Okcupid vs other dating sites
Even among Internet researchers familiar with the power of big data, attitudes vary.When Katie Shilton, an information technology research at the University of Maryland, interviewed 20 online data researchers, she found “significant disagreement” over issues like the ethics of ignoring Terms of Service and obtaining informed consent.
The Common Rule and the IRB system were born out of outrage, too—though over a far graver mistake.Technically, all of the information was public at some point—even if some of those tweets have since been deleted or locked behind a private account.But the act of combining that information could mean identifying the people behind crimes through routine research. In such cases, says Buchanan, you have to weigh the social value of the research against the risk and minimize risk in the first place by, for example, stripping public releases of data of potential identifiers.Under the Common Rule in the US, federally funded research has to go through ethical review.Rather than one unified system though, every single university has its own institutional review board, or IRB.With new technology, a system that never quite worked is working even less.
Elizabeth Buchanan, an ethicist at the University of Wisconsin-Stout, sees Internet-based research entering its third phase, which raises new ethical questions.
Certain IRB requirements can seem ridiculous when applied to the social sciences.
Informed consent statements, for example, often have the phrase “the alternative to participating is…” to allay a patient’s possible fears that refusing to participate would mean they are refused a medical treatment.
In the 1970s, the public finally learned about the US government’s decades-long Tuskegee experiment, in which African-American sharecroppers were left untreated with syphilis to study the disease’s progression.
The controversy led to new regulations on human subjects research conducted for the United States Department of Health and Human Services, which then spread to all federal agencies.
After all, modern tech companies like Facebook, Ok Cupid, Snapchat, Netflix sit atop a trove of data 20th century social scientists could have only dreamed up.