Research Ethics in the 2.0 Era:NEW CHALLENGES FOR RESEARCHERSAND IRBSMichael Zimmer, PhDAssistant Professor, School of Inf...
Outline• What does “Research in the 2.0 era” look like?• Illuminating cases of new 2.0 research…• …which expose conceptual...
What do we mean by “2.0”?• “Web 2.0” refers to new Internet-based services  that let people collaborate and share informat...
Research in the 2.0 era• Using 2.0 tools to engage in (traditional) research     •    Cloud-based survey & data-collection...
New technologies & conceptual gaps• Emergence of new technologies often lead to  conceptual gaps in how we think about eth...
Conceptual gaps and 2.0 research• Growing use of 2.0 tools, platforms &  environments in research creating new  conceptual...
Illuminating Cases1. Research on Tor network2. Archiving of public Twitter streams3. Harvesting Facebook profile informati...
Research on Tor Network         • Computer science researchers increasingly interested           in network traffic on the...
Archiving Twitter Streams            • Is it ethical for researchers to follow and              systematically capture pub...
LOC Archiving of Tweets            • Library of Congress will archive all public tweets                 •    6 month delay...
Pete Warden Facebook Dataset           • Exploited flaw in Facebook’s architecture to             access and harvest publi...
Pete Warden Facebook Dataset             • Planned to release entire dataset – with all               personal information...
T3 Facebook Project              • Harvard-based Tastes, Ties, and Time (T3)                research project sought to und...
“Anonymity” of the T3 Dataset                   “All the data is cleaned so you can’t connect                             ...
Good-Faith Efforts to Protect SubjectPrivacy1. Only those data that were accessible by   default by each RA were collected...
T3 Facebook ProjectChronicle of Higher Education                 July 10, 2011               10/5/12           University ...
The Blackberry Project             • Ongoing longitudinal study at UT-Dallas               examining teen behavior and soc...
Illuminating Cases1. Research on Tor network2. Archiving of public Twitter streams3. Harvesting Facebook profile informati...
Conceptual gaps and 2.0 research• Growing use of 2.0 tools, platforms &  environments in research creating new  conceptual...
Conceptual Gap: Privacy          • Presumption that because subjects make information            available on a blog, Face...
Conceptual Gap: Anonymity vs.             Identifiability             • Presumption that stripping names & other          ...
Conceptual Gap: Consent• Presumption that because something is shared or  available without a password, the subject is  co...
Conceptual Gap: Harm• Presumption that “harm” means risk of physical or  tangible impact on subject  •   Researchers often...
Conceptual Gap: Human Subjects             • Researchers (esp. CompSci) often interact only               with datasets, o...
Conceptual gaps and 2.0 research• Growing use of 2.0 tools, platforms &  environments in research creating new  conceptual...
Conceptual Gaps  Policy Vacuums• Researchers & IRBs are (almost always) trying to do  the right thing when faced with res...
Removing the gaps, filling the vacuums• Scholarship  • Buchanan & Ess studying how IRBs deal with Internet research  • Exp...
Removing the gaps, filling the vacuums• Education & outreach  •   Growing focus at PRIM&R and related IRB educational     ...
Conceptual Gaps  Policy Vacuums• Researchers & IRBs are (almost always) trying to do  the right thing when faced with res...
Research Ethics in the 2.0 Era:NEW CHALLENGES FOR RESEARCHERSAND IRBSMichael Zimmer, PhDAssistant Professor, School of Inf...
