To use or not to use: guidelines for researchers using data from online social networking sites

Aimee van Wynsberghe, Henry Been, Maurice van Keulen

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The universal and ubiquitous use of computing technologies confronts us with new ethical dilemmas on a daily basis. In the current age of abundant information sharing and gathering, social networking sites (SNSs) are now thought of as incredible resources for collecting data on individuals. The question of interest for computer scientists, engineers and ethicists alike asks: what are the ethical limits for using data obtained from online SNSs? To date, no practical guidelines exist for assisting researchers in either experiments or in the creation of products using data obtained from online SNSs. The following paper gives a general discussion of the main ethical considerations and proposes guidelines for incorporating ethics into research involving data from online SNSs. To demonstrate the practical relevance of the proposed guidelines a case study looking at online resolution identity using Twitter is used. This case study is of particular interest, because the research and the intended technology pose different threats. The suggestions presented here are also meant to stimulate the discussion and debate on the current and future use of such data and the creation of best practices.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationUK
PublisherRRI, Rict Responsible Innovation
Media of outputOnline
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2013


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