Become a (Social Media) Data Donor and Save a Life

I was recently in New York where I met up with my colleague Fernando Diaz from Microsoft Research. We were discussing the uses of social media in humanitarian crises and the various constraints of social media platforms like Twitter vis-a-vis their Terms of Service. And then this occurred to me: we have organ donation initiatives and organ donor cards that many of us carry around in our wallets. So why not become a “Data Donor” as well in the event of an emergency? After all, it has long been recognized that access to information during a crisis is as important as access to food, water, shelter and medical aid.

This would mean having a setting that gives others during a crisis the right (for a limited time) to use your public tweets or Facebook status updates for the ex-pressed purpose of supporting emergency response operations, such as live crisis maps. Perhaps switching this setting on would also come with the provision that the user confirms that s/he will not knowingly spread false or misleading information as part of their data donation. Of course, the other option is to simply continue doing what many have been doing all along, i.e., keep using social media updates for humanitarian response regardless of whether or not they violate the various Terms of Service.

13 responses to “Become a (Social Media) Data Donor and Save a Life

  1. This has been cross-posted to Phi Beta Iota the Public Intelligence Blog, and we are from now on following the core new term, “Data Donor” in the Open Source Everything Highlights (

  2. Melissa Elliott

    Love this idea!!

  3. I love this idea too… it also provides a framework for perhaps some loosely bonded crowd-sourcing !!!!

  4. Can you expand on what you mean by “various constraints” of social media platforms?

    • Hey Alex, have a look at the Terms of Service of Twitter, that should give you an idea. One example: Twitter makes sharing datasets of tweets a violation of it’s ToS, which makes doing R&D in Social Computing rather challenging.

  5. Love, love, love, Patrick!

  6. This kind of ideas must be opt-out, rather than opt-in, to get more results (like in the field of organ donation

    • Hi Juan, thanks for reading and for your comment. Yes, opt-out would definitely get more results but there are all kinds of privacy, security, etc, challenges of taking this approach. There would need to be some extensive educational & awareness raising efforts to complement an opt-out approach. Thanks again!

  7. How can I help share data during a crisis/disaster?

  8. Pingback: Using Twitter to Map Blackouts During Hurricane Sandy | iRevolution

  9. Pingback: Big Data, Disaster Resilience and Lord of the Rings | iRevolution

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