News and developments from RD4C

Intro to the Responsible Data for Children Principles: Protective of Children’s Rights

Posted on 13th of July 2023 by Andrew Zahuranec

Intro to the Responsible Data for Children Principles: Protective of Children’s Rights
Intro to the Responsible Data for Children Principles: Protective of Children’s Rights

This blog is part of a running series from the Responsible Data for Children initiative highlighting each of the RD4C principles and real-life efforts to realize them. You can learn more about this series here.

This week, we ask what it means to be protective of children’s rights through the lens of UNICEF Indonesia’s Immunization Chatbot. What does this principle mean? How can it be pursued? What resources can support it?

What Does Being Protective of Children’s Rights Mean?

Being protective of children’s rights means recognizing the distinct rights and requirements for helping children reach their full potential. It means “fitting” policies to match children’s interests.

Children have unique needs and requirements when it comes to data. Further, as we’ve outlined previously, children are often at the forefront of datafication, possessing less agency on data collected for or about them, and being more vulnerable to privacy violations and other harms. Moreover, their interests and protections can be overlooked in the rush to develop new systems and technologies.

And this is a problem. Public institutions around the world have developed laws and treaties to promote better child welfare and protect children when it comes to data and other issues. Documents such as the Convention on the Rights of the Child call governments and other actors to provide children with the resources they need to flourish.

An organization that is protective of children’s rights is one that exercises due diligence to ensure that they comply with existing laws and protections of their rights and complement these with other mechanisms to prevent children from having their data exposed or used in ways that are against their interests. Toward that end, a child protective organization might pursue an assessment or audit to evaluate the impact of their current data practices on children’s rights and how they might improve.

In these ways, data-based organizations can ensure their work aligns with children’s rights and “fits” children’s needs and allows them to thrive. 

How Have Others Pursued Being Protective of Children’s Rights?

Earlier this year, the Responsible Data for Children team worked closely with UNICEF Indonesia regarding the launch of an in-development Immunization Chatbot. This tool, hosted on the messaging platform WhatsApp, aims to support caregivers across Indonesia by providing them advice on immunization. Based on how users—mostly caregivers with young children—respond to certain automated questions, the chatbot can share information on routine immunization relevant to their child’s specific needs. 

While the major value of this effort is in informing caregivers to seek vaccinations for their children, UNICEF Indonesia wants to use some of the data gathered through the chatbot to assess whether routine immunization has been conducted well and improves over time.

After several conversations between the immunization chatbot team and the RD4C team, it became clear that the chatbot had already adopted certain practices to protect children’s rights—including regular quality control risk assessments. 

The Chatbot team further noted that the government recently approved a new data privacy law, which holds that “children’s data needs to be managed specially” and that individual data should “only be owned by the government.” It put work into the Chatbot to be compliant with both the local law and the Article 24 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child—which recognizes the right of the child to the “enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health. 

It also took the initial step of trying to guarantee each child’s privacy by proactively limiting collection to only include date of birth. 

To strengthen and reinforce existing efforts, the RD4C team recommended that its partners develop a robust privacy policy for the Chatbot. With a privacy policy, UNICEF Indonesia can help caregivers to understand their rights and that of their children. They can help users understand the regulatory frameworks in place and the ways they can use these to ensure children have what they need to reach their full potential. 

What Resources Can I Use to Be Protective of Children’s Rights?

The RD4C team has two key resources that may be useful in promoting more protection of children.

The first resource is the Ethical Assessment. Developed by the Data for Children Collaborative with UNICEF, the Assessment offers a way for readers to reflect on their data ecosystem, management, and protection policies. It provides teams with a way of thinking about how their work has a real impact on children’s lives using a series of fillable tools. The assessment is aligned with the RD4C Principles.

The second resource, the Opportunity and Risk Diagnostic, provides organizations with a way to take stock of the RD4C principles and how they might be realized as an organization reviews a data project or system. The high-level questions and prompts below are intended to help users identify areas in need of attention and to strategize next steps for ensuring more responsible handling of data for and about children across their organization. 

The diagnostic focuses on three key areas: assessing an initiative across the data lifecycle; understanding the principles and policies that guide responsible data handling; and engaging with the processes, organizations, and people that affect how an organization makes decisions.


We hope this blog has been useful to you in helping you understand what it means to be proportional. Please return to our blog next week when we’ll discuss our next principle or subscribe for updates to the RD4C initiative by signing up to our mailing list here.

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