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Research Ethics in the 2.0 Era: New Challenges for Researchers and IRBs

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Research Ethics in the 2.0 Era: New Challenges for Researchers and IRBs, University of Pittsburgh Institutional Review Board Educational Series, October 5, 2012

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Research Ethics in the 2.0 Era: New Challenges for Researchers and IRBs

  1. 1. Research Ethics in the 2.0 Era:NEW CHALLENGES FOR RESEARCHERSAND IRBSMichael Zimmer, PhDAssistant Professor, School of Information StudiesDirector, Center for Information Policy ResearchUniversity of Wisconsin-Milwaukeezimmerm@uwm.eduwww.michaelzimmer.org
  2. 2. Outline• What does “Research in the 2.0 era” look like?• Illuminating cases of new 2.0 research…• …which expose conceptual gaps in our ethical frameworks• Closing the gaps for researchers & IRBs10/5/12 University of Pittsburgh Institutional Review Board Educational Series 2
  3. 3. What do we mean by “2.0”?• “Web 2.0” refers to new Internet-based services that let people collaborate and share information online in innovative ways• Core characteristics: • Web as a platform; data & services in the cloud • Community, collaboration, and peer production • Social, sharing and open data flows • Ease of use; interface driven; hidden back-end10/5/12 University of Pittsburgh Institutional Review Board Educational Series 3
  4. 4. Research in the 2.0 era• Using 2.0 tools to engage in (traditional) research • Cloud-based survey & data-collection tools • Subject recruitment via email, social media • Storing, processing, sharing data in the cloud• Using 2.0 as the site for your research • Interviewing/observing subjects in chat rooms, virtual worlds, online games • Collecting/merging data from online profiles, feeds, newsgroups, blogs, archives, activity logs10/5/12 University of Pittsburgh Institutional Review Board Educational Series 4
  5. 5. New technologies & conceptual gaps• Emergence of new technologies often lead to conceptual gaps in how we think about ethical problems, and how we address them • Computer technology transforms “many of our human activities and social institutions,” and will “leave us with policy and conceptual vacuums about how to use computer technology” • “Often, either no policies for conduct in these situations exist or existing policies seem inadequate. • Jim Moor, “What is Computer Ethics?”10/5/12 University of Pittsburgh Institutional Review Board Educational Series 5
  6. 6. Conceptual gaps and 2.0 research• Growing use of 2.0 tools, platforms & environments in research creating new conceptual gaps in our understanding of: • Privacy • Anonymity vs. Identifiability • Consent • Harm & Human subjects10/5/12 University of Pittsburgh Institutional Review Board Educational Series 6
  7. 7. Illuminating Cases1. Research on Tor network2. Archiving of public Twitter streams3. Harvesting Facebook profile information4. Capturing teen email & text messaging traffic 10/5/12 University of Pittsburgh Institutional Review Board Educational Series 7
  8. 8. Research on Tor Network • Computer science researchers increasingly interested in network traffic on the Tor anonymity network • What kind of traffic is on this network? • What kind of users? • How secure is it? • Or, just capture Tor data as convenience sample • But users of Tor are intentionally seeking additional privacy and anonymity • Research often not even vetted by IRBsSoghoain, C. (2011) “Enforced Community Standards ForResearch on Users of the Tor Anonymity Network” 10/5/12 University of Pittsburgh Institutional Review Board Educational Series 8
  9. 9. Archiving Twitter Streams • Is it ethical for researchers to follow and systematically capture public Twitter streams without first obtaining specific, informed consent by the subjects? • Are tweets publications (texts), or utterances? • What are users’ expectations to how their tweets are being found & used? • What if a user later changes her privacy settings, or deletes tweets, etchttp://michaelzimmer.org/2010/02/12/is-it-ethical-to-harvest-public-twitter-accounts-without-consent/ 10/5/12 University of Pittsburgh Institutional Review Board Educational Series 9
  10. 10. LOC Archiving of Tweets • Library of Congress will archive all public tweets • 6 month delay, restricted access to researchers only • Open questions: • Can users opt-out from being in permanent archive? • Can users delete tweets from archive? • Will geolocational and other profile data be included? • What about a public tweet that is re-tweeting a private one? • Did users ever expect their tweets to become permanent part of LOC’s archives?http://michaelzimmer.org/2010/04/14/open-questions-about-library-of-congress-archiving-twitter-streams/ 10/5/12 University of Pittsburgh Institutional Review Board Educational Series 10
  11. 11. Pete Warden Facebook Dataset • Exploited flaw in Facebook’s architecture to access and harvest publicly-viewable profile information of 215 million usershttp://petewarden.typepad.com/searchbrowser/2010/02/how-to-split-up-the-us.html 10/5/12 University of Pittsburgh Institutional Review Board Educational Series 11
