Few understand why we focus on refugee privacy. Funders don’t understand it so don’t fund it; the public see the plight of refugees as seen on TV, not as a privacy issue; and often times the international community does everything it can to increase scrutiny of refugees. In this article, we highlight the privacy issues facing refugees and how these issues can jeopardize refugees’ safety as much as any of the environmental, social, or political risks refugees encounter.
Privacy International has posted an informative and compelling piece on issues concerning refugees and the need for privacy protection. If you read only one article today, I would encourage you to read this one.
Although I am not personally involved in their noble efforts, the concerns over data protection and privacy for people who are in danger are ones that I have tried to highlight on my blogs over the years. Whether it is a biometric database of Roma in France or the theft of a list of abductees’ families and supporters in Japan, or any of a myriad of other breaches that have generally flown under the U.S. media radar, inadequate data protection and privacy protection puts people at risk.
Privacy International’s essay makes the need for such protection clear and raises some excellent points. Their recommendation, though, that “Western governments and aid donors have to stop funding developing countries’ national registration schemes and biometrics unless they are willing to promote privacy laws as well,” strikes me as unlikely to really attract much support in the U.S. The U.S. doesn’t have adequate federal privacy laws for its own citizens and continues to secretly amass even more data (e.g., the “Secret PATRIOT Act” issue). Given the mentality of the American government, they are probably salivating over such foreign national ID or biometric databases and have been calculating how to get access to them or compel their sharing.
Before the U.S. dare preach to other countries, we need to clean up our own house.
Image credit: UNHCR