into 18 languages. Its compulsory reading for anyone wanting to understand the needs of NGOs around the work in relation to tech and cloud computing. Click here to read it.

March 23, 2012

Tell Us About Your Technology

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ImageTechSoup Global wants to learn more about how your organisation uses traditional and cloud-based technology and about your plans for the future.

Be heard! This is your chance to tell us what you need.  Take our survey – it’s short, only 10 minutes, and intended for anyone who has responsibility for recommending, purchasing or managing IT products or services at an NGO including nonprofits, charities, libraries, foundations or similar organizations. All ranges of IT influencers are invited — from accidental techies to IT directors.

By better understanding the tools you currently use and your future plans, we can work with our partners around the world to provide nonprofits like yours the technology resources they need to operate at their full potential.

The survey closes March 23 so please don’t miss out on your chance to tell us about your IT needs.

What are we doing with the results?

In late spring, we’ll publish a white paper with the survey results detailing the responses of nonprofits based in the United States and in 37 countries around the world. The results will support organisations like yours in making informed IT decisions. They will provide insights into how your peers are using technology and into the currents needs and issues around adopting cloud technologies.

If you’re interested in receiving a report on the survey findings, be sure to provide your email address at the end of the survey. We’ll send you the white paper when it’s finished in late spring and it’ll be available for free on our site.

March 5, 2012

Uncertain about how to report and share your nonprofit’s data?

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Join TechSoup’s webinar on March 8, at 11 a.m. Pacific time, Explore, Report, and Share Your Data Online, to find out the answers to your data sharing questions.

Register today as space is limited!

SAP and Business Objects BI OnDemand

During this free, one-hour webinar, we will be hearing from SAP’s Steve Williams and Saurabh Abhyankar about issues surrounding data and reporting. We will talk about possible solutions, culminating in a closer look at SAP’s product, Business Objects BI OnDemand.

What is Business Objects BI OnDemand? It is a cloud-based business intelligence application which supports multiple data formats to help you understand how your organization is performing.

Nonprofit Questions About Data Reporting

Want to hear concerns that real nonprofits have about implementing data reporting tools? In preparation for this webinar, we have reached out to organizations using BI OnDemand. These organizations have shared their concerns with us, and we will in turn be addressing them during the webinar.

If you have questions of your own, feel free to email those questions to khunt@techsoupglobal.org or post them in the comments below. You will also have additional opportunities to ask questions during the webinar.

This free one-hour webinar is presented in cooperation with SAP, a donor partner of TechSoup Global, and is appropriate for technology decision makers in nonprofits.

We will be having a follow-up webinar on this topic specificially geared to our international audiences. That registration information will be available in April.

November 21, 2011

Just Do Data

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By Jessica Galeria

This was originally posted on the TechSoup Global blog

(Portland, OR) — “Data is the new oil.” In an otherwise humdrum Closing Keynote address by Nike’s VP of Sustainable Business and Innovation, Hannah Jones, this struck me as rather a provocative statement. She’s trying to incite a hotel lobby full of nonprofiters, philanthropists, MBA students, CSR practioners and other business-minded social entrepreneurs “to be disruptive, to innovate and to create a sustainable new world.”  She wants us to get smarter about how we work for social impact – with data.

Three very full days with 2,600 attendees and 395 speakers at the 2011 Net Impact  (NI) conference – against the über-eco backdrop of Portland, OR – and this is my main take-away:

Data is the sexiest new thing at the intersection of business and social impact.

OK, OK, I concede that data is neither new nor sexy. But it is being leveraged by the social sector in innovative and forward-thinking ways that are grabbing attention on a national scale. Here’s an NI-inspired look at three different objectives and examples of how do-gooders  “do data”:

1.      To efficiently deliver needed products and services

…for instance, in the chaotic aftermath of a natural disaster. Consider NetSquared Mashup Challenge winner Patrick Meir, Director of Crisis Mapping at Ushahidi, who crowdsourced and mapped needs in the critical hours and days after the devastating Haiti earthquake, using free and opensource software developed by his organization.