  12. 12. Pete Warden Facebook Dataset • Planned to release entire dataset – with all personal information intact – to academic community • Would it be acceptable to use this dataset for research? • Users knew (?) data was public, but did they expect it to be harvested by bots, aggregated, and made available as raw data? • Under threat of lawsuit from Facebook, Warden destroyed the datahttp://michaelzimmer.org/2010/02/12/why-pete-warden-should-not-release-profile-data-on-215-million-facebook-users/ 10/5/12 University of Pittsburgh Institutional Review Board Educational Series 12
  13. 13. T3 Facebook Project • Harvard-based Tastes, Ties, and Time (T3) research project sought to understand social network dynamics of large groups of students • Worked with Facebook & an “anonymous” university to harvest the Facebook profiles of an entire cohort of college freshmen • Repeated each year for their 4-year tenure • NSF mandated release of data, first wave in Sept 2008Zimmer, M. 2010. “But the data is already public”: On the ethicsof research in Facebook. Ethics & Information Technology. 10/5/12 University of Pittsburgh Institutional Review Board Educational Series 13
  14. 14. “Anonymity” of the T3 Dataset “All the data is cleaned so you can’t connect anyone to an identity” • But dataset had unique cases (based on codebook) • If we could identify the source university, individuals could potentially be identified • Took me minimal effort to discern the source was Harvard • The anonymity (and privacy) of subjects in the study might be in jeopardy….Zimmer, M. 2010. “But the data is already public”: On the ethicsof research in Facebook. Ethics & Information Technology. 10/5/12 University of Pittsburgh Institutional Review Board Educational Series 14
  15. 15. Good-Faith Efforts to Protect SubjectPrivacy1. Only those data that were accessible by default by each RA were collected2. Removing/encoding of “identifying” information3. Tastes & interests (“cultural footprints”) will only be released after “substantial delay”4. To download, must agree to “Terms and Conditions of Use” statement5. Reviewed & approved by Harvard’s IRB10/5/12 University of Pittsburgh Institutional Review Board Educational Series 15
  16. 16. T3 Facebook ProjectChronicle of Higher Education July 10, 2011 10/5/12 University of Pittsburgh Institutional Review Board Educational Series 16
  17. 17. The Blackberry Project • Ongoing longitudinal study at UT-Dallas examining teen behavior and sociability • Recruited 281 third and fourth graders in 2003 • Gave them free Blackberries and unlimited plans in 2009 as they entered high school • Content of all text messages, e-mail messages, and instant messages was saved to a secure server owned by the researchers • Consent is renewed, but concerns over undue influence, parental respect for youth privacy, etcUnderwood, M., et al. 2012. “The BlackBerry project: Capturing thecontent of adolescents text messaging.” Developmental Psychology. 10/5/12 University of Pittsburgh Institutional Review Board Educational Series 17
  18. 18. Illuminating Cases1. Research on Tor network2. Archiving of public Twitter streams3. Harvesting Facebook profile information4. Capturing teen email & text messaging traffic• Plus increased use of Mechanical Turk, cloud storage and sharing platforms, Facebook and mobile apps, and a host of tools our students just discovered this morning… 10/5/12 University of Pittsburgh Institutional Review Board Educational Series 18
  19. 19. Conceptual gaps and 2.0 research• Growing use of 2.0 tools, platforms & environments in research creating new conceptual gaps in our understanding of: • Privacy • Anonymity vs. Identifiability • Consent • Harm & Human subjects10/5/12 University of Pittsburgh Institutional Review Board Educational Series 19
  20. 20. Conceptual Gap: Privacy • Presumption that because subjects make information available on a blog, Facebook, or Twitter, they don’t have an expectation of privacy • Researchers/IRBs might assume everything is always public, and was meant to be • Assumes no harm could come to subjects if data is already “public” • New ethical problems… • Ignores contextual nature of sharing • Fails to recognize the strict dichotomy of public/private doesn’t apply in the 2.0 world • Need to track if ToS/architecture have changed, or if users even understand what is available to researchersNissenbaum, H. 2011. “Privacy in Context: Technology,Policy, and the Integrity of Social Life” 10/5/12 University of Pittsburgh Institutional Review Board Educational Series 20
  21. 21. Conceptual Gap: Anonymity vs. Identifiability • Presumption that stripping names & other obvious identifiers provides sufficient anonymity • Assumes only PII allows re-identification • New ethical problems… • Ignores how anything can potentially identifiable information and become the “missing link” to re- identify an entire dataset • “Anonymous” datasets are not achievable and provides false sense of protection • But how can we share data safely?Ohm, P. “Broken promises of privacy: Responding to thesurprising failure of anonymization.” UCLA Law Review 10/5/12 University of Pittsburgh Institutional Review Board Educational Series 21
