What's the risk of using online data visualisation tools?

Data visualisation is a powerful way your to get your message across and this website profiles various online tools to help you do that. In seconds you can be signed up to Google Docs or Tableau Public and be creating visualisations. Great! But hang on a second ...

As with everything in the digital world, these online tools come with risks that you should be aware of before using them. Although the information you're using might not be sensitive, you should still be aware of privacy issues that affect everyone who uses online tools.

Before putting any sort of information into these online tools, how would you answer the following questions?

  • Do you give up ownership of your information when you use these tools and online services?
  • Do you know in which country your data and visualisations are located, and what laws govern the use of your information?
  • Who else has access to the information that you put into these services?
  • What happens to your information when you stop using these tools?
  • What happens to your data if the company who owns the online tool decides to stop providing this service to you?
  • Would interception of your use of these tools put yourself and your organisation in physical danger?
  • Do the things you create in these tools put other people in harm's way, for example by showing personal information?

They really shouldn't be hard to answer, but they are. This section aims to give you some ideas about how to answer them. By the end of it, we hope you understand the risks presented by using these tools, and feel confident that you can take simple first steps to address them.