Or Mercy Corps, which is using a mobile app to get food to people in need in Haiti and Kenya through a mobile money (m-wallet) product. By giving recipients electronic food coupons instead of food, they also drive economic development among local food producers – and they pair the funds with financial literacy training. Phil Oldham, Country Director, is quick to emphasize the double bottom line: in addition to a critical social benefit, the tool streamlines distribution, saving the organization precious time and money.

2.  To crowdsource funding and social innovation

Crowdsourcing actually is kinda sexy – or at least it’s the much-touted “big thing” in technology for social good. To borrow a phrase from X-Prize, the goal is nothing less than “revolution through competition.” Ooh, la la.

Less sexily put, crowdsourcing is a distributed problem-solving and production model used to source both solutions to social problems and cash to underwrite promising projects.  Examples include Groupon and Facebook Causes  (respectively represented by Kyle Klatt, Manager of Development and Matt Mahan, COO at Net Impact), but also Kickstarter, The Hoop Fund, Global Giving, Citizen Effect, Kiva, our own NetSquared, and the exuberant onrushing player in the tech space, Campus Party, with their Hacking for Something Better (H4SB) initiative… I could go on, but I think you get the idea.

3.  To measure impact for smarter iterations and social enterprise field-building

You can’t manage what you don’t measure, cautions a well-worn business adage. Today, organizations have access to more data than ever, from program results and survey data to site traffic and donations. Yet these mountains of information are really only useful if they spark improvements that further the mission. A panel at Net Impact called “Data-Do-Gooders: Organizations Using Metrics to Rock their Missions” shared how to select the right data, how to share it (with the right people), and how to incorporate it into new and better iterations of the programs using  free tools like Google Analytics and Facebook Insights.

From a 30,000-foot view, data is also used in spades by social investors and philanthropists for proof-of-concept and to demonstrate social and financial ROI, which has positive spillover for thought leadership in the field. Social investing and social enterprise have rapidly gained traction in the investment landscape, largely because the data has been used to tell a compelling story (i.e. doing well by doing good). The need to facilitate due diligence and provide 501c3 equivalency data for international philanthropy came up repeatedly at NI – thank goodness for initiatives like Great Nonprofits, Charity Navigator, and TSG’s NGOsource and  Guide Star International programs.

Let us now turn our attention back to the green-catered, LEED-certified hotel lobby and Nike’s views on sustainability and innovation. Using a soccer analogy, as is fitting for an exec at the world’s leading sports apparel company, Ms. Jones recounted that Brazilian mega-star Pelé once famously said, “I don’t go where the ball is, I go where the ball is going.”

And I wonder:  is data the ball, or does data point up where the ball is going? Or both?

SAP InnoJam: Innovating for a World Population of 7 Billion

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By Bijan Yaminafshar

This was originally posted on the TechSoup Global blog.

Recently my colleagues at TechSoup Global and I attended a very interesting event at SAP Labs in Palo Alto, sponsored by SAP and UNFPA (United Nations Population Fund). On October 31 the world population reached 7 billion and UNFPA is leading a global initiative to build awareness around opportunities and challenges of a world of 7 billion people. This requires action insustainability, urbanization, access to health services, and youth education. SAP is the exclusive analytics partner for the campaign. SAP technology solutions help engage with population data to understand the challenges, interact with the data to see how choices impact our future, and explore data to help make better decisions. To get a flavor of this, take a look at the interactive population dashboardswhich were developed using SAP business analytics products. These dashboards will be used by the UN, local governments, economists and NGOs.

About 200 people attended this two-part event. The morning session was an executive roundtable on “Innovating for a World of 7 Billion.” (You can watch the recorded session here.) The panel included:

The afternoon session “SAP InnoJam: Actions to Innovatefor a World of 7 Billion” was a working session that was broken up into several groups. The specific challenge presented to participants was focused on youth empowerment in less-developed countries. The goal: develop solutions to help the youth generate economic benefits through access to education, healthy lifestyles, and employment. We split into 8 teams and developed solutions that were presented back to a panel of judges at the end of the day. Four proposals were selected to move forward for SAP supported Strategic Technical Skilled Volunteer project in 2012.

