New Methodological, Ethical, and Regulatory Considerations in Internet, Social Media, and Big Data Research Charles Ess Dr. Charles Ess IMK, UiO
9:00-9:15: Welcome and Introductions 9:15-10:30: Charles and Ethics Break 10:45-12:00: Elizabeth and Internet Research 12:00-1:00: Small Group Discussion or Large Group Discussion 0. Preliminaries A range of ethical concerns and questions: -- I also could not find a clear answer to the IRB office's question. It seems that social media data as it relates to human subjects research is vague and/or complex. How has this research method, of using social media data, developed over the past few years? And, will this issue of human-subjects research likely become more complex and tedious (and, as such, render certain types of research past due and/or irrelevant)?
-- how to interact (if at all) with extremists in forums, on twitter etc. and problems of citation and informed consent. -- how to delimit the basis for data collection, and what epistemological framework to use in comparing IS, AQ, and counterterrorist examples. I want to write a methodology that justifies my inclusion of material, and addresses criticism of confirmation bias or 'cherry-picking'. [ethics methodology!] 0. Preliminaries A range of ethical concerns and questions: -- is it right to use scarce resources in a crisis area to do research? We thought humanitarian and practical aid concerns should come first, our research interests second. Was this the right decision? On the other hand, network shutdowns used to counter uprisings and disconnecting certain platforms have become frequent in Turkey.
Network shutdowns may harm human rights and undermine the capacity of oppressed populations to organize and speak up. Gathering research insights on network shutdowns might help to create awareness and find solutions to this problem. And so on 0. Preliminaries The good news while certainly challenging and difficult in many ways, none of the questions explicitly raised and/or evoked (so far) are completely novel: on the contrary, they have been taken up - sometimes for a very long time indeed in the relevant literatures, scholarly associations, etc. one strategy here will be to highlight similar cases that thereby may offer suggestions for how to helpfully resolve a given
ethical challenge or difficulty (casuistics); We will also offer some additional resources for further reference and reflection, beginning with: Ben Zevenbergen "Networked Systems Ethics," Oxford Internet Institute,
C. Status of data: does big data / grey data make a difference? Yes and no (OkCupid) D. Dissemination ethics E. Ethical variables: degrees of informed consent 1. Large conceptual backgrounds: ethical judgment, ethical frameworks, meta-ethical considerations A. the nature of ethical judgments B. the range of ethical frameworks: utilitarianism, deontology C. diversity of cultural / national traditions: D. Meta-ethical considerations: dogmatism relativism pluralism E. Virtue ethics as the new (very old) kid on the (ethical) block 1. Introduction: why its easy, why its difficult
A. the nature of ethical judgments determinative judgment vis--vis reflective judgment/phronesis determinative, top-down ethical judgments that run from (more or less) accepted general principles specific ethical conclusion(s) and reflective, bottom-up // top-down ethical judgments that require us first to discern (from the bottom-up) within a given, specific, fine-grained, and incomplete context of actors, relationships, and possible choices what general ethical principles, norms, practices apply? 1. A. the nature of ethical judgments determinative, top-down ethical judgments that run from (more or less) accepted general principles specific ethical conclusion(s)
Human Subject Regulations Decision Charts | HHS.gov http://www.hhs.gov/ohrp/policy/checklists/decisioncharts.htm... 1. A. the nature of ethical judgments reflective, bottom-up // top-down ethical judgments that require us first to discern (from the bottom-up) within a given, specific, fine-grained, and incomplete context of actors, relationships, and possible choices what general ethical principles, norms, practices apply? An example accept / decline a new academic position? Context / factors in play Attractors Better salary desirable location new research / teaching / publication
opportunities Drawbacks challenges of new position - including, e.g., new language costs of moving far from family, long-time friends Now: which factors are more significant - in light of what general norms, practices, values? importance of friends? importance of job,
profession? importance of money? importance of family? desire to experience new places? Attractors Better salary desirable location new research / teaching / publication opportunities
Drawbacks challenges of new position - including, e.g., new language costs of moving far from family, long-time friends 1. A. the nature of ethical judgments i) we can - with good reason, i.e., legitimately - discern a) which general principles / norms / practices apply, and b) in case of conflict, their relative weight / priority, in part, precisely through a reflexive dialogical interrogation of a specific given context. But this means: ii) it is perfectly possible for different persons - or, e.g., the same person
at different stages / contexts - to draw different judgments as to the proper course of action, e.g. judgment calls iii) such judgments, moreover, may bring into play tacit, inarticulate understandings of the world and our place in it as developed through experience and known in and through the body gut feeling what my heart tells me 1. Introduction (iv) This is the first (but only the first) reason why such judgments, finally, allow for a pluralism - i.e., a diversity of judgments may be legitimately made and rationally defended, A second / third reason: (B) the range of diverse ethical frameworks + (C) (in part as these interweave with) diverse cultural / national traditions, approaches, norms, practices, etc.
