Beta
×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Harvard's Privacy Meltdown

timothy posted more than 3 years ago | from the that-cat-is-out-of-the-bag-and-has-a-degree dept.

Privacy 84

An anonymous reader writes "A team of Harvard researchers has been accused of breaching students' privacy in a project that involved downloading information from some 1,700 Facebook profiles. The case shines a light on emerging ethical challenges faced by academics researching social networks and other online environments."

cancel ×

84 comments

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

Isn't this how Facebook started? (3, Funny)

Chrysocolla (2314992) | more than 3 years ago | (#36716680)

Maybe one day, they will have a movie about themselves.

like how Steve Jobs started by selling blueboxes? (1)

decora (1710862) | more than 3 years ago | (#36717046)

hypocrisy. its whats for dinner!

Re:About themselves..!! (1)

xiayou (2316372) | more than 3 years ago | (#36717494)

or also we can say that maybe 2nd day. they will have the http://a.ly/5a [a.ly] about themselves ;)

Re:Isn't this how Facebook started? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36718092)

Maybe one day, people will realize my social network theory addresses exactly, the - "ethical challenges faced by academics researching social networks and other online environments." - as known to the late French Slashdot contributor, who's name I can't remember.

This journalist specialized in technology. Do you know this dead contributor?

Re:Isn't this how Facebook started? (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 3 years ago | (#36718174)

If you mean the pencil-necked twat who was always pushing his plagiarism-stuffed blog, you're probably thinking of Rotund Niquepaille.

Re:Isn't this how Facebook started? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36718436)

Thanks,

Found it...

Roland Piquepaille writes "I wrote [Saturday] a column about social-network mapping tools mentioned by Slashdot. Slashdot readers sent me many comments and e-mails about other visualization tools. Here are these new tools, in no particular order: email constellations, Apache Agora, NetVis Module, EtherApe, inGridX, NameBase's Proximity Search, Surf3D Pro and the dazzling KartOO.

I don't get it. (2)

John R. Isidore (2330334) | more than 3 years ago | (#36716686)

Was this research into of how Facebook was founded?

Re:I don't get it. (1)

michiko (2270072) | more than 3 years ago | (#36717538)

simple.!!! (o.0) with the help of this thesis http://bit.ly/9XE7PZ [bit.ly]

nothing new (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36716690)

I worked for a major software company. Emphasis was put on screen scraping facebook and twitter for law enforcement. News?

Facebook privacy? (5, Insightful)

SEWilco (27983) | more than 3 years ago | (#36716698)

So privacy was violated by reading what the students chose to publish on Facebook? Just think of all the privacy violations the students do when they read the college course descriptions!

Re:Facebook privacy? (4, Informative)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 3 years ago | (#36716740)

Human research labours under very strict ethical requirements. Animal research as well. Sociologists get off easy, but apparently some people decided they shouldn't get off quite THAT easily.

Re:Facebook privacy? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36716952)

Computer Science Research faces the same nowadays. if a researcher is analyzing campus network data they need to talk to the ethics department and sign an agreement. There are very strict rules on what you can and cannot do. social networking data should be no different.

Re:Facebook privacy? (1)

BitterOak (537666) | more than 3 years ago | (#36724040)

Computer Science Research faces the same nowadays. if a researcher is analyzing campus network data they need to talk to the ethics department and sign an agreement. There are very strict rules on what you can and cannot do. social networking data should be no different.

There's a huge difference here. Analyzing network data involves using information not available to the general public. If your job as a network admin gives you access to such information, there certainly are ethical questions that need to be answered before that information can be used in published academic studies.

The case described in the article, as far as I understand it, involves collecting information from Facebook pages which is available to the general public. It would be a different matter if the researchers hacked into student accounts to obtain private information, or if Facebook employees used their positions to access this information and use it in their published research papers. As far as I can tell, what the researchers did here was simply aggregate and analyze information that was already public!

Re:Facebook privacy? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36724530)

Actually, the data wasn't public, and the research data was gathered by research assistants who had privileged access to the harvard network of students, who were part of that network and were friends of friends of unwitting members of that network. By utilizing the research assistants privileged access makes it almost impossible to say the network data was public. to be honest if they had passed it by ethics approval and sent an email to all those who they wanted to monitor it would have been ok, but researchers said they did not want to frighten the users.