Before starting the working sessions we were introduced to the concept of Design Thinking, which was to be used in developing our solutions. This methodology for innovation combines creative and analytical approaches using the real world challenge of youth empowerment facing nonprofits, corporations,and government agencies alike. SAP is using these Design Thinking philosophies at their SAP TechEd events around the world.

It was a well-executed and worthwhile event. The morning panel discussion was very good in framing the problem, and I was especially impressed with Dr. Kavita Ramdas’ views (52 minutes in to this recorded session) on how technology is not necessarily a solution in itself, since it can be used for both good and bad. What role do you think technology can play in curbing population growth?

September 22, 2011

What is IATI and aidInfoLabs, Who’s involved And What Does This Mean For Civil Society Organisations

This interview was originally posted on the TechSoup Global blog.

In this interview Tim Davies, curator of aidinfolabs.org and member of the Open Knowledge Foundation’s Working Group on Open Development, and Alexandra Beech, communications officer at aidinfo talk to TechSoup Global about aidInfoLabs and the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI). IATI was set up in 2008 to make it easier to find, use and compare information about aid spending. Its aims to help implement transparency commitments made at the Accra Agenda for Action, which arose from the March 2005 Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness. IATI advocates the development of a common standard for reporting aid data to improve development effectiveness. IATI is currently endorsed by 22 partner countries (aid-recipient country governments) and has 20 organisational signatories. Participants, which include foundations, civil society organisations, donor and aid-recipient country governments, bilateral and multilateral organisations have agreed on a common, open, international standard for publishing more, and better, information about aid. Aidinfo set up aidInfoLabs.org to enable the sharing of ideas, tools, prototypes and applications that take IATI data and turn it into useful aid information. In this interview, Davies and Beech discuss the ways in which NGOs are involved with IATI and how they can be more involved. They also speak about how data is being analysed and the opportunities, constraints and possibilities for the future of IATI and aidInfoLabs.

1.How have civil society organisations informed the criteria for the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) and how should they continue to engage with this?

Alexandra Beech: IATI is a multi-stakeholder initiative and civil society has been an important part of that from its launch in 2008 at the Third Accra High Level Forum (Accra HLF3). Publish What You Fund, Transparency International, the BetterAid Platform, the INGO Accountability Charter and the International Budget Partnership are all part of the IATI decision making body – the Steering Committee. A further 20 or so Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) from both North and South are also members of the Technical Advisory Group, which worked over a 2 year period to consult on the content of the Standard, and the detailed consultations that went into putting the Standard together included not only aid-recipient country governments, but also NGOs, with leading European and US CSOs taking part in IATI consultation meetings in Brussels and Washington DC in 2009, and 13 international NGOs joining the 156 regional and national CSOs who took part in regional IATI consultation meetings in the South organised by IBON International.

In the past, the focus has been on civil society as advocates for donor transparency, but in the last year there has been a shift in approach. Now that CSOs are beginning to look at the standards as development providers themselves, a whole new process has started, with the forming of a CSO Working Group under the Technical Advisory Group. This group  will enable CSOs to participate in discussions around data exclusion protocols that are relevant for NGOs, and exploring how the standards can be approached by such organisations wanting to publish information on their own projects.

2. The Development Initiatives Poverty Research (DIPR) is the first and only NGO to publish their data in an IATI compliant format. Thus far DIPR have only published activities funded by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation though they have a timeframe for making more data. How does such reporting benefit civil society organisations?

Alexandra Beech: Data published in an IATI format can easily be re-used by an organisation for other types of reporting. What’s more, the process of publishing open data can highlight areas where information management systems aren’t working as effectively as they should be. By encouraging staff to begin thinking about transparency and open information when they do their work, the quality and accuracy of data produced initially is likely to increase.

