Sign In

Communications of the ACM

Computing ethics

Should Researchers Use Data from Security Breaches?

scale weighing sack of breached data, illustration

Credit: Alicia Kubista / Andrij Borys Associates

Security breaches and the public exposure of internal databases, customer records, and user information are now unfortunately frequent occurrences. The data exposed by these breaches presents an ethical dilemma for computing researchers. Such datasets are potentially valuable as descriptions of actual behavior and events that are otherwise hidden from outside observers. However, researchers must confront the fact this data was obtained unethically: corporate confidentiality has been broken, and the privacy of those described in the data has been compromised.

There are a variety of contexts where laws and professional norms prohibit using unethically obtained information. In law, there are exclusion rules against using illegally obtained evidence in criminal cases. Trade secrecy law prohibits businesses from using confidential information obtained from their competitors. The 'Common Rule' in U.S. scientific research regulation and the World Medical Association's Declaration of Helsinki requires human research subjects to give informed consent to participate in research.8,9


No entries found

Log in to Read the Full Article

Sign In

Sign in using your ACM Web Account username and password to access premium content if you are an ACM member, Communications subscriber or Digital Library subscriber.

Need Access?

Please select one of the options below for access to premium content and features.

Create a Web Account

If you are already an ACM member, Communications subscriber, or Digital Library subscriber, please set up a web account to access premium content on this site.

Join the ACM

Become a member to take full advantage of ACM's outstanding computing information resources, networking opportunities, and other benefits.

Subscribe to Communications of the ACM Magazine

Get full access to 50+ years of CACM content and receive the print version of the magazine monthly.

Purchase the Article

Non-members can purchase this article or a copy of the magazine in which it appears.