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The reproducibility of personal data between law and politics

In qualitative empirical research aiming at refining classical international legal theory regarding the concept of “sovereignty”, semi-structured conversations offer crucial insight on the concept’s application in practice, yet publication of results requires anonymization.

Published onMay 11, 2023
The reproducibility of personal data between law and politics


This poster addresses challenges related to the use, in the field of international law and international relations, of data with a personal component. Indeed, the study of international law in context often implies being confronted with political discourse and diverging narratives. While it is relatively easy to identify some of these discourse patterns, it is harder to document them systematically. In this context, one-on-one interviews are a useful tool, yet their use comes with caveats regarding the treatment of personal data and – hence – the reproducibility of the data set.

The traditional concept of sovereignty, and the rules and principles that international law derives from it, are insufficient to account for the diversity of opinions and beliefs encountered regarding the Israeli-Palestinian question. An empirical approach is therefore needed.1 The project presented here is based on 35 informal one-on-one interviews, conducted in October and November 2022, with individuals living in Israel and the Palestinian territories. While data of this kind fill the gap between the fields of international law and international relations, they cannot be shared given their personal and sensitive character (such as political and religious opinions). As a result, open access to the study as well as its reproducibility are more challenging.

Two strategies are presented and evaluated here, pseudonymization and anonymization. The former (using direct identifiers) allows to refer to individual statements in a precise manner, yet does not guarantee low identifiability. Also, without additional data on the interviewees, the reproducibility of the data set is highly limited. Full anonymization of the data, on the other hand, prompts an aggregate discussion, which is acceptable in this qualitative study. Anonymization furthermore ensures very low identifiability and can be accompanied by a description of the data subjects by means of a small number of defining characteristics. On the basis of such a description, the study can be complemented and/or repeated by compiling a data set and modifying characteristics where desired.


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Author biography

Alexander Loengarov (KU Leuven) is a senior affiliated fellow at the Institute for International Law and a former official of the European Economic and Social Committee of the European Union. He coordinated the first rounds of the EU’s Erasmus Mundus External Cooperation Window scheme for academic mobility with Israeli and Palestinian institutions. In addition to his thesis on the entanglement of politics and law in the issue of recognition of Palestinian statehood, he has published analyses for think tanks like the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and Israel Policy Forum, as well as opinion pieces on Middle East and Israeli politics for the National Interest and the Brussels Times.

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