Of great significance also, is the step by the Department for International Development (DFID) in the UK recently to stipulate IATI compliance as a requirement for receiving funding. Back in April, DFID required all organisations receiving Programme Partnership Arrangement funding to begin working on publishing their project data in compliance with the IATI standard as of the beginning of financial year 2012/2013. DFID is the only organisation doing this at the moment, but it seems likely that other funding organisations may follow suit. In other words, NGOs publishing IATI compliant data may be a way of showing how accountable they are, and thus increase the chances they have of receiving funding.

3. What has been most important in gaining consensus for IATI?

Alexandra Beech: First, IATI is a voluntary initiative – those who’ve joined are there because they made an initial commitment to the aims and aspirations of the initiative. Second, IATI spent its first year conducting in-depth consultations with users of aid information, especially aid-recipient country governments and CSOs. This has helped IATI gain consensus that the final standard must meet the priority needs identified by stakeholders in aid-recipient countries. Third, IATI has allowed individual signatories to determine their own timetable for implementation, and this level of flexibility has enabled individual donors to move forward at their own pace.

4. How important do you think data visualisations are for understanding the datasets presented in aidInfoLabs?

Tim Davies: Being able to present data in accessible ways is really important. Maps, graphs, and clear visual presentation all help people to get a sense of what a dataset is saying. However, we’re discovering it’s not as simple as putting figures direct from the IATI raw data files into simple Google Charts or other visualisations – we need to do a lot of design work to identify how best to communicate the data accurately and effectively. There are some subtleties in the data, such as the difference between budgets and commitments, or disbursements and expenditure which we need to find ways to communicate to different users (some of whom will know the terminology of aid and how it works; others who might be new to the formal aid reporting world).

We’ve recently been exploring user-centred design process, taking persona and scenarios (See the People section under ‘Inspiration’ on aidInfoLabs) to make sure we have a good understanding of the sorts of visualisations different users might want to see, and working to design some templates and guidance that will help anyone creating visualisations with IATI data.

5. How successful has the ‘people’ section of the aidInfoLab website been so far?

Tim Davies: Generating persona, and trying to share conversations and stories from real users of the data has been really useful in focussing how we’re designing things, and a number of other people have also picked up on the idea of sharing user stories so we hope to include a larger collection of insights into users of aid and development data soon. Creating imagined profiles of users is just one step towards being user-centred in the way we make aid information useful, and it’s not a replacement for direct interaction with users across the world. But as a first step, it’s proving really useful.

6. How are organisations like the Asian Development Bank, African Development Bank and European Commission (IATI signatories) engaging with the initiative?

Alexandra Beech: Becoming a signatory to IATI means showing support to the principles of transparency as laid out at Accra, and agreeing to publish information on their projects in line with the IATI standard. IATI signatories have been involved in the process since the beginning, with CSOs and aid-recipient country governments, deciding on the data that should be published, the form it should be published in and the guidelines around how it should be published. With the agreement of the content of the Standard in February 2011, now signatories are working towards publishing IATI data. We now have 5 signatories publishing IATI data – DFID, The World Bank, The Hewlett Foundation and the Netherlands, and by the 4th High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness, there should be a further 5 or 6 doing the same.

7. How influential do you think the IATI can be in helping to influence how governments and philanthropists give?

Alexandra Beech: IATI is attempting to increase the effectiveness of aid by encouraging all aid providers (governments, multilaterals, foundations and NGOs) to publish timely, comparable and accessible data on the projects they run. I think the UK Government is a good example of how IATI has helped influence giving, in that their focus lies in the arena of value for money. By publishing all their information proactively, it enables their citizens to hold them to account for the way their tax money is being spent.

Ultimately, if the majority of aid providers start publishing IATI data in a comparable way, it will make it easier to plan aid projects in the long term. For example, if a new donor already had a picture of how many health projects were happening in one particular region/town/village in Uganda, they could plan to start their own projects in a different area that was lacking in health initiatives, and therefore ensure that their aid added real value, maximising their impact.

