You can’t repeat that, I said it in public! #WILTW

This is the 161st #WILTW

What would you do if the picture you posted on social media went viral? Be pleased that you had shared the love or be embarrassed that you had forgotten to check your privacy settings. Were you even aware that your posts could be seen by people you’d not ‘friended’

For those who are frequent users of social media understanding the public nature of your communication is obvious. But is everyone aware of this?

In a comprehensive blog by the @Mental_Elf and the South West Peninsula Collaboration for Leadership and Applied Health Research and Care (PenCLAHRC) a recent systematic review on “any qualitative methods to collect data on attitudes on the ethical implications of research using social media” is discussed.

Essentially the paper was looking to examine perceptions of ethical considerations when performing research using social media.

Ethics of social media research: from Big Brother to rainbow unicorns

There were a variety of findings (please do read the blog and the review itself) but the one that caught my eye was the potential necessity for obtaining informed consent for using material on social media.

If someone posts something in a public forum should you have to ask them if you want to comment on that post in an academic journal? This is more than a mere ethical conundrum. Our news feeds are now full of leaders and commentators using social media to inform and debate. It would be difficult to argue that they don’t want the information to be consumed and digested.

But what of the general public? Whose responsibility is it to let them know that what they are saying may be available to everyone? The terms and conditions as you register? A regular reminder as you log-on? Or just common sense?

Colleagues and I will shortly be publishing a paper that (in a small appendix) uses tweets as part of the research exercise. It hadn’t even occurred to me to obtain individual consent to use those (public) micro-blogs in our work?

Would you mind if your tweet or facebook posting was used by a researcher?

..and why?

What have you learnt this week? #WILTW

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