Saturday, February 7, 2009

Week 5: Internet Research

First my personal feeling: I have found the regulations concerning research with human subjects really important. I was not aware at all about these provisions. This was first because I used to make research only on literary issues, and second I don’t know whether there are such provisions in my country about the research with human subjects in the humanities and social sciences.

Internet research provides both the unique opportunities for research with human subjects and the heightened possibility of the violation of the principles of privacy and confidentiality. It can make surveys less expensive, include diverse population, and maintain more anonymity than in normal research situation. However, as Curtis’s quote suggests there are several possibilities that the important personal and confidential information are manipulated and misused in internet environment. The information collected through emails can leak if the researcher does not make sure that the proper security provision is adopted. There are equally the possibilities that the information on the computer of the research subject can be accessed and monitored by family members or others. So, the researcher should clearly mention to the participants that it is the responsibility of the subjects to protect their information in their location.

One puzzling thing is the idea of private versus public regarding the information kept on the open websites. The module says: “ One view is that the act of posting to an open site, accessible to millions, constitutes public behavior and may be observed and recorded without consent. According to this view, if no identifiers are recorded, such observations may not even meet the definition of research with human subjects. An opposing view is that, in spite of the accessibility of their communications, people participating in some of these groups make certain assumptions about privacy, and that investigators should honor those assumptions. If one subscribes to this second view, either consent would be required or it would have to be waived in accordance to the regulations.” I think when we can access data or some information about the persons in an open place, that should not require any consent. How can someone claim the privacy of something publicly displayed? That sounds strange to me. This is quite different from individuals having some personal activity in the public places like parks or restaurants due to the nature of online environment.

Another issue I often find intriguing in the internet environment is that of taking consent of the subjects by telling them to click on “I agree” where the subject may find it quite monotonous to read a long statements. I think in such cases the researchers should clarify the conditions that the subjects should comply with in some other modes.

1 comment:

  1. I want to comment on the section where you write, "the researcher should clearly mention to the participants that it is the responsibility of the subjects to protect their information in their location."

    Personally I don't think that responsibility should be incumbent upon the research subject. Participation in empirical research should not translate into a forfeiture of all notions of privacy. I firmly believe this is the responsibility of the researcher to protect study participant identity.