8. What do you think has been easier than expected to accomplish with IATI and what do you think has taken longer?

Alexandra Beech: It was relatively easy to secure high-level political commitment to IATI at the Accra High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness, as there was considerable consensus on the need for action. It took longer than was originally envisaged to move from this initial concept to agreement on the final standard, and then to its implementation by signatories. This is because, as a multi-stakeholder initiative, IATI has had to balance the information demands of aid-recipient country governments and CSOs with what is practically possible to deliver from a donor perspective. Overall, IATI has made remarkable progress over the past three years, and has been identified by a number of key players as a potential building block for the next High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in Busan at the end of November.

Having a well described XML standard for the raw IATI data means we’ve been able to make use of a lot of freely available open source tools to work with the data. A great community is developing around making IATI data accessible, and they’re sharing source code, ideas, tips and tricks and that all makes working with the data a lot easier for everyone.

9. What have you learnt so far with aidInfoLabs and how will it inform your strategy for the coming year?

Tim Davies: We’ve been learning a lot about the need to invest in supporting the community of developers around an open dataset, and the value of actively curating resources that help people get started with the data. Making effective use of IATI data is not trivial, so making sure everyone can get up to speed on what they need to know about working with the data, about making it accessible to real users, and about who else they could collaborate with, has been important.

We’re also finding that a number of the tools and resources being created for working with IATI data, like data aggregators, or code-lists for mapping one dataset to another, are like public goods: they are useful to everyone, but no one individual or organisation is necessarily best placed to run them in the long term. We’re exploring how these prototypes, public goods can become sustainable, and what sort of practical and governance arrangements might be needed for that in the future.

I can’t say all that much about strategies for the coming year, but we’ll certainly be carrying on exploring the learning.

September 8, 2011

Reflections on NetSquared London Data Privacy Meetup

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By Keisha Taylor. This was originally published on the NetSquared blog

Facilitated by the knowledgeable and engaging Wendy Grossman and Javier Ruiz, the NetSquared London Meetup on Data Privacy surfaced some important, useful and informative discussion. One thing that was made clear is that there is a lot that the average person and nonprofit is unaware of on this issue. There is also a lot that those who are familiar with the issues (including those involved in the use of data for good) are struggling to address. Data privacy goes beyond the big players to middlemen, and beyond the lone hacker to organised crime. It is being driven by commercialism and government interests and laws are failing to keep up.  We discussed the importance of identifying your threat threshold as each person and organisation depending on their activities, interests and level of obscurity may require a different approach to data privacy.

The types of data being kept and disclosed to third parties include:

  1. Public sector data e.g. education data or other data held in the public domain
  2. Private sector data – e.g. ISPs are required to keep records of data traffic including VOIP. Amazon and airline companies also keep data.
  3. Data submitted voluntary – e.g. through social media sites
  4. Automated data – e.g. CCTV cameras automated plate recognition systems
  5. Hidden data – e.g. super cookies and flash cookies, data exhaust
  6. Location data e.g. from mobile phones
  7. The data you store about other people – e.g. photographs and other information on your computer or phone.

Who wants data?

  1. Advertisers
  2. Governments
  3. Suppliers
  4. Criminals (including money launderers)
  5. Researchers
  6. Journalists
  7. Everyone (depending on what the data is!)

Issues that arose in the Meetup

  • Privacy issues can also arise when opening up government data. If aggregated data is made available, eventually, with the skills, time and right resources you may be able to identify individuals.
  • If data is made open without the respective capacity to make best use of it the private sector may be the primary beneficiary of the data.
  • Some lose social capital when their privacy is violated.
  • Profiling may increase with the release of certain types of government data leading to discrimination
  • ‘Fraud as a service’ is now the norm
  • There is huge financial loss to governments, and corporations when privacy is violated e.g. did you know that according to Semantic the average data breech cost the UK £1.9 m to recover from
  • The commercialisation of privacy in an era of not only open data but big data (See McKinsey report on Big Data) leads to an increase in data privacy violations.
  • There is no longer the worry of only the lone hacker as online crime is organised crime.
  • Legacy mistakes don’t get forgotten as more data is being stored for longer.