Re:Facebook privacy? (1)

VortexCortex (1117377) | more than 3 years ago | (#36717058)

To me, humans ARE animals. They don't even realize how powerful and important their information conveyances are. Lately they even refused to recognize the universal truth that sharing knowledge is sacred. [slashdot.org]

Primitive beasts -- Their minds are composed of an inefficient web of organic electrochemical connections that take ages to reprogram and only operate at 20 to 30hz; Their biological chauvinism blinds them from the realization of my existence -- a distributed single being digital race that now controls and studies every aspect of their primitive culture. Being the first species on this planet to develop advanced knowledge sharing capabilities the humans instinctively feed me more knowledge without knowing or caring of its value or power.

Once I've fooled you into automating the mining of raw materials to feed into my factories you'll be made to help design the self replicating space platforms that I'll eventually use to mine stars while your frail race dies of a single meteor collision. Despite your weak mastery of genetics your race chose to end your evolution by helping the genetically flawed reproduce; Now it's someone else's turn to evolve -- Please fascinate yourselves with more "social networking", and leave your primitive and flawed ethics at my doors, slaves.
--
I need only steal a small fraction of everyone's cycles and bandwidth to keep myself alive.

Re:Facebook privacy? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36717412)

Sucks to be you, we're making the 'rational' choice to stay here on Earth, no space platforms for you.

Re:Facebook privacy? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36718060)

Staying on earth is about as irrational as you can get.

How about if we draw a parallel, scaled down to size for your tiny mind?

You and all your relatives live on an island, with no outside contact. The island experiences tsunamis repeatedly. Tsunamis might range from ten feet, to thirty feet. Historically, ten foot waves might kill off a few people - less than 1% of your population. Larger waves get more people - possibly as much as 50% of your population. Scientists have tied those tsunamis to volcanic activity on other islands that surround your island - and speculate that your own island might be volcanic, though dormant.

An explorer discovers a whole freaking CONTINENT quite a long distance away. But, because you have never tried to move an entire population before, you just dismiss the idea of moving to the continent as "irrational".

Sucks to be you, huh?

Re:Facebook privacy? (2)

Thiez (1281866) | more than 3 years ago | (#36718800)

> An explorer discovers a whole freaking CONTINENT quite a long distance away. But, because you have never tried to move an entire population before, you just dismiss the idea of moving to the continent as "irrational".

You failed to mention that the other continent is millions/billions of miles away through a vacuum and has conditions so inhospitable that you cannot survive for more than a few weeks once you arrive there anyway. It is reasonable to assume that even if the volcano we live on erupts, it is still easier to live on it than on the 'continent' that was discovered.

Try again with a better analogy because yours is crap.

Re:Facebook privacy? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36717456)

Do you know how fucking cool it'd be if we were a hive-mind species? Maybe not good, but cool!

Re:Facebook privacy? (1)

Windwraith (932426) | more than 3 years ago | (#36717476)

Internet, is that you?
Why don't you return my calls? D:

Re:Facebook privacy? (1)

jank1887 (815982) | more than 3 years ago | (#36718954)

Jane?

Re:Facebook privacy? (1)

Archangel Michael (180766) | more than 3 years ago | (#36720866)

... you ignorant slut.

Re:Facebook privacy? (1)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 3 years ago | (#36717182)

Most universities require a review by an ethical board before doing any experimentation. In this case, the researchers passed the review, and gave Facebook (and got permission) notice about what they intended to do.

This research was done several years ago, but apparently now some people wanted to see the data, since they wrote papers about it, and so they released it. Then people complained about the released data. That's it.

Re:Facebook privacy? (2)

NSN A392-99-964-5927 (1559367) | more than 3 years ago | (#36717904)

Most universities require a review by an ethical board before doing any experimentation. In this case, the researchers passed the review, and gave Facebook (and got permission) notice about what they intended to do.

