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

Kevin Driscoll kdriscoll at alum.mit.edu
Thu Jun 9 12:55:34 PDT 2016

Hello Alexandre,

I agree that the public accessibility of this listserv does not obviate
your ethical obligation to its participants. But I also agree that the
professional status of various participants will likely be a critical
variable for your analysis and needn't be tossed out altogether. In my
experience, there is often a middle path between total disclosure and total
anonymity that will require a bit of extra creativity in how you write up
your research. For example, paraphrasing is often enough to convey the
content of what someone is saying without giving malicious readers an
easily googleable phrase.

The critical question involves thinking through the potential harms that
may come to listserv participants as a consequence of your research.
Fortunately, this is precisely the type of question that has motivated the
Association of Internet Researchers Ethics Committee for the last 10+ years
and their 2012 guidelines offer a nice model for thinking about research
involving online communities, see: http://aoir.org/ethics/

Best of luck with your project,
Kevin Driscoll

On Tue, Jun 7, 2016 at 11:28 AM, Alexandre Hocquet <
alexandre.hocquet at univ-lorraine.fr> wrote:

> 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.
> Yours,
> --
> ***********************************************
> Alexandre Hocquet
> Université de Lorraine & Archives Henri Poincaré
> Alexandre.Hocquet at univ-lorraine.fr
> http://poincare.univ-lorraine.fr/fr/membre-titulaire/alexandre-hocquet
> ***********************************************
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