Privacy Notice

1. What kind of data are you collecting?

We are collecting audio data in the Meadows that includes both audible and ultrasonic sounds — that is, sounds too high for humans to hear. We expect that the data will contain sounds from a wide variety of sources, such as bats, birds, weather, traffic and other human activities.

2. Can you give me an example of this audio data?

Yes, you can listen to a couple of sample clips. We will make more samples available as the project continues.

3. What are you planning to do with the audio data?

We are using the data to carry out research about sounds in an urban context. Some of the expected benefits are new techniques for monitoring biodiversity in urban greenspaces; for assessing noise pollution; and for supporting citizen science and data literacy initiatives.

4. How long will the data collection carry on?

We are planning to run the project from March 2018 for approximately 12 months. Barring technical problems, the recording will take place 24/7 during that period.

5. Where and how is the audio data being stored?

The audio data will be transferred from the Audio Capture Devices via WiFi using a dedicated wireless network to a secure server. Both the wireless network and the server are owned and managed by the University of Edinburgh. The data will be encrypted across the WiFi network and also when stored on the server.

6. Are you collecting audio data anywhere else in Edinburgh?

No, not at the moment. Depending on how this project turns out, we might consider expanding the range of the data collection in future. This of course we will only do after consultation with relevant organisations and representatives of community groups.

7. Are you recording people’s conversations?

Our interest is in building a ‘soundscape’ of the Meadows that will give us information about biodiversity and how it interacts with human activity. We have chosen a type of microphone that is specifically designed for capturing ultrasonic data, and we are placing the Audio Capture Devices in trees so that we get better access to bat and bird activity. However, we cannot rule out the possibility that the Audio Capture Devices may incidentally record traces of human speech. Since each Audio Capture Device will only record 10-second samples in rotation, any such traces would be fragmentary.

8. How will you ensure that any audio data including human speech is kept private?

The systems and technology we are using are designed from the ground up to be highly secure. The Audio Capture Devices do not store any audio data themselves. All data captured is encrypted prior to immediate transfer and when held within our secure servers for processing. From that point, we will only share audio data beyond the project team once we have taken thorough steps to ensure that no data of a personal nature (including intelligible human speech) is present. We will do this through a combination of methods: (i) by manually screening a subset of audio files, and (ii) by applying an automated process that ‘scrambles’ any sounds that might be human speech, and in that way rendering them unintelligible.

9. How can I get more details about how you are protecting privacy?

To comply with relevant data protection legislation, we have developed a detailed and comprehensive Privacy Impact Assessment (see below). This shows how and why the data is collected, what happens to it, and how privacy is safeguarded.

Download (PDF, 170KB)


Still have questions or concerns? Please let us know via our contact form


Latest revision: 11 March 2018