Ethics and Information Technology

, Volume 12, Issue 4, pp 313–325

“But the data is already public”: on the ethics of research in Facebook

Authors

    • School of Information StudiesUniversity of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Article

DOI: 10.1007/s10676-010-9227-5

Cite this article as:
Zimmer, M. Ethics Inf Technol (2010) 12: 313. doi:10.1007/s10676-010-9227-5

Abstract

In 2008, a group of researchers publicly released profile data collected from the Facebook accounts of an entire cohort of college students from a US university. While good-faith attempts were made to hide the identity of the institution and protect the privacy of the data subjects, the source of the data was quickly identified, placing the privacy of the students at risk. Using this incident as a case study, this paper articulates a set of ethical concerns that must be addressed before embarking on future research in social networking sites, including the nature of consent, properly identifying and respecting expectations of privacy on social network sites, strategies for data anonymization prior to public release, and the relative expertise of institutional review boards when confronted with research projects based on data gleaned from social media.

Keywords

Research ethicsSocial networksFacebookPrivacyAnonymity

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010