Lab Ethics Statement
Social research ethics are at the core of the Social Data Science Lab’s programme of work. Recent work shows how users of social media platforms are uneasy about their posts being collected without their explicit consent (NatCen 2014, Williams 2015). However, many social media terms of service specifically state that users’ data that are public will be made available to third parties, and by accepting these terms users legally consent to this. In the Lab’s research programme we interpret and engage with these terms of service through the lens of social science research which often implies a higher ethical standard than provided in legal accounts of the permissible use of these kinds of data. The topic of ethics in social media research has been a key focus of ours and formed a primary research question in our first ESRC Digital Social Research Demonstrator Grant. Ethics as a topic continues to be embedded in our follow-on grants and we are continuously reflecting upon our practice as social and computational researchers. We are acutely aware of the key ethical issues of harm, informed consent, the invasion of privacy and deception as they relate to the collection, analysis, visualization and dissemination of social media data.
Below we outline our ethical principles that apply to all our on-going externally funded work:
NatCen (2014) Research Using Social Media: Users’ Views, London: Natcen.
Williams, M. L. (2015), ‘Towards an Ethical Framework for Using Social Media Data in Social Research’, presented at Social Research Association Workshop, Institute of Education, UCL, 15 June 2015.