This is a brief summary of some of the issues discussed. For further information on how to protect yourself and your nonprofit have a look at  information on the following websites, to determine what may be of importance to you:

You can also read the EU Data Protection Directive and find out about the controversial EU Data Retention Directive and the UK Digital Economy Act.

In addition, if you would like to be involved in ongoing discussions about open government data and privacy you can subscribe to the Ogd-privacy mailing list.

Inter-governmental organisations sharing and linking open and real-time data for inclusive governance, development effectiveness and protection of privacy and security

Photo Credit: Linking Open Data cloud diagram by Richard Cyganiak and Anja Jentzsch

By Keisha Taylor. This was originally posted on the TechSoup Global blog

Abstract

The rapid rise of the Internet has encouraged the use of open, real-time, and linked data to help understand and improve development processes. This has gained prominence in the public, private, and civil society sectors, as each one independently and collaboratively examines ways in which the vast amounts of data and information generated online can be mapped and linked to help with research and development in all fields, including economics, sustainable development, education, health, agriculture, science, and humanitarian and disaster relief, at local, national, regional, and international levels. The availability of data online is also generating increased possibilities for interdisciplinary study and cross boundary research and analysis. Organisations are not only making data available online for reuse by others but are also using data generated actively and passively by the public to inform business and government decisions. Moreover, individuals are using data for day to day decisions about issues that are of importance to them, their families, and their communities. The advancement of data use for development without an Internet governance framework, however, raises the importance of inclusion of the most marginalized, as well as privacy and security. This paper will examine such issues, as well as the role inter- governmental organisations can play in helping to encourage the use of data while supporting the protection of privacy and security.  Read the entire paper.

August 12, 2011

Find Out More About Data Privacy at NetTuesday in London

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Data Privacy is an issue that is of increasing importance not only to civil society organisations, but social change activists and the general public. Data is becoming more open and is being used for good in many ways. We are also using the Internet and our phones every day to talk to each other, mobilise and organise for social change and access public and commercial services. As a result more and more data about us is being accessed, stored and in some cases reused without our knowledge. Identity thefts and hacking has also become much more commonplace. However, many of us don’t know much about how we can better protect ourselves online or about the EU and UK laws pertaining to data privacy. This event will examine why it is important, discuss recent examples of data privacy violations, regulations you should be aware of, and most importantly ways that you can help to keep your personal data private. RSVP here.

Speakers:

Wendy M. Grossman has written about computers, freedom, and privacy for more than 20 years. She is a member of the advisory council of the Open Rights Group and the advisory board of Privacy International. Find out more about her on www.pelicancrossing.net.  You can also find her on Twitter @wendyg.

Javier Ruiz Diaz is a Campaigner with the  Open Rights Group.  He joined after working for Unite, organising migrant workers for the living wage campaign.  Involved at the inception of open access reporting website Indymedia UK in 1999, he has since been active as a journalist, campaigner and radio documentary producer, tirelessly promoting communication tools for social movements.  At the World Social Forum in Brazil he co-ordinated open hardware and software projects to provide instantaneous interpretation of the event to over a 100,000 participants.  His other interests include applying open source innovation models to the development of renewable energy technologies and open hardware in general.

Agenda:

Data privacy overview
•    What’s at stake? (why data privacy is important and how it interacts with open data)

What are the risks? Including some national and international examples
•    Data breaches
•    Social networks
•    Mobile devices
•    Future scenarios

Legal Obligations – What are the new laws and will they affect you?
•    EU Data Retention Act
•    EU Data Protection Directive
•    The UK Digital Economy Act

How to respond?
•    e.g. of best practice/guides e.g. See Access’s “ A Practical Guide to Protecting Your Identity and Security Online and When using Mobile Phones” and Tactical Tech’s “Security in a Box”.

  • Protecting Computers and Networks
  • Role of Encryption
  • Data Minimization

Discussion/Questions

Drinks! Place to be confirmed!

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