With the explosion of social media has come a feast of data for scientists to analyze. But with this opportunity have come sticky questions about what’s legal, what’s ethical and how privacy should be protected.
Casey Fiesler, assistant professor of information science, is working to find answers and develop guidance in a field so new it lacks standards.
In one study, she found that 62 percent of Twitter users have no idea scientists study their tweets. Most assume it’s not allowed. (It is.) She’s now studying what companies’ fine print says about sharing data for research, how such research affects vulnerable communities and why certain studies bother people more than others.
“I don’t want to suggest we shouldn’t be doing research using Twitter data at all,” Fiesler says, “but just because data is easy to get doesn’t mean we should be able to do whatever we like with it.”