About the handbook

Protecting individuals' personal data is an integral part of protecting their life and dignity.

This is why personal data protection is of fundamental importance for humanitarian organizations.

Recent developments in new technologies have meant that the processing of ever-increasing quantities of personal data in an interconnected world has become easier and faster.

This has also given rise to concerns about the possible intrusion into the private sphere of individuals and to regulatory efforts worldwide to respond to these concerns.

The Handbook on Data Protection in Humanitarian Action has been published as part of the Data Protection in Humanitarian Action project, organized jointly by the Brussels Privacy Hub, an academic research centre of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB) in Brussels, Belgium, and the ICRC Data Protection Office in Geneva, Switzerland.

The content of the handbook was developed in a series of workshops held in Brussels and Geneva in 2015–2016, with representatives from humanitarian organizations (including humanitarian practitioners), data protection authorities, academics, non-governmental organizations, researchers and other experts. They came together to address questions of common concern in the application of data protection in humanitarian action, particularly with respect to new technologies.

The handbook aims to further the discussion launched by the International Conference of Data Protection and Privacy Commissioners' (ICDPPC's) Resolution on Privacy and International Humanitarian Action adopted in Amsterdam in 2015.

It is not intended to replace compliance with applicable legal norms, or with data protection rules, policies and procedures that a particular organization may have adopted. Rather, the handbook seeks to raise awareness and assist humanitarian organizations in ensuring that they comply with personal data protection standards when carrying out humanitarian activities, by providing specific guidance on the interpretation of data protection principles for humanitarian action, particularly when new technologies are employed.