Ethical and privacy considerations for research using online fandom data


  • Brianna Dym University of Colorado Boulder
  • Casey Fiesler University of Colorado Boulder



Data privacy, Ethics, LGBTQ, Online communities, Public data, Social norms


As online fandom continues to grow, so do the public data created by fan creations and interactions. With researchers and journalists regularly engaging with those data (and not always asking permission), many fans are concerned that their content might end up in front of the wrong audience, which could lead to privacy violations or even harassment from within or outside of fandom. To better understand fan perspectives on the collection and analysis of public data as a methodology, we conducted both an interview study and a survey to solicit responses that would help provide a broader understanding of fandom's privacy norms as they relate to the ethical use of data. We use these findings to revisit and recommend best practices for working with public data within fandom.

Author Biographies

Brianna Dym, University of Colorado Boulder

Brianna Dym is an information science PhD student at CU Boulder. She works with Dr. Casey Fiesler studying marginalized communities online, including fandom. Her own work investigates how marginalized communities leverage technologies like social media platforms to empower themselves.

Casey Fiesler, University of Colorado Boulder

Casey Fiesler is an assistant professor in the Department of Information Science (and Computer Science, by courtesy) at the University of Colorado Boulder.  Armed with a PhD in Human-Centered Computing from Georgia Tech and a JD from Vanderbilt Law School, she primarily researches social computing, law, ethics, and fan communities.