Protect your Participant Privacy

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Customized privacy options for your citizen science data

When it comes to privacy, citizen science projects are not one size fits all. Project A may need a platform that supports Open Membership and Open Data. Project B may need a platform that supports Closed Membership and Closed Data. And then there are all the permutations in between.

To protect both people and data, we’ve structured around a Citizen Science Governance Framework to cover these and many additional use cases presented to us by projects over the years. These options support diverse governance styles responsive to data uses, traditional and indigenous knowledge sensitivities, intellectual property rights, personally identifiable information concerns, volunteer preferences, and sensitive data protection.

What options are available and how do I customize them?

Our project membership openness options include the full breadth from Closed Projects (Invitation-Only), currently implemented using the member-based selection combined with an “Invite Members” tool; Member-Based Projects that sit in an intermediate realm and require project manager approval to join; and Open Projects that follow a crowdsourcing model. Our project data openness choices are more complex, and full choice selection is still in development. Our most open privacy setting is the Public Project setting, which makes project data accessible for viewing, querying, and other platform-based exploration by anyone, including members of the lay public and those not registered on, while restricting data downloads and formal data use to registered users. Our intermediate openness setting for data privacy is the Private Project setting, which allows viewing, querying, downloading, and other access options for project data.

The figure above shows “Citizen Science Project Governance Framework showing key decisions related to people and information that determine project membership openness, member personal privacy, and project data openness. Platform can present a more flexible bottom-up model (more choice) or a more rigid top-down (less choice) governance model. A platform’s governance model will determine its flexibility to accommodate projects with diverse needs by either dictating a single model or offering choices to participating projects and/or its members.”

From Lynn, et al. Designing a Platform for Ethical Citizen Science

How we protect your personal information and project data privacy

We helped Off the Roof stave off worried volunteers by allowing them to protect precise household locations while still allowing researchers access to these coordinates. We also helped the Mountain Goat Coat Trackers project allow professional photographers to upload photos and contribute important data while protecting the copyright of their works.

Contact us if you would like to learn more about your privacy options

Wondering if your data and membership needs can be met by We’re happy to discuss your needs. Contact us to learn more about our project governance, membership, and data privacy options.

If you’re interested in even more details, you can also read our paper linked below. It’s free and open source!

Lynn, S.J., Kaplan, N., Newman, S., Scarpino, R. and Newman, G., 2019. Designing a Platform for Ethical Citizen Science: A Case Study of Citizen Science: Theory and Practice, 4(1), p.14. DOI:

1 comments on “Protect your Participant Privacy”

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