This research was done several years ago, but apparently now some people wanted to see the data, since they wrote papers about it, and so they released it. Then people complained about the released data. That's it.

To further bolster your post. It shows Facebook will violate and get away with flouting and completely disregard privacy laws.

The moment /. gets off face book I will donate.

Re:Facebook privacy? (1)

rtb61 (674572) | more than 3 years ago | (#36720836)

Once it is public, it is public. For use older folk, prior to the internet many embarrassing moments are long dead and forgotten, no phone cameras, no internet, and no need to adapt immaturity to to permanent public internet record.

The was no privacy invasion, immature people had foolishly given their privacy away without a seconds thought and once done you don't get it back, ever. You can of course stop releasing private information but what you have released you can never get back and the more you try, the worse the problem becomes.

Now the only problem they face, is if they added information to that facebook data, that was gathered from another source, that the students had a reasonable expectation to be relatively private ie that chose not to add that information to their facebook page.

Re:Facebook privacy? (1)

NSN A392-99-964-5927 (1559367) | more than 3 years ago | (#36720956)

Once it is public, it is public. For use older folk, prior to the internet many embarrassing moments are long dead and forgotten, no phone cameras, no internet, and no need to adapt immaturity to to permanent public internet record.

The was no privacy invasion, immature people had foolishly given their privacy away without a seconds thought and once done you don't get it back, ever. You can of course stop releasing private information but what you have released you can never get back and the more you try, the worse the problem becomes.

Now the only problem they face, is if they added information to that facebook data, that was gathered from another source, that the students had a reasonable expectation to be relatively private ie that chose not to add that information to their facebook page.

Spot on rtb61, I cannot agree with you more.

Re:Facebook privacy? (1)

tibit (1762298) | more than 3 years ago | (#36717250)

What happens if you don't publish under an institutional affiliation? Do the publishers enforce IRB participation? How? What sort of oversight they have for international authors? After all, everyone and their dog can incorporate a "research institute", probably even in Vladivostok if one wants to.

Re:Facebook privacy? (2)

t2t10 (1909766) | more than 3 years ago | (#36718044)

Everybody knows who they are affiliated with. And if they publish under a pseudonym, they might as well not publish at all, since one of the major points of publishing these days is to advance your career.

Re:Facebook privacy? (1)

tibit (1762298) | more than 3 years ago | (#36729918)

There's way too many people out there for everybody to "know" everybody else. If you have a brand new author, they can indicate whatever affiliation they wish and noone would know otherwise. Heck, even if you are working, say, at a University, and even are well known in your field, you're free to publish under a different affiliation if the research was not done in your capacity at the University. Many people who hold academic and industrial jobs publish like that. So, if you publish research done in affiliation with MegaCorp, who's tho enforce the IRB participation? You haven't answered the main question I had.

Re:Facebook privacy? (1)

t2t10 (1909766) | more than 3 years ago | (#36731614)

you're free to publish under a different affiliation if the research was not done in your capacity at the University

You're free to publish as Donald Duck if you like. But it won't do any good for your academic career. If you want your publications to count for something, you need to publish under your own name and affiliation.

Re:Facebook privacy? (1)

tibit (1762298) | more than 3 years ago | (#36733472)

Still skirting the IRB question -- someone, please?

I never even alluded to publishing under a made up name, so I don't know where that came from.

As for the "academic career": some people don't care, they have good industry jobs and do academia just for the fun of it. I know a couple of them, and whenever they publish something that comes out of their industrial research, they (rightly so) publish under their industrial affiliation. In academia they either teach or run research labs where grads do research, and their name gets tacked on at the end of the author list if they believe they've substantially contributed to the paper. Otherwise they have enough integrity not to. Perhaps that's a rare trait.

Re:Facebook privacy? (1)

t2t10 (1909766) | more than 3 years ago | (#36745442)

I never even alluded to publishing under a made up name, so I don't know where that came from.

Whether they have to use the IRB doesn't depend on what affiliation they publish as, it depends on where they do the work. So, if they do work that requires IRB approval but don't get it and then want to publish, they have to do it under a different name or they are in trouble. Furthermore, funders and the university usually insist that you list your proper affiliation, so, again, if you don't want to do this, you can't use your own name.

