When is Information Purely Public?


O'Brien D, Ullman J, Altman M, Gasser U, Bar-Sinai M, Nissim K, Vadhan S, Wojcik MJ, Wood A. When is Information Purely Public?. Social Science Research Network [Internet]. Working Paper.


Researchers are increasingly obtaining data from social networking websites, publicly-placed sensors, government records and other public sources. Much of this information appears public, at least to first impressions, and it is capable of being used in research for a wide variety of purposes with seemingly minimal legal restrictions. The insights about human behaviors we may gain from research that uses this data are promising. However, members of the research community are questioning the ethics of these practices, and at the heart of the matter are some difficult questions about the boundaries between public and private information. This workshop report, the second in a series, identifies selected questions and explores issues around the meaning of “public” in the context of using data about individuals for research purposes.