1. Introduction (C) (in part as these interweave with) diverse cultural / national traditions, approaches, norms, practices, etc. For example: the matters of privacy Linguistic-Cultural differences Privacy in the U.S. as grounded in presumption of individual / personal spaces (including home especially bathroom / bedroom) to be protected (e.g., against unreasonable searches, etc.) Privacy as substantive, static originally understood as anchored to specific spaces? Vis--vis Privatlivet (private life) in Denmark, Norway, Germany and the intimsfre (intimate sphere) of close personal relationships as what requires protection Private life as relational, fluid, subject to constant
(re)negotiation processes? Helen Nissenbaum (among others) and contextual privacy 1. B. (some) ethical frameworks Utilitarianism ethical cost-benefit analysis: will (potential) benefits of a given choice/act/rule outweigh possible harms (=costs)? Greatest good for the greatest number primary framework in U.S. UK? Deontology emphasizes basic rights of autonomous individuals (including life, liberty, pursuit of property privacy, etc.) as nearabsolute; to be protected (more or less) no matter what benefits might otherwise accrue. Strongly influential in Northern Europe, Scandinavia feminist ethics/ethics of care feeling as much as reason is a crucial way of knowing, especially with regard to ethics as a matter of sustaining the web of relationships good Samaritan ethics that goes beyond the minimal requirements of prevailing law, practices (Thomson 1971); virtue ethics what virtues (habit, practices, facilities) are requisite for
the good life and community harmony? (Eastern, increasingly Western) existentialism(s) e.g., Existential Terrains: Memory and Meaning in Cultures of Connectivity
Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 2001. UTILITARIANISM When faced with competing possible actions or choices, utilitarian approaches apply an ethical sort of cost/benefit approach, in the effort to determine which act will lead to the greater benefit, usually couched in terms of happiness (a notoriously difficult and ambiguous concept thus making utilitarian approaches often difficult to apply in praxis). species of utilitarianism (also called teleological or goaloriented theories): ethical egoism: one is concerned solely with maximizing benefit or happiness for oneself (and/or) (act / rule) utilitarianism: maximize benefit or happiness for a larger group (hence the utilitarian motto of seeking the greatest good for the greatest number).
