Privacy in eBird and how to protect your data

By Team eBird April 30, 2021
Scarlet-chested Sunbird Chalcomitra senegalensis

One of the fundamental ideas of eBird is to allow birders to share their sightings openly with fellow birders, scientists, conservationists and anyone else interested in bird records and distribution. Occasionally, however, birders may want to contribute to eBird while keeping their observations private.

Some bird species face risks of capture, targeted killing, or significant targeted disturbance by humans. Open-access data can be a risk for these birds that are targeted for exploitation. eBird data output is restricted to protect these “Sensitive Species” while still allowing important data about them to be entered into eBird. Read more about how Sensitive Species are treated in eBird here.

There are other situations when eBirders may wish to keep their observations private. This can happen if you are submitting a list-building checklist, if there is a potentially sensitive record on private property, or if you are concerned about your or the birds’ safety. To hide any eBird checklist, just click on “Checklist Tools” and select “Hide from eBird output”.

Hiding an eBird checklist removes it from many public outputs—including the eBird research database. Only hide a checklist when you feel it is absolutely necessary and remember to un-hide your list after the risk of disturbance has passed.

Hiding your checklist will keep species off public output such as maps and bar charts, but does not hide the fact that you went birding altogether. That is—the date and location may show up on the Recent Checklists feed, but no one will be able to see the species you saw. Observations on a hidden checklist may also appear as the “Most recent addition” in the Top100, but the location and other checklist details will remain private. We always recommend ‘unhiding’ your checklist at a later date because hidden eBird checklists cannot be used for scientific analysis or by fellow birders.

There are a number of additional privacy options available to eBirders that allow you to protect your personal information while enabling you to contribute to research and conservation of bird populations. One is the option to have your name display publicly as “Anonymous eBirder”. Additional options include hiding your checklists from Recent Visits, eBird Alerts, Top 100, and hiding your checklist-level comments. To change these settings, tap your username on eBird.org and select Preferences.

Read the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s full privacy policy. If you ever have any questions, feel free to reach out to us.