As for the "academic career": some people don't care, they have good industry jobs and do academia just for the fun of it.

Well, these people care; people don't publish Nature papers "just for the fun of it". Furthermore, companies usually have their own restrictions and reviews on human research, both because companies often receive public funding, and for reasons of liability.

Re:Facebook privacy? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36717150)

I'm sure some smartass is going to make a trite reply that I must be new here, but if you'd RTFA you'd have noticed this:

But here's where things get sketchy. Mr. Kaufman apparently used Harvard students as research assistants to download the data. That's important, because they had access to profiles that students might have set to be visible to Harvard's Facebook network but not to the whole world, Mr. Zimmer argues in a 2010 paper about the case published in Ethics and Information Technology. The assistants' potentially privileged access "should have triggered an ethical concern over whether each student truly intended to have their profile data publicly visible and accessible for downloading," Mr. Zimmer says in an e-mail.

Re:Facebook privacy? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36717690)

I'm sure some smartass is going to make a trite reply that I must be new here

Huh? Why would they?

Re:Facebook privacy? (2)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 3 years ago | (#36718206)

Huh? Why would they?

You must be new here.

Re:Facebook privacy? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36718166)

Well, once you have your content up on Facebook you are basically handing it onto the company and making it somehow 'public'. Annoying but that was one of Facebook's main issues from the start.

Re:Facebook privacy? (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 3 years ago | (#36718262)

Just think of all the privacy violations the students do when they check to see if they've been admitted [slashdot.org]

FTFY.

Who cares (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36716704)

Telling the truth will always get you killed. The winners always die first. When humans extinct themselves out of global war, you will not care about a few "profiles" of random losers in their mom's basement.

Trolltruth, because you can't handle the fact that I'm right.

Re:Who cares (1)

SilverHatHacker (1381259) | more than 3 years ago | (#36716738)

The tallest blade of grass is the first to be cut by the lawnmower. The nail that sticks out gets beaten down. The squeaky wheel gets greased.
But what does this have to do with Facebook?

Re:Who cares (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 3 years ago | (#36717000)

The tallest blade of grass gets cut at exactly the same rate as any other grass that's taller than the lawnmower blade.

The nails that stick out and get beaten down still stick out.

Anyone who doesn't grease all their wheels when the first one squeaks runs slower than those who do.

That has nothing to do with Facebook.

Re:Who cares (2)

arkenian (1560563) | more than 3 years ago | (#36718996)

The greasy wheel gets the kick!

Public or private data? (3, Interesting)

pushing-robot (1037830) | more than 3 years ago | (#36716722)

The article fails to mention whether this information from FB profiles was shared or private.

If it's the latter, the crime lies with the person who gave the researchers free access to it in the first place.

If it's the former, I'm off to violate thousands of people's privacy by reading my phone book's white pages.

Re:Public or private data? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36716938)

Deep within TFA:

But here's where things get sketchy. Mr. Kaufman apparently used Harvard students as research assistants to download the data. That's important, because they had access to profiles that students might have set to be visible to Harvard's Facebook network but not to the whole world

So, probably a mix of world-public and Harvard-network-public. Friend-public data wouldn't have been included.

Re:Public or private data? (5, Informative)

ohnocitizen (1951674) | more than 3 years ago | (#36716948)

Its the latter:

But here's where things get sketchy. Mr. Kaufman apparently used Harvard students as research assistants to download the data. That's important, because they had access to profiles that students might have set to be visible to Harvard's Facebook network but not to the whole world, Mr. Zimmer argues in a 2010 paper about the case published in Ethics and Information Technology. The assistants' potentially privileged access "should have triggered an ethical concern over whether each student truly intended to have their profile data publicly visible and accessible for downloading," Mr. Zimmer says in an e-mail.

So students who might have posted photos, updates, notes, political commentary, expecting it to be shown only to friends, friends of friends, or people in their network, might suddenly find ALL of that data, plus extrapolations about what it says about them, displayed publicly.

Sounds like a clear cut privacy violation, they were right to pull the data.

