Privacy Policy

Vital Signs Privacy Policy Overview

Vital Signs is a community learning environment designed for students, teachers, citizen scientists, and scientists. Vital Signs is a program of the Gulf of Maine Research Institute, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization located in Portland, ME.


The following are the essential components of our Privacy Policy. They are listed here in brief and detailed in the document that follows.

    1. To register with the community you must provide an e-mail address or your parent’s e-mail address if you are under 13 years old. We use these e-mail addresses for Vital Signs communication only.
    To better serve our teacher participants we ask for, but do not require, their name, their school, and a phone number in addition to their e-mail address.

    2. We have your back to start, but everyone is responsible for maintaining their own privacy as they participate in commenting, discussing, and contributing observations and projects.

    3. Public User Profiles are limited to username and length of participation, unless an individual user chooses to add affiliations and or details of their participation.

    4. To better serve our community and meet our education and research goals we will collect information on how registered and non-registered users make use of this website in ways that protect your privacy.


Vital Signs (the “Site,” the “Community Site,” the “Community”) is located at In order to operate this Site, we collect certain information. This Privacy Policy describes the types of information we collect, what we do with it, and with whom we share it. It is your responsibility to review this Privacy Policy carefully, especially before providing any personal data through the Site. This Site is operated in and controlled from the United States of America. If you have any questions about this Privacy Policy or the Service, or if you wish to unsubscribe from services for which you have previously registered, please contact us at or at the address at the end of this policy.

1. Personal Data, Registration, and Treatment of Personal Data

a. Disclosure of Personal Data:
Personally Identifiable Information (“Personal Data”) is any information that can be used to identify a specific individual. To register with the Vital Signs Community we do not require your name, street address, or telephone number.

b. Registration:
When you register with the Community, you will be required to provide the following information: a username, password, birth date, and e-mail address. Users under age 13 are required to obtain permission from a parent and then submit a parent’s or guardian’s e-mail address and read and agree to the Privacy Policy and User Agreement together. If you are registering as a Teacher to use Vital Signs with a group of learners we also require your school name and request, but do not require, your name and phone number so that we can contact you to provide support.
We will not sell your e-mail address. We will only use your e-mail address, your parent or guardian’s e-mail address if you are under 13 years old, or your teacher’s e-mail address if you are participating as part of a class, for the following purposes:

  • An e-mail of welcome and acknowledgement of successful registration;
  • Resetting forgotten passwords;
  • Communicating problems with published data;
  • Responding to site policy violations, and;
  • Notifying you when your observations have been reviewed by an Expert Reviewer, and anytime someone leaves a Comment on an Observation, Project, or Education Resource that you have submitted. (Instructions for opting out of these notifications through your user profile will appear at the bottom of each e-mail.)

We will not disclose the Personal Data that you provide during the registration process on the website.

c. Teams:
Teachers or others who are organizing groups of individuals to participate in Vital Signs may create Teams with usernames and passwords to manage their groups’ participation. Teachers are responsible for following their school policies regarding student participation in web-based programs. A Vital Signs Parent Permission Form details and provides an link to this Privacy Policy and User Agreement and must be signed before students under 13 contribute their first Species Observation or Species & Habitat Observation, Project, Comment, or Discussion posting.

While teachers may record which students are in which teams, they are prompted not to use students’ first name and last names. If the Teacher does use this optional functionality to assign students to particular Student Teams these student assignments remain private in the Teacher’s investigation history. The Student Team will be prompted to read and accept this Privacy Policy and User Agreement when they first log in to the Vital Signs Site.

d. Our Use of Your Data:
We will use your Personal Data only for the purposes for which it was provided.

e. Contributions to the Site:
Please remember that information that you post in Discussion Forums, Comments, Species Observations, Species & Habitat Observations, Projects, and Education Resources instantly becomes public information associated with your Username. It is not screened prior to publication. Use caution when posting Comments, participating in the Discussion Forum, contributing Species Observations or Species & Habitat Observations, Projects, or Education Resources. Individuals under the age of 18 should be especially careful not to provide any personally identifiable information in their comments, Projects, Species Observations, or Species & Habitat Observations. Please see our User Agreement for the standards of behavior that must be followed when using these portions of the Site.

f. Sharing of Personal Data:
Personal Data collected by this Site will not be shared with GMRI affiliates.
If GMRI hires a third-party to perform a certain business-related function, that third party will only be provided with the particular Personal Data it needs to perform its function, and will be required to protect the Personal Data.

In addition, GMRI may disclose Personal Data without providing you with a choice under the following limited circumstances to: (1) protect the legal rights, privacy or safety of GMRI, or its subsidiaries, affiliates or its or their employees, agents and contractors; (2) protect the safety and security of visitors to our web sites or other properties; (3) protect against fraud or other illegal activity or for risk management purposes; (4) respond to inquiries or requests from public authorities; (5) permit us to pursue available remedies or limit the damages that GMRI may sustain; (6) enforce the Vital Signs Website’s Terms of Use; or (7) comply with the law or legal process.

g. Links to Other Sites:
Please note that this Site contains links to other sites that will not follow the same Privacy Policy as our Site. These sites may send their own cookies to you and may collect data and make use of that data in ways that this Site would not. Once you've left this Site, this Privacy Policy will no longer apply to Personal Data or any other data collected from or provided by you. You should check the applicable privacy policy to determine how that site will handle such data.