UTILITARIANISM Simple example: impromptu beer and pizza / or fulfill your promise to help a friend with studying for an important exam? Fulfill promise Break promise enjoy evening with friends Costs (negatives) Will miss a nice evening with friends
Will disappoint a friend whos counting on you Benefits (positives) Will be able to help a friend in an important way Will enjoy a nice evening with friends
UTILITARIANISM Further examples of the good of the many outweigh the good of the few Warfare e.g., Soldiers The bombings of Canterbury / Hiroshima & Nagasaki Individual privacy rights vs. national security? UTILITARIANISM Weaknesses: a) How do we evaluate possible consequences e.g.,
assign quantitative numbers (utils)? (Further complicated by: what counts as pleasure / the good physical intellectual ?) b) How far into the future must we consider And: the further into the future, the less certain our predictions c) For whom must we consider the consequences? the counterexample of slavery? DEONTOLOGY [deon (duty) + logos (principle, account, science)] Modern roots/traditions/expressions: Kant: Respect for persons as rational autonomies capable of determining their own ends / rules; always treat another person as an end-in-itself, never as a means
Rawls: veil of ignorance --> principles of equality, difference Habermas: Communicative Rationality --> Discourse Ethics feminist critiques / revisions, e.g., Seyla Benhabib Ess: Golden Rule (Hillel / Jesus / Confucian ) approach (as consistent with participant/observer methodologies + feminist ethics) Universal Human Rights, as in the UN Declaration (1948)? Individual privacy rights vs. nation-state interests in national security? Cultural differences A. On the one hand, there appear to be cultural differences in terms of which of these theories we are more likely to apply beginning with individual privacy rights: e.g. EU Data Privacy Protection Guidelines Directive 95/46/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 24 October 1995 on the Protection of Individuals
with Regard to the Processing of Personal Data and on the Free Movement of Such Data.
Cf. recent cookie legislation + upcoming discussions for still more stringent individual data privacy protections C. Cultural differences B. By contrast U.S. law, policy, as more oriented towards the market, stressing corporate/business rights over individuals (e.g., shrink-wrap licenses) no such privacy protections: rather, businesses are allowed to establish their own privacy policies, requiring the consumer to (a) inform him/herself of the policy and then (b) decide whether to agree or opt-out a utilitarian emphasis on the (alleged) good of the many (minimal state intervention greater economic efficiency) over possible violations of individual rights And, after 9/11, rights of due process for state intrusion into
individual privacy greatly weakened in the name of statesponsored efforts to protect citizens against terrorism (C) Multiple cultural / national ethical traditions Greater equality Scandinavian / German / Dutch deontologies (Kant Habermas) Anglo-American utilitarianism / pragmatism French moralism
(Montaigne, Ricoeur) Greater hierarchy [Cf. Stahl, Bernd Carsten. 2004. Responsible Management of Information Systems. Hershey, PA: Idea Group.] What to do in the face of diverse cultural-ethical traditions? meta-ethical considerations: Dogmatism relativism pluralism Ethical Dogmatism: one (set of) value(s) is correct, universally valid for all peoples and all times and we know what that set of values is! Ethical Relativism: any (set of) value(s) is as legitimate as any other relative to a given individual, culture, time/place, etc. No universal values exist, however.
Ethical Pluralism: some value(s) are arguably more legitimate than others many apparent ethical differences reflect diverse interpretations / applications / understandings of a shared value. Pluralism a first example: Consider, for example whether or not your right to privacy (a general norm) means that I am allowed to take your photograph in a public space without your consent - privacy US - yes Norway no
Ethical pluralism as one meta-ethical response to differences, e.g. First Principles Privacy rights U.S.: liberal, marketbased governance E.U.: socially-protective, rights-based governance (Riedenberg 2000, 1315) E. Virtue Ethics as a global ethics? from Plato and Aristotle. The English word virtue in this context translates the Greek arete - better translated as excellence. In this tradition, ethics was concerned with
