Ethical, Legal, and Social Issues

This track invites contributions that enhance understanding of Ethical, Legal and Social Issues (ELSI) around information and communication technology in crisis response and management. The aim is to inform high quality transformative, careful and responsible innovation. We seek papers that explore ELSI at the juncture of lived practice with organisational, technological, policy and social innovation.


The track combines conventional (20minute) and short (7 minute) presentations with a facilitated interactive conversation session. The conversation will be driven through short (3 min) provocations expressed by the speakers of the track or audience members that feel passionate about a particular issue, and/or selected other registered participants with relevant expertise in the ISCRAM 2019 Conference, followed by facilitated interactive small group conversations amongst ‘provocateurs’, speakers, and members of the audience. Documenters of these conversations will be selected from the participants. The conversation will be facilitated with creative methods to produce questions, examples, approaches and responses that will be documented in a way that can be shared more widely in the conference and after, e.g. through a live cartoonist and on social media.


This year the ISCRAM conference focuses on “individual-centric emergency management systems” and “intelligent context processing”. The technologies involved range from advanced mobile localization of a victim’s mobile phone, to warning systems that provide situationally local information, to personalised decision-support based on machine learning. Such systems concern the whole diversity of actors in crises: managers, rescue teams, citizens as victims, bystanders or volunteers. They also concern a diversity of data, data sources, data gathering methods, decisional needs, and local situational needs.

These technologies, and the social and organisational innovations that enable their utilisation present complex ethical, legal, and social challenges and opportunities. Who will and who will not have access to personalised support? What aspects of a ‘person’ are captured through invididual-centric techniques? What cannot be captured? What happens to collective and social practices of disaster risk management as these technologies are adopted? Does personalisation have to come at the cost of increased surveillance?

As practitioners, humanitarian organisations, and citizens seek IT that can support diverse needs and actors in ways that enable more effective crisis management in a turbulent age, it is important that the design of IT tools critically, carefully and creatively considers ethical, legal and social issues. What innovative solutions are needed to make the most of the potential of individual-centric techniques, and avoid negative unintended consequences?

We invite papers that bring ELSI challenges and opportunities to life. Papers may address questions of responsibility, liability, privacy, power relations, exclusion, accessibility or any other relevant themes. They can critically assess broader issues such as what makes good disaster IT, who has the power to determine that, or how to address unintentional bias in the design of such complex systems, they can present in-depth studies of examples, or outline innovative responses to ELSI.

We welcome papers from academic, designer and practitioner perspectives. We value a range of contributions from critical discussions of ethical tensions to direct experiences and points of view.

Some questions, among others, this panel considers are:

  • Who is personalization for?
  • If disasters strike the poorest the hardest, what kind of personalization is available to them? Is it going to make disaster risk management more unequal?
  • What are the implications of profiling different types of user to provide them with a personalised services?
  • What kind of data or knowledge should be included?
  • How much data needs to be processed to enable such personalisation or contextual information?
  • What surveillance will these systems bring?
  • Is the ethical use of such technology an individual, an organisational, or an institutional responsibility? What about liability? What responsibilities do designers have?
  • How might it be possible to address inclusivity/accessibility and unintentional bias in intelligent system design?
  • How do users consent or execute their rights as a data subject?
  • Whose definition of disaster or emergency is being used in the design details?


The track chairs involved in the ELSI track are all experienced track chairs and they have been involved in the ELSI track in previous sessions. They are also members of the ELSI working group within ISCRAM.

Monika Büscher
Lancaster University, UK

Monika Büscher, is Professor of Sociology at Lancaster University, Director of the Centre for Mobilities Research. Her research explores the digital dimension of contemporary ‘mobile lives’ with a focus on digital ethics and disaster risk management. She leads research on the informationalization of risk governance in a range of projects, e.g. isITethical? (2017-2018), SecInCoRe (2014-2017), BRIDGE (2011-2015). Monika is the initiator of the platform, which develops guidance for digital ethics and responsible innovation in collaboration with the Public Safety Communications Europe Network and a growing community of practitioners, developers, and researchers. Monika has initiated and led the annual Ethical, Legal and Social Issues (ELSI) Track for the international ISCRAM Conference (Intelligent Systems for Crisis Response and Management) since 2013. She received an honorary doctorate from Roskilde University, Denmark for her work on participatory design and ICT innovation. She edits the book series Changing Mobilities (Routledge) with Peter Adey.

Katrina Petersen
Trilateral Research, Ltd.

Katrina Petersen, PhD, is a Senior Research Analyst at Trilateral Research, Ltd. She has previously been track chair for the ELSI track and co-convener of an ELSI-based workshop at ISCRAM. She has expertise in conducting social and ethical impact assessments of new technological design for civil protection and disaster risk management, including in the EC projects SecInCoRe and IN-PREP. She has published on the complexity of anonymity in disaster IT, communication implications of different styles of disaster mapping, and ethical challenges when sharing data for common information spaces. She has experience working with a diverse set of academic and institutional partners from across Europe and the U.S., particularly in the context of disaster preparedness and response. She has trained as a government liaison intern for the San Diego chapter of the American Red Cross.

Caroline Rizza
Télécom Paristech (Paris, France)

Caroline Rizza, PhD, is an Associate Professor in Information and Communication Sciences since 2005, working in the Economic and Social Sciences Department of Télécom Paristech (Paris, France). She is currently a member of the laboratory I3 (Interdisciplinary Institute on Innovation) UMR 9217 – CNRS at Telecom ParisTech. She has been involved in the ELSI track since 2013 (as author and track-chair) and she is Vice-President of the ISCRAM Association. She has been leading several teaching and research projects in the field, for instance:

  • MACIV Project: Management of citizens and volunteers: social media contribution in crisis management. MACIV is a 3-year-project funded by the French Research Agency with the support of the French General directorate of national defense and security (2018-2021).
  • Information flows and on-line social networks at the time of a crisis This one-year-project is funded by the Prefecture de Paris, Security and defense area (2017-2018).
  • SNACMAN Interdisciplinary Spring School “Social Network and Crisis Management” (Telecom ParisTech, 15-19 May 2017) The thematic school was supported by the CNRS and the ISCRAM association with the collaboration of the centre de crise de la zone de défense de la préfecture de police
  • Ethics of social Media (Joint Research Centre, IPSC, Digital citizen Security Unit, 2011-2013) among the topics, a specific focused has been developed on the ethical, legal and social challenges and opportunities raised by social media at the time of the crisis.