The web is full of many different internet sources; you can find written information everywhere, on websites, chat rooms, blogs and news feeds. However there are many ethical issues involved in using online data – such as consent.
The question is: Just because the information’s online and we have access to it (in most cases). Does it mean it is ethical to use this information? with or without consent?
Does publishing this information mean users are already giving consent? Making it ethical?
The following web link looks at a question regarding the amount of sites built each year – http://css-tricks.com/new-poll-sites-per-year/(Coyier,2010). Threads on this site discuss this matter (logging in needed) – written by online users, some anonymous like “Me Me ME” (Coyier,2010), some not. If I wanted to look at qualitative information regarding the job titles of the commenters, would it be ok?
This leads me to suggest that it is not ethical without the commenter’s permission, based on the fact that this information is of a personal nature – It’s their views and details. Others may support the ethical use of this information because it’s openly published for everyone to access. However, reading what people have said is different to using what they have said. Therefore ethically, consent should be requested before information is used.
Getting this consent can be hard as the person discussing the topic may wish to hide their name or not give consent when asked. Importantly, the article above states that consent is not given by lack of requested response. In addition, the commenter may or may not be able to give it and therefore consent maybe needed by the parents. However, their parents may not know about the information they are sharing online and the child may be inclined speak to their parents regarding the matter.
Recently, watching a tv show (The Anti-Social Network – http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01dwg1n) regarding bullying online, made me consider whether it would be ethical to use chat room data. Would signing into a chat room which discusses online bullying and using the data be ethical?
One chat room I found online was http://www.chathour.com/chatroom/ant-bullying. This chat room required you to log in, supporting the idea that it would be un-ethical to use this chat room information. Based on the fact that people are logging in to chat about bullying, not logging in to a chat room designed to collect research on the matter. The login factor makes the information more private and protected – http://wiki1.dovecot.org/LoginProcess .Suggesting that the users may want to chat with other users who may relate to their experiences, rather than just anyone. Therefore using their data could be considered as a privacy issue – if they are unaware. (Secton 3 – http://www.privacyrights.org/ar/Privacy-IssuesList.htm#onlineprivacy)
Evidence shows that in reality Information online is (mostly) accessible; however this information should not be used in research without the users being asked. Information such as comments which are open online could be argued as ethical to use because the person knows the information is online. If the site needs you to login, then the user of the information may wish for this information not to be directly seen by everyone – suggesting that gaining consent maybe even more ethically important. Overall, consent should be asked for when it comes to the use of chat room information and blog comments .Using sources online without consent, specifically when chartroom login is need, is therefore suggested unethical.
Coyier, C. (2010). New Poll: How many websites do you launch per year? Retreived from: http://css-tricks.com/new-poll-sites-per-year/
LJMU Data Protection Office: Provision of Consent to Process Personal Data and Data Protection Statements Retrieved from: http://www.ljmu.ac.uk/administration/administration_docs/DPA_The_Provision_of_Consent_to_Process_Personal_Data.pdf
Mills, K. (2008). Legal consent: when and how is it needed at school? Retrieved from: http://www.teachingexpertise.com/e-bulletins/legal-consent-when-and-how-it-needed-school-3749
Richard Bacon (2012) BBC THREE: The Anti-Social Network, Retrieved from: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01dwg1n
(2012). Chat Hour, Retrieved from: http://www.chathour.com/chatroom/ant-bullying
Sirainen, T. (2010) Login Processes, Retrieved from: http://wiki1.dovecot.org/LoginProcess
Privacy Today: A Review of Current Issues, Retreived from: http://www.privacyrights.org/ar/Privacy-IssuesList.htm#onlineprivacy (Revised March 2012)