January 26 – 31 , 2014, Dagstuhl Seminar 14052

Ethics in Data Sharing


Sven Dietrich (Stevens Institute of Technology, US)
Mireille Hildebrandt (Free University of Brussels, BE)
Aiko Pras (University of Twente, NL)
Lenore D. Zuck (University of Illinois – Chicago, US)


Julie E. Cohen (Georgetown University – Washington, DC, US)

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Dagstuhl Report, Volume 4, Issue 1 Dagstuhl Report
Aims & Scope
List of Participants
Dagstuhl's Impact: Documents available


ACM's ethical guidelines (as well as IEEE's) are almost two decades old. The most relevant points to data sharing it makes are "Avoid harm to others" and "Respect the privacy of others." The consequences of not complying with the code are "Treat violations of this code as inconsistent with membership in the ACM" while "Adherence of professionals to a code of ethics is largely a voluntary matter."

In fact, in the current legal system, ethical behavior "doesn't pay." Such guidelines are insufficient for the numerous professionals working for corporations where privacy policies are dictated more by a company than by its employees. Nowadays, we have little control who receives our Personally Identifiable Information (PII), what PII they receive, where collected PII is transferred to, and what is the source of (mis?)information others have on us. This is especially alarming with the rapid progress of data mining, the constant discovery of flaws in data anonymization/sanitization techniques, and the vast amount of electronic data that exists. It is beyond the ability of a layperson to understand the privacy policy of organizations and their consequences on the individual.

The situation is even more serious when data is shared and disseminated among different countries that naturally have different ethical codes and policies for dealing with privacy issues concerning data sharing. Data transfer has no borders, hence, neither does data sharing, which renders ethical data sharing all the more challenging.

However, the recent EU proposals to update the legal framework of the Fair Information Principles, precisely with an eye to the emergence of hyperconnectivity and ubiquitous data analytics, has introduced the notion of Data Protection by Design. This may provide strong incentives to introduce purpose binding, informed consent, minimal disclosure and profile transparency into the design of the relevant computing systems.

The seminar brought in researchers from all disciplines that involve data sharing across borders with ethical implications. The main focus was on Computer System Security data, with consideration for Electronic Medical Records. We derived a basic model for data sharing, and came up with some suggestions of code of ethics for computer professionals (including researchers) that will elaborate on existing codes in terms of data sharing.

Summary text license
  Creative Commons BY 3.0 Unported license
  Julie Cohen and Sven Dietrich and Mireille Hildebrandt and Aiko Pras and Lenore D. Zuck


  • Security / Cryptology
  • Society / Human-computer Interaction
  • World Wide Web / Internet


  • Ethics
  • Data Sharing
  • Data Dissemination
  • Ethics across borders
  • Anonymization
  • Sanitization


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