excellences of human character. A person possessing such qualities exhibited the excellences of human goodness. To have these qualities is to function well as a human being (Johnson 2001, 51). Contemporary feminist ethics / ethics of care / discourse ethics (Apel/Habermas) / dialogical ethics / open source ethics [AoIR, RESPECT processes] [recovery of premodern traditions] [movement towards global dialogue, ethics] what sort of person do I want/need to become to be content (eudaimonia) not simply in the immediate present, but across the course of my entire (I hope, long) life? Along these lines: what sorts of habits should I cultivate in my
behaviors that will lead to fostering my reason (both theoretical and practical) and thereby lead to greater harmony in myself and with others, including the larger natural (and, for religious folk, supernatural) orders? Or, from Shannon Vallor what practices do I need to pursue in order to acquire the virtues of patience, perseverance, empathy, trust, etc. as these are necessary for deep friendships, long-term commitments to a spouse, parenting, etc.? Consider: short and fast texts, video games (e.g., FPS, Rapelay, etc.) A) what virtues or excellences do these help us practice and acquire? B) what virtues or excellences do I neglect, fail to practice? Why virtue ethics now? A strong candidate for a global information and computing ethics: Global roots: an ethics that is found (more or less) in
every recorded ethical tradition East and West, both ancient and modern; Pluralistic multiple traditions multiple expressions that reflect and preserve specific cultural traditions and preferences; Non-religious can be affirmed in thoroughly secularrational fashion and venues, beginning with the Enlightenment + (re)emerging educational traditions of Bildung, dannelse (cf. U.S. liberal arts-based education) perhaps, a global media and communication ethics? 1. E. Virtue Ethics as a global ethics? Work package X: The Good Life in the digital era (Onlife 2.0) flourishing, the good life as 1. Foundational to Information and Computing Ethics
(ICE), beginning with Norbert Wiener, father of cybernetics + The Human Use of Human Beings (1950/1954) ICE, including philosophy and computing conferences IACAP / CEPE / ETHICOMP 2. bridge terms, shared thematics with media and communication, e.g., ICA 2014 + theme volume 1. E. Virtue Ethics as a global ethics? flourishing, the good life as 3. Central to rapidly growing areas of research and publication, including research and design of new ICT technologies: Sarah Spiekermann, Ethical IT Innovation: A Value-Based System Design Approach (2016, Taylor &
Francis) value-sensitive design centrally focused on eudaimonia (contentment) see: C. Ess, The Good Life: Selfhood and Virtue Ethics in the Digital Age. In Helen Wang (ed.), Communication and the Good Life (ICA Themebook, 2014), 17-29. 1. E. Virtue Ethics as a global ethics? Major difficulties: A) shift from (strongly) autonomous / individual sense of self relational self B) (re)turn to subordination of the self to larger communities of relationship as hierarchical, nondemocratic. So Macintyre: VE submit and obey:
A practice involves standards of excellence and obedience to rules as well as the achievement of goods. To enter into a practice is to accept the authority of those standards and the inadequacy of my own performance as judged by them. It is to subject my own attitudes, choices, preferences and tastes to the standards which currently and partially define the practice. (1994: 190; emphasis added, CE). (feminist) relational autonomy as counter? 1. E. Virtue Ethics as a global ethics? 1. (feminist) relational autonomy recognizes that Some social influences will not compromise, but instead enhance and improve the capacities we need for autonomous agency (Westlund 2009, 27).
is further interwoven with the defining goals of virtue ethics: autonomy is one primary good among others that a person needs to live a good life or to achieve human flourishing (Veltman and Piper 2014, 2). At the same time, Veltman explicitly conjoins virtue ethics with a Kantian deontological account of autonomy that grounds respect for persons as a primary value. 1. E. Virtue Ethics as a global ethics? 2. Virtue ethics: embodiment and loving as a virtue (Ruddick 1975) phenomenological accounts that stress the role of embodiment in defining our identities in non-dualistic
ways (1975, 89). foregrounds loving itself as a virtue i.e., a practice that can be difficult at times and one that requires attendant commitments, including a Kantian respect for persons and thereby equality (1975, 98f). [ complete sex as marked by these norms and virtues, coupled with mutuality of desire desire desiring desire, my desire that my desire be desired by the Other] AND: this is going to complicate (Internet) Research Ethics! (Internet) research ethics as the specific project to protect the research subject as an autonomous individual with a right to privacy (and so confidentiality, anonymity, etc.), BUT from the perspective of either .