  22. 22. Conceptual Gap: Consent• Presumption that because something is shared or available without a password, the subject is consenting to it being harvested for research • Assumes no harm can come from use of data already shared with friends or other contextually-bound circles• New ethical problems… • Must recognize that a user making something public online comes with a set of assumptions/expectations about who can access and how • Does anything outside this need specific consent? • Must recognize how research methods might allow un- anticipated access to “restricted” data • Do parents fully understand how their kids use?10/5/12 University of Pittsburgh Institutional Review Board Educational Series 22
  23. 23. Conceptual Gap: Harm• Presumption that “harm” means risk of physical or tangible impact on subject • Researchers often imply “data is already public, so what harm could possibly happen”• New ethical problems • Must move beyond the concept of harm as requiring a tangible consequence • Protecting from harm is more than protecting from hackers, spammers, identity thieves, etc • Consider dignity/autonomy theories of harm • Must a “wrong” occur for there to be damage to the subject? • Do subjects deserve control over the use of their data streams? 10/5/12 University of Pittsburgh Institutional Review Board Educational Series 23
  24. 24. Conceptual Gap: Human Subjects • Researchers (esp. CompSci) often interact only with datasets, objects, or avatars, thus feel a conceptual distance from an actual human • Often don’t consider what they do as “human subject” research • New ethical problems • Must bridge this (artificial) distance between researcher and the actual human subject • Also consider other stakeholders within the complex arrangement of information intermediariesCarpenter, K & Dittrich, D. “Bridging the Distance: Removing the Technology Buffer andSeeking Consistent Ethical Analysis in Computer Security Research” 10/5/12 University of Pittsburgh Institutional Review Board Educational Series 24
  25. 25. Conceptual gaps and 2.0 research• Growing use of 2.0 tools, platforms & environments in research creating new conceptual gaps in our understanding of: • Privacy • Anonymity vs. Identifiability • Consent • Harm & Human subjects• How can we start to fill these gaps and address the new ethical problems?10/5/12 University of Pittsburgh Institutional Review Board Educational Series 25
  26. 26. Conceptual Gaps  Policy Vacuums• Researchers & IRBs are (almost always) trying to do the right thing when faced with research projects relying on 2.0 tools and spaces• But the fluidity and complexity of 2.0 tools and environments creates significant conceptual gaps• Leaving researchers & IRBs with considerable policy vacuums • How should researchers deal with using Internet tools in their projects? • How should IRBs review them?• And how can we still ensure research still gets done… 10/5/12 University of Pittsburgh Institutional Review Board Educational Series 26
  27. 27. Removing the gaps, filling the vacuums• Scholarship • Buchanan & Ess studying how IRBs deal with Internet research • Exploring new dimensions of Internet research ethics by Markham; Soghoian; Carpenter & Dittrich; and others (cited within) • Zimmer planning 5-year project to study 2.0 research environment, where researchers & IRBs obtain guidance• Resources • “Internet Research Ethics Digital Library, Resource Center and Commons” www.InternetResearchEthics.org • “Ethical decision-making and Internet research: Recommendations from the AoIR Ethics Working Committee” • Buchanan & Zimmer, “Internet Research Ethics” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy 10/5/12 University of Pittsburgh Institutional Review Board Educational Series 27
  28. 28. Removing the gaps, filling the vacuums• Education & outreach • Growing focus at PRIM&R and related IRB educational events • Engage disciplinary conferences (ACM, ICA, SOUPS, etc) • Improve RCR and related training modules (CITI)• Policy guidance • Advising SACHRP on “The Internet in Human Subjects Research” • Call for public comment on “The Menlo Report: Ethical Principles Guiding Information and Communication Technology Research” • Possibility of new guidance on the horizon… 10/5/12 University of Pittsburgh Institutional Review Board Educational Series 28
  29. 29. Conceptual Gaps  Policy Vacuums• Researchers & IRBs are (almost always) trying to do the right thing when faced with research projects relying on 2.0 tools and spaces• But the fluidity and complexity of 2.0 tools and environments creates significant conceptual gaps• Leaving researchers & IRBs with considerable policy vacuums • How should researchers deal with using Internet tools in their projects? • How should IRBs review them?• And how can we still ensure research still gets done… 10/5/12 University of Pittsburgh Institutional Review Board Educational Series 29
  30. 30. Research Ethics in the 2.0 Era:NEW CHALLENGES FOR RESEARCHERSAND IRBSMichael Zimmer, PhDAssistant Professor, School of Information StudiesDirector, Center for Information Policy ResearchUniversity of Wisconsin-Milwaukeezimmerm@uwm.eduwww.michaelzimmer.org

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