What is public?

tekijä: Tiia Marjaana Puputti Viimeisin muutos tiistai 29. kesäkuuta 2021, 15.31

Social media content 

The content on social media sites often includes both data protection issues and copyright issues. 

Social media checklist: 

  • Check the site’s terms of service. The terms may change, so always check in the latest version what the terms of service say about, for example, 
    • saving the information 
    • publicity of the content 
    • sharing the content 
    • copyrights 
  • Is it possible to inform the research participants? If you cannot contact the participants personally, consider 
    • what kinds of risks or harms the processing of personal data could cause them 

Examples  

I am examining videos on a YouTube channel. The videos are copyrighted. What does this mean for my data?  

  • You can refer to the videos in the same way as you refer to text or images. However, you cannot publish the videos as part of your thesis because that would mean making a copy of the videos. Making copies is usually forbidden without separate permission from the author. 
  • Screen captures: you can usually take still photos because they can be regarded as image citations. However, the photos must be essentially related to the text. They must not be so-called stock images but part of the analysis or central for the interpretation. 

  
The current terms of service of YouTube forbid, for example, the downloading of videos to your own computer. What does this mean for my data? 

  • You cannot save the data for yourself. Your data exist only on YouTube, and if the author of the videos for some reason removes the videos, you will lose your data. If a video were removed, your data would no longer be complete.  
  • This as such does not prevent research, but it is good to be aware of this risk.  
  • Repeatability is part of the essence of scientific research: it must be possible to repeat an investigation, but that is not the case if the data no longer exist.  

 
I examine comments on Instagram. The comments are on a public Instagram account, which can be read without logging in. Some people have accounts under their own names, some under pseudonyms.  Am I processing personal data? 

  • If the account is open so that anyone can read the comments without logging in on Instagram, one can think that the commentators themselves have published their personal data. However, the commentators have the right to know that they are subjects of research. If it is impossible to inform them personally, you should notify of the study in other ways.  
  • You cannot necessarily save the data for yourself. Remember the risks: the comments or the image may be removed from the service.   

  

What is public? 

Many of the aforementioned cases are related to the question of what is public. It may be difficult to draw a line.  Note! Consider case by case. For example, not all internet resources are public. 

The GDPR does not apply to personal data that individuals have published themselves.  How do you determine if a person has published the data him-/herself?  

  • For instance, tweets on Twitter are as a rule public. You can use a direct quote of a Twitter message. Then you must mention the author in the same way as when quoting text.  
  • For Facebook and Instagram, these definitions are especially challenging because of frequently changing terms of service.  
  • If you use data from, for instance, a public Facebook group that anyone can see without logging in, one can think that the content is public. 

Public data can be quoted (quotation right).  Quotation right means that you can take a direct quotation without permission from the author.  However, there are rules for direct quotations as well.  (https://www.sanasto.fi/sitaatti/, in Finnish only

  • You must have a valid reason for quoting, such as justifying your views, criticising statements by others, or illustrating something with a quotation.  
  • A quotation must not be too long – the correct length is determined case by case. 
  • The author is mentioned and the quotation is separated from the text with quotation marks. 
  • What if you do not want to name the author in order to protect the research participant’s identity? 

A tip:  
The posts on Suomi24 discussion forum are available via the Language Bank of Finland, an archive containing different language corpora.