[SIGCIS-Members] how to address ethical privacy issues regarding corpora?

Alexandre Hocquet alexandre.hocquet at univ-lorraine.fr
Tue Jun 7 08:28:51 PDT 2016

Dear list members,

We are in the process of submitting a manuscript of a paper within which 
we use, as our corpus, the archives of a mailing list (namely the 
Computational Chemistry List, http://www.ccl.net/). Some results of this 
work on this corpus have been presented at SHOT 2012 in Copenhagen 
(http://www.sigcis.org/workshop12/Hocquet) for those who remember (and 
yes, this is very slow science).

This kind of corpus raises the issue of unveiling identities and 
quotations of the mailing list posters in the manuscript. Even though 
the archives of the list are publicly accessible on the web, and even 
though the posters did sign a disclaimer when posting to the list, our 
question is whether, and to what extent, it could be considered 
unethical, regarding publication in an academic journal, to disclose 
their identities.

A radical solution to preserve posters privacy could be to anonymize the 
identities and quotations of the mailing list posters. But we believe 
that the details of the background, status, opinions, worldviews... of 
the actors are of prime interest for our discussion of their debates 
within the mailing list. Our concern is thus to respect the privacy of 
posters without losing useful sociological details in the process.

For example, we believe it is a useful information in the dynamics of 
the debates in the corpus that a poster has a specific academic 
position, is involved or not in the founding of an entrepreneurial 
structure, what is their role in the developing of specific software 
packages....which even raises the issue of privacy of pieces of software 
as well as humans...

As we have never been confronted to this issue in our previous 
manuscripts, we are in need of ethical guidelines, or, even more 
helpful, pieces of advice on our specific case study. Thank you in 
advance for your answers.


Alexandre Hocquet

Université de Lorraine & Archives Henri Poincaré
Alexandre.Hocquet at univ-lorraine.fr

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