Open Data Training

Guide 4: Data Privacy and Ethics

Navigating legal and ethical issues around public data and data reuse.

yeah bar



This training module is a very quick introduction to open data for newcomers to the topic, and for those who know a bit but want to know more. This material was produced by Mozilla Science Lab, a program to encourage the use of open source practices and web technologies to do better science.



Student Prerequisites


Total Time to Complete

About 1 hour, including transitions.

Learning Objectives

  • Choose appropriate licences for data
  • Identify legal or ethical issues arising from data sharing

Content Outline

Instructor Guide

Instructor Prerequisites:

  1. Topic 1: Introductions

    • Introductions

      • Instructor (3 minutes)
        • Explain your background, how you became involved in open data.
      • Why this training, why Mozilla? (1 minutes)
        •   • Intro the training series, and how it was created (collaboration, sprints, output of fellows program)
        •   • Structure of the session, content exploration through activities
        •   • Why MSL and Mozilla are involved, your relationship to Mozilla
      • Why open data now? (1 minutes)
        •   • More data than ever-- define types of data here
        •   • Pressure from funders, want more impact from data
        •   • The web as sharing/collaboration tool
  2. Topic 2: Open Licences

    • What is Open Data?

      1. Rules and regulations around sharing: Find your institutional IP policy, and discuss (15 mins)
      2. To assist students in locating this policy, provide keywords on the institutional website to search on including:

      3.   • “Intellectual property”
      4.   • “IP rights”
      5.   • “Copyright policy”
      6.   • “Data sharing policy”
      7. Look on Office of Research or institutional Technology Transfer websites or for an institution-wide policy directory. Ask students to interpret the policy in terms of their work.
        Here are some questions to ask your students:

      8.   • What are the rules or regulations around sharing your particular research products?
      9.   • Does the IP policy support the funding mandates?
      10.   • Who do you go to with questions about this policy?
      11.   • Is the policy different for students vs paid employees?
      12. Open Data licences (15 minutes)
      13. Start by having your students watch this video: Open Data Licensing Animation - OERIPR Support (Youtube)
      14. Licences for open data are similar to Creative Commons licences for creative works, but a bit simpler. Open Data Commons provides a great, plain language walkthrough. Talk with your students about the three main ways they could licence their data- as public domain, with attribution required, or with a share-alike term. Talk about the benefits and restrictions of each type.

        If time permits, start a discussion about licences vs norms in the context of the recommendation “Choose the least restrictive licence possible.”

  3. Topic 3: Ethical considerations in data sharing

    This topic can take a variety of forms, because there are different ethical considerations to take into account when sharing data in different fields-for example, personally identifiable information about study subjects is a concern with research involving humans. In general, a principle of ‘do no harm’ should be adopted: don’t publish data products that identify human research subjects, for example.
    Think about how your work will be used, and support socially positive outcomes. Share this article with your students: and think of a case study within your field about when data sharing could be problematic from an ethical standpoint. Brainstorm ways of mitigating potential issues while still sharing the data.

    Possible example: A not-for-profit land trust collects data on the distribution of an endangered orchid on their property for a study on the distribution and habitat preferences of this species, to guide conservation efforts. However, this generates data that provides the exact location of existing orchids, making them subject to poaching.

    Instructors should select cases that have elements of controversy for good discussions.

  4. Topic 4: Resources and Wrap

    Provide links to Primer 4 and Primer 5 , other relevant resources.