An initial exploration of ethical research practices regarding automated data extraction from online social media user profiles

Sophia Alim


The popularity of social media, especially online social networks, has led to the availability of potentially rich sources of data, which researchers can use for extraction via automated means. However, the process of automated extraction from user profiles results in a variety of ethical considerations and challenges for researchers. This paper examines this question further, surveying researchers to gain information regarding their experiences of, and thoughts about, the challenges to ethical research practices associated with automated extraction. Results indicated that, in comparison with two or three years ago researchers are more aware of ethical research practices, and are implementing them into their studies. However, areas such as informed consent suffer from a lack of implementation in research studies. This is due to various factors, such as social media ‘Terms of Service’, challenges with large volumes of data, how far to take informed consent, and the definition of online informed consent. Researchers face a range of issues from digital rights to clear guidance. This paper discusses the findings of the survey questionnaire and explores how the findings affect researchers.


Research Ethics; Automated Data Extraction; Social Media

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