Harvard Research and Privacy Issues

Harvard Researchers Accused of Breaching Students’ Privacy

How very interesting. Gather social information from the Facebook pages of your students and don’t inform them you are collecting that information. The project was approved by Harvard’s IRB, but since FB is a password protected site, surely it entered someone’s well-educated brain that it would be better to get subject approval also. I’m sure a large enough percentage of students would have said yes to make the study viable. Another kicker is that even though Harvard did not self-identify one of its classes as the subject group, an outside professor was able to identify Harvard, the class, down to one of the subjects based on their released information.

There is also an interesting Twitter study mentioned where not only was subject approval not obtained, but neither was IRB based on the fact that Tweets are like reading the newspaper. In that case, the researchers were following a specific protest with some of the Twitter account holders arrested. One of those arrested deleted his Twitter account, but not before many of his tweets had been preserved for research – without his knowledge of course. Ouch!

This summer, some family events have made me reexamie my own online presence and I’ve made a few changes. Although, obviously, you can’t control the people you associate with as indicated above. Gotta look at those friends, groups, likes periodically though. Now with Google+ on the scene, anyone’s online presence is certainly something warranting a few minutes of careful attention.

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