(Further consequences) autonomous individual Consideration Choice Action(s) Deontology e.g. Kant: capacity to give oneself one own rule (auto-nomos) respect for Others always as ends, never as means
only X Utilitarianism focus on consequences of acts risk / benefit analysis balance of risk to subject(s) vs. (potential) benefits to society Complication for IRE: shifting emphasis from individual to relational self//identity (larger communities / networks) (close ties / intimsfre / privatlivet)
(weak ties) relational self: relational autonomy / webs of relationships Virtue Ethics practices, habits e.g., patience, perseverance, empathy that establish, foster relationships, e.g., friendship (Vallor 2009, 2011, 2012) autonomous
individual Consideration Choice Action(s) Deontology (Further consequences) X Utilitarianism iii) Changing conceptions of selfhood privacy / privatlivet
What kind(s) of privacy / privatlivet? Nissenbaum (1998; 2004; 2010; 2011) builds her account on James Rachels theory of privacy a relational (or, alternatively, social) understanding of selfhood. Rachels demarcates a defining connection between privacy expectations, on the one hand, and specific social roles, on the other, such as businessman to employee, minister to congregant, doctor to patient, husband to wife, parent to child, and so on (Rachels 1975: 328, cited in Nissenbaum 2010: 65, 123). contextual integrity based on the norms of information flow and on the idea that one engages in self-disclosure within a context that involves situational expectations of privacy privacy rights defined in terms of flows of information as appropriate to a given context: iii) Changing conceptions of selfhood privacy / privatlivet
A first approximation? NESH 2006 13. The obligation to respect individuals privacy and close relationships Researchers shall show due respect for an individuals privacy. Informants are entitled to be able to check whether confidential information about them is accessible to others. Respect for privacy aims at protecting individuals against unwanted interference and exposure. This applies not only to emotional issues, but also to questions that involve sickness and health, political and religious opinions, and sexual orientation. Researchers should be especially compassionate when they ask questions that involve intimate issues and they should avoid placing informants under pressure. What is perceived as sensitive information can vary from one individual or group to the next. Distinguishing between the private and public spheres can sometimes be difficult when it comes to information about behaviour that is communicated and stored on the Internet. When using material from such interactions, researchers must pay
sufficient attention to the fact that peoples understanding of what is private and what is public in such media can vary. (NESH 2006 B.13, p. 17) 1.C You cant always get what you want While there are often methodologically sound and ethically legitimate / justified ways of (re)solving the ethical challenges raised in a given research project occasionally there are not: sometimes the answer is no E.g. (earlier?) no-go areas: pro-ana, cutting, suicide sites danger(s) to researchers retribution from informants, colleagues, angered by published findings, etc. Also: middle ground problems what are researchers responsibilities when they uncover information that suggests imminent/possible harm to either an informant or someone
else? legal and professional ethical requirements, etc international projects: which national laws do we follow re. encryption and secure storage of data? 1. Introduction In sum: given 1) the range of possible ethical decision-making procedures (utilitarianism, deontology, virtue ethics, feminist ethics, etc.), 2) the multiple interpretations and applications of these procedures to specific cases, and 3) their refraction through culturally-diverse emphases and values across the globe ethical issues both broadly (what is the meaning of life) and as raised by Internet research - are ethical problems precisely
because they evoke more than one ethically defensible response to a specific dilemma or problem. Ambiguity, uncertainty, and disagreement are inevitable. The best we can do: general guidelines + case histories (casuistics) possible resolutions (not solutions) of specific ethical challenges, dilemmas. (So AoIR 2002, 2012) 2. Whats your problem? Ways of thinking about research ethics A. Persons or texts? B. Methodologies ethics C. Status of data? D. Dissemination ethics E. Ethical variables: degrees of informed consent 2.A. issues based on conceptions of identity and ethical
agency as focused on the (inter-)actions of persons, understood to have basic rights (including the rights to privacy and protection from harms). In the standard model of research Human Subjects Protections, these rights are further specified in terms of confidentiality anonymity informed consent - specifically as intended to protect ethical autonomy (cf. Swedish Research Councils Ethical Research Principles, Rules 1-3) what McKee & Porter call a person-based view of research vis--vis: issues of ownership copyright and other matters of authorial control over one's texts what McKee & Porter call a text-based view of research 2.B. Methodologies Ethics