h. Data Security Disclaimer:
GMRI takes reasonable security precautions to secure the Personal Data that you provide against the loss, misuse, alteration or unauthorized access of such information. Unfortunately, no transmission of data over the Internet is guaranteed to be completely secure. It may be possible for third parties not under the control of GMRI to intercept or access transmissions or private communications unlawfully. While GMRI strives to protect your Personal Data, it cannot ensure or warrant the security of any Personal Data you transmit to GMRI. Any such transmission is done at your own risk. If you believe that your interaction with GMRI is no longer secure, please notify GMRI of the problem by contacting us at

i. Children and Privacy:
GMRI encourages parents and guardians to spend time with their children online and to be fully familiar with the sites visited by their children. When a Site user registers to be a member of the Vital Signs community, GMRI requires users to submit their birth date. By using the Site, you agree to respond truthfully and accurately about your age. Children under the age of 13 years of age are required to obtain their parent’s permission, to provide their parents’ or guardian’s e-mail address, and to agree with their parent or guardian to this Privacy Policy and the Vital Signs User Agreement before becoming registered members of the Site.

j. Exclusions:
This Privacy Policy shall not apply to any unsolicited information you provide to GMRI on or through the Site. All such Unsolicited Information shall be deemed to be non-confidential, and GMRI shall be free to reproduce, use, disclose and distribute such Unsolicited Information to others without limitation or attribution.

2. Public User Profiles

Public User Profiles: All users will have a Public User Profile within the Vital Signs website. By default, this public profile only displays the length of time that the user has been a member of the Vital Signs community. Individual users and Teams can manually update their profiles to reflect how they are participating in and contributing to the community. In addition, teachers may manually update their Public User Profiles to display the grades they teach, how they learned to collect data, and how long they have been collecting data. No Personal Data is included in the Public User Profile.

3. Data Collected for Program Evaluation and Development

a. Anonymous Data:
Anonymous data are information collected automatically through the operation of the Site. GMRI may collect site usage data (such as which Site pages you visit and in what sequence) through the use of various technologies. For example, GMRI collects IP addresses from individuals who visit the Site. An IP address is a number that is automatically assigned to your computer whenever you're surfing the Web. Web servers, the computers that "serve up" Web pages, automatically identify your computer by its IP address, and when you request a page from a website, its servers log your IP address. We do not, however, link IP addresses to any Personal Data, so although your session will be logged, you will remain anonymous to us and to the Site.

b. Use of Cookies and Similar Technologies:
Like many sites, the Vital Signs Site uses "cookies" or other similar technologies to collect Anonymous Data. A cookie is a small data file that writes to your hard drive for record keeping purposes when you visit the Site. Cookies allow the Site to improve your user experience, for example by remembering your passwords and viewing preferences, saving your partially completed Species Observation and Species & Habitat Observations, and allowing you to visit “registered user only” portions of the Site without re-registering, and tracking the progress and number of entries in activities that require registration or entry. Cookies also allow the Site to measure traffic activity on the Site. Most browsers are initially set to accept cookies. If you prefer, you can set your browser to refuse cookies or to alert you when cookies are being sent, but it is possible that some parts of the Site will not function properly if you do so.

Cookies and similar tools may be used to relate your use of the Site and Anonymous Data to Personal Data obtained from you. If any Anonymous Data are linked with Personal Data, the linked Anonymous Data will then be treated as Personal Data.

GMRI may also use Personal Data in aggregate form for purposes of evaluation, research, or analysis. In order to better understand and serve the users of the Vital Signs website, GMRI may conduct research on Vital Signs users’ demographics, interests and behavior based on Personal Data gathered. Although this aggregated data may be based in part on Personal Data, it does not identify you personally. GMRI may share this type of Anonymous Data with a variety of third parties, including its affiliates, parents, and subsidiaries.

GMRI may use Anonymous Data collected from the Site for site administration, advertising and promotional purposes, and GMRI may share such information with various affiliated and unaffiliated entities for such purposes. For example, IP addresses are used for the purposes of system administration and to provide Anonymous Data to foundations and donors about the volume of use on the Site.

4. Other Terms, Conditions, and Details:

a. Your access to and use of this Site is subject to the Vital Signs User Agreement.

b. Applicable Law:
This Privacy Policy shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of the State of Maine, without giving effect to its conflicts of laws provisions. By registering for or entering the Vital Signs Site, you consent and submit to the exclusive jurisdiction and venue of the state and federal courts located in Portland, Maine. Please note that we do not represent or warrant that the Site is appropriate for use in any particular jurisdiction. Those who choose to access the Site do so at their own initiative and are responsible for complying with all local laws, rules and regulations.

c. Changes to this Privacy Policy:
From time to time, GMRI may revise this Privacy Policy. If GMRI makes revisions to the way it collects or uses Personal Data, GMRI may advise users of this update by (1) requiring that they accept the new Privacy Policy the next time that they log in, (2) announcing the change on the home page of the Site or (3) taking such other action as it deems appropriate under the circumstances, including without limitation, posting the revised draft of this Privacy Policy on the Site. GMRI reserves the right (at GMRI’s discretion) to provide you notice of such changes to any e-mail address you have provided to the Vital Signs Site.

Any changes to this policy will become effective upon posting of the revised Privacy Policy on the Internet, accessible through the Site. By continuing to use the Site following such changes, you will be deemed to have agreed to such changes. If you do not agree with the terms of this Privacy Policy, as it may be amended from time to time, in whole or in part, please do not continue using this Site.

d. Contacting GMRI Regarding Your Privacy:
If you have any questions about this Privacy Policy, Personal Data gathered by this Site or about the operation of this Site or Other Services, or if you wish to unsubscribe from the Site, please contact us at

Please contact the Vital Signs Program staff with any questions about this Privacy Policy. You can reach us at or at:

    Vital Signs Program
    Gulf of Maine Research Institute
    350 Commercial Street
    Portland, ME 04101
    Telephone: (207) 228-1631
    Fax: (207) 772-6855