Draft Paper: “But the Data is Already Public”: On the Ethics of Research in Facebook

Draft Paper: “But the Data is Already Public”: On the Ethics of Research in Facebook

Next week I will be attending the 8th International Conference of Computer Ethics: Philosophical Enquiry in Corfu, Greece, where I will be presenting an early draft of a paper based on my critique of the “Taste, Ties, and Time” Facebook data release.

The draft paper I am presenting, “But the Data is Already Public”: On the Ethics of Research in Facebook (PDF of draft), retells the circumstances around the T3 project and my partial re-identification of the dataset. It also describes some of the good faith efforts made by the T3 researchers to try to ensure the anonymity of the data, but exposes the limitations and errors in their procedures. Finally, it highlights the broader challenges for engaging in research on/in social networking sites that this case brings to light. These include:

* the nature of consent in online research
* identifying and respecting expectations of privacy on social network sites
* developing sufficient strategies for data anonymization prior to the public release of potentially personally-identifiable data
* measuring the relative expertise of institutional review boards when confronted with innovative research projects based on data gleaned from social media

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