What Are My Ethical and Legal Responsibilities in Using Data?

Users have responsibilities when collecting and using data. You may not recognize this because of the overwhelming amount of data readily available in every corner of the internet, but these responsibilities exist nonetheless and these need to be kept in mind when using data and statistics for school or work projects.

Primary among these responsibilities are four key guidelines:

  • Respect the privacy of research subjects.

  • Adhere to the terms of use set by the data producer.

  • Accurately represent the data.

  • Properly attribute the data source.

The consequences of not honoring these responsibilities (whether intentionally or unintentionally) vary, but can include the following:

  • Sharing or revealing an individual’s personal information, which may violate privacy rights, but also may lead to actual harm to the individual in some way.

  • Misrepresenting the data may lead to erroneous conclusions.

  • Spreading misinformation.

  • Loss of credibility and authority - your own as well as potentially others.

  • Legal action as a result of violation of copyright conditions set by a data provider.

In the video below, we highlight the principal responsibilities associated with the use of data and statistics. Don’t forget your instructor, professor, and librarian can advise on specific situations you may encounter while exploring the data and statistics at your disposal.