Creating a Code of Ethics for Open-Source Intelligence Applications


  • Vaibhav Ekambaram Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington



Open-source, Dashboards, Web crawling, Intelligence gathering


This paper investigates the ethics surrounding the development and use of applications for mapping and quantifying information, which relies on public or open-source data as a source of information. The proliferation of information-based dashboards and maps has increased as the open availability of information has improved, through open data initiatives, social media web crawling, and the development of open-source intelligence gathering as a profession. A common product where this burgeoning profession manifests itself is the creation of web-based dashboards. Popular examples of this include dashboards for tracking the spread of the coronavirus, maps for visualising world news such as conflict or natural disasters, or collaborative projects such as OpenStreetMap, which relies on community input, as well as open data initiatives to build a comprehensive map of the world. As a number of these projects cover information that is of high importance, such as actions taken by belligerents in a combat zone, or the localised identification of important historical sites, this brings into question several moral and ethical issues which must be identified. Several examples of these issues, and the ethical ramifications surrounding them are discussed in this paper in the form of a literature review. Following this, a new code of ethics is introduced based on the findings presented by the literature review. To evaluate its suitability, this new code is applied to an existing open-source information solution and compare how well it follows my principles in its development and operation.


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