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Researcher (Postdoc) Regulatory design of data protection in humanitarian practice

Job description

Although about half of the African nations has enacted data protection or privacy legislation, different standards have been used as a base and enforcement is often lagging. With many nations being (increasingly) disaster prone, humanitarian preparedness and action, for which a lot of (geospatial) data needs to be processed, is among the activities that need to embed data protection principles in their operations. Next the personal privacy, the issue of group privacy, also regularly linked to possible applications of AI, calls for attention in the broader context of the data principles of fairness and accountability.

Malawi is an interesting case here as there are large flooding risks, an experimental drone zone and ongoing work on data protection regulations. You as postdoc will systematize local interpretations of personal and group privacy, elicit formal and informal fairness, accountability and transparency (FAccT) channels in disaster-prone jurisdictions and propose a mix of regulatory “nudges”—persuasion, incentives and law enforcement—to protect personal and group privacy, and enhance the international Data Responsibility Policy of the Red Cross’ 510. Your work will draw on cultural theory, which explains people’s perceptions of information-based harms by means of their (primary and secondary) positions within specific institutional-social contexts, as well as on organizational theory to compare formal and informal accountability channels, within and across humanitarian organizations.

You will work closely with local stakeholders and project partners UNICEF Malawi, 510 and the related PhD candidate on Accountable Geo-intelligence.

You will:

  • look into the way Malawian citizens/communities, humanitarians and Malawian government perceive privacy harms, and explore to what extent these actors are willing to trade them off in disaster-prone jurisdictions
  • compare these perceptions with the accountability inscribed in responsible data guidelines (soft regulation) and in the Malawi data protection legislation (hard regulation)
  • advise on appropriate mixes of regulatory “nudges” to ensure that humanitarian organisations can exact accountability to live up to the humanitarian principles of humanity, impartiality and independence (incl. group privacy)
  • present (preliminary) results at appropriate meetings and conferences
  • publish results in scientific journals
  • represent and promote the NWO project in collaboration with the project team, and work closely with and advise the PhD candidate

Your profile

  • You possess a PhD on a related topic of data protection regulations a/o data ethics, preferably with affinity to the geospatial data sector
  • You have proven interest in the technological developments, big data and/or AI/Machine Learning on issues of data protection and ethics.
  • You are interested, if not yet active, in the humanitarian (data) field.
  • Affinity with a multi-cultural and interdisciplinary environment is key.
  • You have a willingness to travel and stay for extensive times in African countries.
  • Experience with doing fieldwork in the region is considered an asset.
  • You have an excellent command of English.

Our offer

We offer you an inspiring multidisciplinary and challenging international and academic environment. The university offers a dynamic ecosystem with enthusiastic colleagues in which internationalization is an important part of the strategic agenda.

You will be employed for two years. Salary and conditions will be in accordance with the Collective Labour Agreement (CAO-NU) of the Dutch Universities.

  • Gross monthly salary between € 3,807.00 and € 5,211.00 (fulltime), depending on experience and qualifications (job profile Researcher, level 3).
  • A holiday allowance of 8% of the gross annual salary and a year-end bonus of 8.3%;
  • A solid pension scheme;
  • A total of 41 holiday days in case of full-time employment;
  • Professional and personal development programs;
  • Costs for moving to Enschede may be reimbursed.

The NWO project Do No Harm is interdepartmental. Although you will be based in the PGM department, you will work in the interdepartmental team.

Information and application

For more information you can contact Prof. Jaap Zevenbergen (e-mail: j.a.zevenbergen@utwente.nl). You are also invited to visit our homepage.

Please submit your application before 19 December 2021 (choose “apply now” below). Your application should include:

  • A motivation letter, emphasizing your specific interest in the position and outlining your relevant skills and experience
  • A full Curriculum Vitae
  • The names and contact details of two references

Interviews will be held on 19 and/or 20 January 2022.

About the department

The department of Urban and Regional Planning and Geo Information Management (PGM) of ITC works on the linkage of geospatial technologies with diverse societal fields, and takes the role of people as stakeholder in all processes central, and looks both at understanding the past and the present, as well as predicting and supporting governance decisions, including for humanitarian action. The key focus of the work is on developments in the majority world. In close cooperation with the department of Earth Observation Systems (EOS) and the department of Philosophy (of the faculty BMS) PGM is undertaking the NWO-sponsored project ‘Disastrous Information: Embedding “Do No Harm” principles into innovative geo-intelligence workflows for effective humanitarian action’.

About the organization

The Faculty of Geo-Information Science and Earth Observation (ITC) provides international postgraduate education, research and project services in the field of geo-information science (GIS) and earth observation. We use remote sensing and GIS for collecting spatial data. Our aim is to contribute to the international exchange of knowledge, focusing on capacity building and institutional development in developing countries and emerging economies. As part of a ‘people-first' university of technology, we ensure that everything we do is aimed at maximum impact on people and society through the sustainable utilisation of science and technology. We also seek to sustain and expand our role as a leader in academic social entrepreneurship.

University of Twente (UT)

University of Twente (UT) has entered the new decade with an ambitious, new vision, mission and strategy. As ‘the ultimate people-first university of technology' we are rapidly expanding on our High Tech Human Touch philosophy and the unique role it affords us in society. Everything we do is aimed at maximum impact on people, society and connections through the sustainable utilisation of science and technology. We want to contribute to the development of a fair, digital and sustainable society through our open, inclusive and entrepreneurial attitude. This attitude permeates everything we do and is present in every one of UT's departments and faculties. Building on our rich legacy in merging technical and social sciences, we focus on five distinguishing research domains: Improving healthcare by personalised technologies; Creating intelligent manufacturing systems; Shaping our world with smart materials; Engineering our digital society; and Engineering for a resilient world.

As an employer, University of Twente offers jobs that matter. We equip you as a staff member to shape new opportunities both for yourself and for our society. With us, you will be part of a leading tech university that is changing our world for the better. We offer an open, inclusive and entrepreneurial climate, in which we encourage you to make healthy choices, for example, with our flexible, customisable conditions.

Researcher (Postdoc) Regulatory design of data protection in humanitarian practice
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