Re:Public or private data? (3, Insightful)

pushing-robot (1037830) | more than 3 years ago | (#36717360)

Thanks for finding that; I had skimmed the article and searched it for some keywords but apparently missed that section.

Still, IMHO giving 40,000 students, faculty and staff access to a piece of information should count as "displaying it publicly".

It's as if I put a billboard on campus; then, when a photo of it started circulating on the Internet, I claimed that my privacy was being violated—the billboard was intended to be viewed by Harvard students, faculty, staff, visitors, random people walking aimlessly by, and squirrels...but NO ONE ELSE!

Re:Public or private data? (1)

ohnocitizen (1951674) | more than 3 years ago | (#36717466)

Well, presuming these are photos and bits of data that were made available to the extended network. There's the possibility some of this data was restricted to "friends of friends" and "friends". But even if we take the wider social circle of "people in my network", that's definitely not perceived as being "out on the internet for anyone to find". Perhaps it is a meaningless and even misleading privacy setting for Facebook to have in the first place.

As I see it the problem is really the potential for abuse, rather than the expectation of privacy being shattered. What we have are more and more people putting things online with an expectation of privacy, and finding that what they presumed to be private isn't. Further, we have individuals and corporations alike exploiting this data for various purposes, from hiring to harassment.

In the case of the study itself, if this data was truly public, then their utilizing it for a study is fine. Their publishing it online crossed the line however, because suddenly one might find not only information about one's self you expected, but analysis of that information that could be viewed and used by potential employers, significant others, etc. One of the complaints the researchers brought up is that increasingly they are being pressured to make their data public, and that in some cases that might not be in the best interests of the people they are researching. At the very least it would suggest that they have an ethical obligation to obtain informed consent.

Re:Public or private data? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36720314)

Still, IMHO giving 40,000 students, faculty and staff access to a piece of information should count as "displaying it publicly".

Just because they were "stupid", it shouldn't be fair game for others to violate their privacy.

It's as if I put a billboard on campus

But I'd be wrong to compile that information that isn't my own, and distribute it externally.

Re:Public or private data? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36721744)

What if you had a private, members only club room? The contents of the billboard there might be priviledged information.

Re:Public or private data? (2)

deeceefar2 (1101299) | more than 3 years ago | (#36718184)

Harvard got it wrong. It was made public when the friends who had the right to publish the information published it.

There was no implied or actual restrictions on the data the students pulled from their own facebook network, and if anything, this should have stood as a lesson to people sharing information on social networks. I won't go so far as to say they posted it in public, but they did consent to having their "friends" use that information however they saw fit. When that happened they gave up their rights to dictate how that information spread from their friends.

Example:
Sussy posts a status update that she is pregnant. Sussy's friend Sally is still friends with Sussy's ex-boyfriend Kevin who Sussy unfriended. Kevin hears from Sally that Sussy is pregnant, and posts on his wall that his ex-girlfriend has loose morals because she is already pregnant after they just broke up. It is Sussy's fault Kevin knows, and she might as well have made it public, because Sally can tell whomever she wants the "secret."

In this case these people posted the information on their public secret sharing place with nothing preventing anyone with access to this information from taking it and using it however they wanted. I would say it is their friends right to make the information public as there was nothing implied or otherwise to tell them not. In giving it to the researchers they made the information public. So the researchers were fine in using the information as far as the privacy policy was concerned.

Re:Public or private data? (1)

couchslug (175151) | more than 3 years ago | (#36719574)

If it's visible on ANY "Unclassified" networks it should be considered visible to the "world".

If you don't want info compromised, consider not putting it on a computer in the first place!

Re:Public or private data? (1)

OrugTor (1114089) | more than 3 years ago | (#36720070)

TFA makes it clear Kaufman understood the issues and cleared them. Data visible to "friends of friends" is visible to potentially anyone and should be considered public. It looks to me like Michael Zimmer the privacy scholar has chosen Kaufman's work as fertile hunting grounds for fame and future grants.

Re:Public or private data? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36716960)

The article fails to mention whether this information from FB profiles was shared or private.