Participant-observation + discourse analysis heighten the importance of privacy, informed consent, and attending to the ethical issues surrounding the use of participants texts: As participant-observation emphasizes more personal, empathic relationship increases researchers inclination to accord higher degrees of privacy protection (Golden Rule and/or Good Samaritan Ethics) + pragmatic recognition that participants can easily disconnect from online engagements, increasing the importance of a trusted, reciprocal exchange (feminist) Oliver & Lunt 2004, 107) Cf. McKee and Porter, 2009: in addition: grounded theory (Glaser and Strauss, 2010) + reflexivity (Alvesson, 2003; Finlay, 2002) on-going ethical reflection, negotiation with participants / informants
Alvesson, M. (2003). Beyond neopositivists, romantics, and locallists: A reflexive approach to interviews in organizational research. The Academy of Management Review, 28(1), 13-33; Finlay, L. (2002). Negotiating the swamp: the opportunity and challenge of reflexivity in research practice. Qualitative Research, 2(2), 209-230. 2.C. Status of Data ... Beginning with (again): How to think about privacy? Early models Non-sensitive Large chat room; users informed from the outset that exchanges are not confidential; anonymity-privacy protected no need for informed consent (Kraut et al 2004)
Public (larger community / country) Small GLBT listserv in Norway: informed consent requested from group; posters anonymized; direct quotes only with permission (Bromseth 2005) Sensitive
Private (smaller community / country) Off-limits? Pro-anas, AIDS/HIV listservs 2.C. Status of Data ... the status of data (public? private? ?) provided in social networking profiles Terms of service? Local / international laws? Expectations of users / community / author? ( good Samaritan ethics) additional questions:
How do the terms of service articulate privacy of content and/or how it is shared with 3rd parties ? Does the author/participant consider personal network of connections sensitive information ? How is profile or location information used or stored by researcher ? Does author/participant understand and agree to interaction that may be used for research purposes ? Does research purpose and design balance possible conflicts between participant and researcher perceptions of public/private and sensitive/nonsensitive ? 2.D Dissemination Ethics and Informed Consent -- especially with regard to profile data and blog posts. AoIR 2.0 questions: Does the dissemination of findings protect confidentiality ?
Is the data easily searchable and retrievable ? If the content of a subjects communication was ever linked to the person, would harm likely result ? Additional considerations: composite / aggregated identities and fabrication (? warning!) Markham, A. 2012. Fabrication as ethical practice: Qualitative inquiry in ambiguous internet contexts. Information, Communication & Society 15(3): 334-353. 2.E. Ethical variables and degrees of informed consent Additional examples Yukari Seko (PhD student, communications, York University, CA): studied an online forum and blogs for people with suicidal and selfhurting tendencies. Particular difficulties with one young blogger who wrote frequently about own suicide. Laurie Cubbison (assistant prof., rhetoric & writing, Radford
University, USA): studied medical patient support groups develop rhetorical strategies for communicating their views of illness to doctors, support persons, general public. Participant-observer, argues for an ethic of care in research and reporting. Janne Bromseth (cultural, media researcher, Stockholm): studied gendered and sexual identity expression in a listserv for lesbian and bisexual women. Participant-observer, especially sensitive to risks and problems of such women in more conservative, more rural areas of Norway as itself a relatively small country. -- McKee & Porter 2009: 76 What counts as sensitive? 2.E. Ethical variables and degrees of informed consent Patricia Lawson offers a range of possible options that researchers can offer to participants:
(1) consent to having their nickname and communicative text used for data analysis only (no publication of name or text); (2) consent to having either their nickname or text published in an academic work, but never together (i.e., no identifiers); (3) consent to having either their nickname or text published in an academic work, but never together (i.e., no identifiers) and providing they get to see the write up prior to publication; (4) consent to having both their nickname and text published in academic work, thereby being credited as the authors of their own words or (5) consent to having both their nickname and text published in academic work, thereby being credited as the authors of their own words, providing they get to see the write up prior to publication. The last two options deal directly with the issue of CMC copyright. (2004, 93) Informed Consent helpful variations? Lawson
(strong) 5 4 3 2 1 (weak) Thank you! Dr. Charles Ess IMK, UiO