The Datafication of Wastewater:

Legal, Ethical and Civic Considerations




Wastewater surveillance, datafication, privacy, research ethics, civic governance, surveillance


Wastewater analysis and surveillance are well-established practices whose use has dramatically expanded during the COVID-19 pandemic. In this article, we argue that the extraction of diverse types of data from wastewater is part of the larger phenomenon of ‘datafication’. We explore the evolving technologies and uses of wastewater data and argue that there are insufficient legal and ethical frameworks in place to properly govern them. We begin with an overview of the different pur- poses for wastewater data analyses as well as the location and scale of collection. We then consider legal and ethical principles and oversight frameworks that shape current approaches to wastewater collection. After situating wastewater collection within its particular civic context, we argue in favour of greater engagement with legal and ethical issues and propose doing so through a civic perspective. Our paper concludes with a discussion of the normative shifts that are needed and how we might achieve these.


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Author Biographies

Teresa Scassa, University of Ottawa

Teresa Scassa holds the Canada Research Chair in Information Law and Policy at the University of Ottawa, Faculty of Law.

Pamela Robinson, School of Urban and Regional Planning, Ryerson University

Pamela Robinson is a Professor at the School of Urban and Regional Planning, Ryerson University (Toronto).

Ryan Mosoff, University of Ottawa

Ryan Mosoff is a J.D. Candidate (2022) at the University of Ottawa (Canada).




How to Cite

Scassa, T., Robinson, P., & Mosoff, R. (2022). The Datafication of Wastewater:: Legal, Ethical and Civic Considerations. Technology and Regulation, 2022, 23–35.



Received 2021-11-09
Accepted 2022-02-07
Published 2022-02-11