Turning Virtual Public Spaces into Laboratories: Thoughts on Conducting Online Field Studies Using Social Network Sites

Analyses of Social Issues and Public Policy (Impact Factor: 1.64). 10/2013; 14(1). DOI: 10.1111/asap.12036

ABSTRACT This article deals with the topic of ethics in large-scale online studies on social network sides. ‘Big data’ and large-scale online field studies are a relatively new phenomenon and clear ethical guidelines for social science research are still lacking. In this paper I focus on the ethical question of getting informed consent when we collect data from Social Network Sites (SNS). I argue that data from SNS are not per se public and research based on these data should not be exempt from the ethical standard that informed consent must be obtained from participants. Based on the concept of privacy in context (Nissenbaum, 2010), I further propose that this is because the norms of distribution and appropriateness are violated when researchers manipulate online contexts and collect data without consent. Finally, I make suggestions for existing and possible future practices for large-scale online studies.

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Available from: Ilka Helene Gleibs, Jul 01, 2015
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    ABSTRACT: Social networking sites (SNS) provide researchers with an unprecedented amount of user derived personal information. This wealth of information can be invaluable for research purposes. However, the privacy of the SNS user must be protected from both public and private researchers. New research capabilities raise new ethical concerns. We argue that past research regulation has largely been in reaction to questionable research practices, and therefore new innovations need to be regulated before SNS users’ privacy is irreparably compromised. It is the responsibility of the academic community to start this ethical discourse.
    Analyses of Social Issues and Public Policy 12/2014; 14(1):374-378. DOI:10.1111/asap.12055 · 1.64 Impact Factor