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About Thing 15

Purpose: As we explore the possibilities of linked data, it is important that we reflect on what we are doing, examine our impact, and find ways to minimize harm.

Learning Outcomes: Users will consider the ethical challenges that linked data projects can raise and explore tools to guide thinking about ethical issues.

Intended Audience: All levels

Author: Violet Fox, Northwestern University

Expected Duration: 45-60 minutes

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.

Getting Started

It can be very exciting to start or join a linked data project—the possibilities are endless! But it’s important to be aware of the potential damage that linked data projects might create as we do this work. It is especially critical that we consider these concerns before we start this work. 

Some of the ethical problems that can occur in LIS-related linked data projects involve privacy and consent issues. Those working on projects like Wikidata collect information about people (such as gender expression, religion, or immigration status) and make it publicly available in a machine-readable way that may endanger individuals. People and communities are labeled with terminology which might not reflect their own language to describe themselves. Removing all traces of information that has been published to the Internet can be incredibly difficult. Thoughtful decisions need to be made about what information is collected before it is published online. Building in capacity for updates and corrections should be a part of project planning as well. 

Discussion around these issues is a crucial part of our work in linked data.



Beyond privacy issues, what are other ethical issues that can be associated with a linked data project? Consider sharing your thoughts in the Comments section at the bottom of the page.

Additional Resources

Look for the publication of the book Ethics in Linked Data in summer 2023, published by Library Juice Press, featuring sixteen chapters from those in the LIS profession and a LIS-specific Ethics in Linked Data checklist.

Claim Credit

Need a certificate of completion? Answer the questions below, submit them, and you’ll receive an email confirmation with a link to download your certificate. 

Beyond privacy issues, what are other ethical issues that can be associated with a linked data project?