Ethical Framework for SMR, Panel #SoMeMR #MRX #li

10.15 PANEL: Establishing an ethical framework for social media research

  • Tracking developments towards new standards for social media research in Europe and the US
  • Dealing with privacy issues: Assessing attitudes towards privacy in online environments
  • Evaluating ethical guidelines for blog and buzz mining
  • When is engagement with commenters necessary?
  • Evaluating appropriate codes of conduct for qualitative approaches to harvesting data via social media channels

Barry Ryan, Standards & Policy Manager, MRS
Jillian Williams, External Relations Team Leader, Highways Agency
Pete Comley, Chairman, Join the Dots (formerly Virtual Surveys)
Simon McDonald, Business Director, Insites Consulting

  • Barry – Data protection, there is identifiable data that must be protected. Copyright – blogposts, photos, videos, all covered under copyright act. Terms and service – of individual sites must be respected. Internal issue – how MR codes are constructed – participation is based on voluntary informed consent, that is our heritage.  (I’m waiting to hear about the stance on observational research, and qualitative researchers abilities to summarize text.)
  • Simon – Does research industry need rules?  We know it’s a work in progress. We don’t want to be restricted from doing things that other companies are able to do. (e.g., buzz companies don’t have to listen to MR ethics)
  • Pete – Believes in guidelines. Was part of ESOMAR guidelines committee.  Not happy with MRS stance. Bodies should be forward looking and represent us. Tone of consultation document does not do that. Document is like Pope and Catholic church. Applying to the letter. MRS won’t stop us from doing SMR. Seriously risks splitting entire MR industry in the UK. It is that serious. Solutions? We must be more inclusive and representative. Must be provisions for MR to do SMR. Long term, MRS code of conduct is the problem. Informed consent is the problem. We are NOT interviewing people here. This is analyzing public data. Concept of informed consent does not apply. We need to relook at code of conduct.
  • Jillian – As a research client, anonymity is important. Masking isn’t satisfactory.  Client does not want to be on the front page of the Daily Mail. Client will take the flack, not the industry. Clients want to comply with guidelines. Clients pay the bill.
  • Barry – Data Protection Act is the problem. Informed Consent is the first thing in it. There is no distinction between public and private. The MRS Code reflects rules of legislation. MRS made it easy for researchers to comply with data protection act. “This data is accessible” is not sufficient but you can work with the data provider directly and then it’s ok. “Subject to data protection rules” is important. If MRS interpeted law incorrectly, please tell them. [Call to MR company internal legal counsel – does anyone see if there have been misinterpretations of Data Protection Act?]
  • Pete – Data Protection Act is pre-internet. How do we survive as industry until and if there are changes?
  • Barry – Whatever comes next will not be better. “The legislator knows best.”  People want the right to be forgotten (drunken photos should be deleted if the person wants them deleted).
  • Simon – Self-regulation is important. Dialogue with respondents means better qulaity data. Consent is important but best research is also important. Their company had a problem where they friended people for research purposes, with multiple layers of consent, but then of course Facebook lets you see friends of friends, and those friends hadn’t given consent.
  • Jillian – SMR is not necessarily representative.
  • Annie – I asked a question about whether observational research is not research since it’s not informed consent and whether masking is an assault on qualitative researchers who mask for a living.
  • Barry – This is not an assault on qualitative research. There is a separate guidelines for qual research. Maybe the MRS heard nothing back from qualitative researchers and it’s not reflected in the paper. In the online space, everything is data, video, photo. Under the data Proection Act, processing data is engagement. Masking is good for privacy, but it doesn’t rectify the potential unlawfullness of the act of taking the data.
  • Pete – Does everything really need to be masked? “I love McDonalds” maybe not.  Anything Pete says here, he risks it being written down and shared. (Hmmmm….. watch out!) Going out of your way to NOT quote something written in the online public space seems odd. What do you do with gray area of semi-private. Inconsequential “This hotel is lovely” doesn’t need masking but someone’s sexual preference does need masking. It is a minefield.
  • Jillian – Doesn’t like masking at all. We want the insight from the quote as opposed to masked verbatims that aren’t exactly correct and could be misunderstood.
  • Question – why are companies doing this if it’s all illegal under data protection act? [Great question – are we waiting for someone to get sued and go to court before we get an update to the legislation?]
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