Who could have predicted that within such a short space of time, the internet would transform the way we as individuals communicate, keep in touch with one another, share opinions and ideas, express views and fears, and all behind the veil of anonymity. One example which shows how an idea can spread like wildfire is the quite a recent craze to hit Facebook- the campaign to make the African Warlord -Kony- famous. One day you’ve never heard of the name, the next its all over your news feed.
It seems you can just about find out anything you need, with the internet offering an overwhelming amount of information. Its all too tempting to involve information we have found on the internet when looking into an area of research, but to what extent can this information, ethically, be used? Everyone knows that blogs are open to the public, or in other words, anyone of the 2,267,233,742 internet users in the world. With the publisher of the blogs knowing this, does that mean that they have given us consent to use their opinions or views as data? Or must we directly ask the publisher to give full consent?
Another way of thinking of consent is as permission. When I think of it that way, by simply publishing a blog it doesn’t mean we are giving someone permission to use our material.
A hurdle to obtaining consent is anonymity. Many can hide behind a false identity, or no identity at all.
My initial reaction to this question was to roll my eyes at how over the top we can be when tiptoeing around the touchy subject of informed consent…but then I pondered… how would I feel if someone where to use my blogs?? So long as I was to remain anonymous I don’t think I’d have a problem with it (although if they did make contact to ask for consent I’d tell them not to waste their time!)
However there are plenty of blogs out there which have slightly more emotion attached than my forced statistics blog!
There are plenty of blogs out there which offer support to individuals going through a tough time, would it be ok to use their heartfelt opinions without consent?
Data from the internet can be very useful, but also full of hurdles and ethical dilemmas because of this, researchers need to approach information found on the internet carefully.