Scientists Are Debating Whether Animals Have a Right to Privacy

A grizzly bear in Alaska. Image: Gregory „Slobirdr“ Smith/Flickr
A growing number of scientists are deliberately concealing tracking data to protect their location.

By Sarah Hewitt | MOTHERBOARD

The psychedelic rock gecko lives among the rocks on a tiny island in the South China Sea. Scientists first described this small, colourful creature in 2010 in the journal Zootaxa—where to find it, what it looks like, and how it behaves. Three years later, you could buy one in Europe through the international pet trade. Same story for the Bornean earless monitor lizard, Campbell’s alligator lizard, and countless other species.

Scientific data used to be accessible only through university subscriptions to specialized journals. But these days, there’s a push to remove those limitations and make it available to anyone who wants it. It’s a Catch-22—scientists now find themselves inadvertently putting animals at risk of exploitation by publishing and sharing their location and tracking information. And they’re grappling with what to do about it.

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