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Privacy Tools for Sharing Research Data

Information technology, advances in statistical computing, and the deluge of data available through the Internet are transforming social science. With the ability to collect and analyze massive amounts of data on human behavior and interactions, social scientists can hope to uncover many more phenomena, with greater detail and confidence, than allowed by traditional means such as surveys and interviews. However, a major challenge for computational social science is maintaining the privacy of human subjects. Beyond harm that may be suffered by the subjects themselves, privacy violations are a serious threat to the future of computational social science research.

Led collaboratively by Harvard University's Center for Research on Computation and Society (CRCS) at the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Institute for Quantitative Social Science (IQSS), and Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society, with support from the Secure and Trustworthy Cyberspace (SaTC) program at the National Science Foundation, the Privacy Tools for Sharing Research Data project seeks to develop methods, tools, and policies to further the tremendous value that can come from collecting, analyzing, and sharing data while more fully protecting individual privacy.

Executive Director and Harvard Law School Professor of Practice Urs Gasser leads the Berkman Klein Center's role in this exciting initiative, which brings the Center's institutional knowledge and practical experience to help tackle the legal and policy-based issues in the larger project. The Berkman Klein Center is working with Berkman Klein faculty, fellows, research assistants, and the CRCS and IQSS project team members to distill key definitional issues, explore new and existing legal and regulatory frameworks, and develop legal instruments that take into account the specific needs of researchers, research subjects, and data, while enabling reliable mechanisms for protecting privacy, transparency, and accountability.

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. CNS-1237235. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

Our Work 10

Nov 1, 2018

Differential Privacy

A Primer for a Non-Technical Audience

This primer aims to provide a foundation that can guide future decisions when analyzing and sharing statistical data about individuals, informing individuals about the privacy… More

Oct 18, 2018

Is Privacy Privacy?

How have different technical and normative conceptions of privacy evolved? What are the practical challenges that these divergent approaches pose? More

Aug 21, 2018

Bridging the Gap between Computer Science and Legal Approaches to Privacy

A look at the gaps that exist between how privacy risks are conceptualized between the fields of law and computer science More

Aug 3, 2018

A Harm-Reduction Framework for Algorithmic Fairness

Any evaluation of algorithmic fairness must consider a counterfactual analysis of the effects that algorithmic design, implementation, and use have on the well-being of… More

Mar 12, 2018

Practical Approaches to Big Data Privacy Over Time

This article analyzes how privacy risks multiply as large quantities of personal data are collected over longer periods of time. More

May 31, 2016

Towards a Modern Approach to Privacy-Aware Government Data Releases

Governments are under increasing pressure to promote transparency, accountability, and innovation by making the data they hold available to the public. Because the data often… More

Mar 31, 2016

Elements of a New Ethical Framework for Big Data Research

The Berkman Center is pleased to announce the publication of a new paper from the Privacy Tools for Sharing Research Data project team. In this paper, Effy Vayena, Urs Gasser,… More

Jan 20, 2016

Privacy Tools Project submits comments on proposed revisions to the Common Rule

On January 6, 2016, members of the Privacy Tools for Sharing Research Data project submitted comments in response to the September 2015 notice of proposed rulemaking to revise the… More

Mar 27, 2015

Integrating Approaches to Privacy Across the Research Lifecycle: When Is Information Purely Public?

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… More

Aug 3, 2014

Integrating Approaches to Privacy across the Research Lifecycle: Long-term Longitudinal Studies

This paper explores interdisciplinary approaches to privacy in long-term longitudinal studies of human subjects. Long-term longitudinal studies collect, at multiple points over a… More

People 03

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Related Projects & Tools 01

Privacy Initiatives

The Berkman Klein Center has long been home to a number of cross-disciplinary initiatives that investigate privacy and privacy-relevant questions in the digitally networked… More