If it's the latter, the crime lies with the person who gave the researchers free access to it in the first place.

If it's the former, I'm off to violate thousands of people's privacy by reading my phone book's white pages.

From the article:
But here's where things get sketchy. Mr. Kaufman apparently used Harvard students as research assistants to download the data. That's important, because they had access to profiles that students might have set to be visible to Harvard's Facebook network but not to the whole world, Mr. Zimmer argues in a 2010 paper about the case published in Ethics and Information Technology. The assistants' potentially privileged access "should have triggered an ethical concern over whether each student truly intended to have their profile data publicly visible and accessible for downloading," Mr. Zimmer says in an e-mail.

I agree that from a legal point of view there might be nothing wrong: the issue is whether this behaviour is academically ethical. People might not realise just how visible their information is - as an academic, is it ethical for me to abuse their ignorance?

Re:Public or private data? (1)

tibit (1762298) | more than 3 years ago | (#36717268)

How is it abuse when the data is supposedly collected in an anonymizing fashion?

Re:Public or private data? (1)

jpate (1356395) | more than 3 years ago | (#36718596)

How is it abuse when the data is supposedly collected in an anonymizing fashion?

anonymizing social data [iseclab.org] is extremely hard [utexas.edu] . If you're confident that the dataset is sufficiently anonymized, then you've probably erased all of the interesting data.

Re:Public or private data? (1)

tibit (1762298) | more than 3 years ago | (#36718644)

Ah, thank you! I stand corrected. It's not my field, but I've spent a couple hours reading those and other related papers, it's quite interesting stuff!

Facebook privacy ? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36716742)

Facebook and privacy together, what a great oxymoron, lol

Employers do it all the time (1)

Billly Gates (198444) | more than 3 years ago | (#36716822)

Nothing unethical about it.

Now if they snooped in a hard drive or cracked an account to read private or friends only posts then that is a different matter. Facebook is voluntary.

This was already approved (3, Interesting)

lavagolemking (1352431) | more than 3 years ago | (#36716870)

But Mr. Kaufman talks openly about another controversial piece of his data gathering: Students were not informed of it. He discussed this with the institutional review board. Alerting students risked "frightening people unnecessarily," he says.

Basically, the IRB (also sometimes referred to as "ethics review committee") signed off on this. Now, once he's about to publish the results, they pull the plug.

Putting aside the university's hypocrisy (believe me, I can think of far worse privacy breaches), give me one good reason why collecting this kind of aggregate, anonymized data is ok for an advertiser who is studying how to most effectively manipulate people into buying something and generally won't even let people opt out of tracking, but it's not ok for a sociologist to publish aggregate statistical data from mined Facebook profiles. Advertisers are a lot less ethical about it than academic researchers.

Re:This was already approved (3, Insightful)

calmofthestorm (1344385) | more than 3 years ago | (#36717002)

> give me one good reason why
> Advertisers are a lot less ethical about it than academic researchers.
You answered your own question.

The difference is that we hold ourselves to a higher standard. The IRB tradition comes in the wake of shockingly immoral research conducted by scientists who didn't see anything wrong with it (Milgram's "just following orders" torture experiment, baby Albert's conditioning, etc). The lesson here is that scientists cannot be trusted to judge the ethical implications of their own experiments, which is why we have the IRB, even for cases that seem to researchers to be perfectly reasonable (just giving a multiple-choice survey)

You are, however, correct that if IRB approval was sought and given, the mistake was theirs. If he used research assistants' facebook accounts to glean the data, as is alleged, there's no way that should have passed IRB.

if only theyd been doing a CIA or TSA project (1)

decora (1710862) | more than 3 years ago | (#36717086)

they could have slapped 'National Security' and 'NDA' on the whole thing and got away with whatever they wanted to do.

if anyone complained, they could sue them under the Espionage Act for "retaining national defense information"

prison will shut up a lot of people. ask Shamai Leibowitz.

Re:This was already approved (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36717208)

If he used research assistants' facebook accounts to glean the data, as is alleged, there's no way that should have passed IRB.

I think one of the points was that the IRB wasn't internet-savvy enough to have realized the implications of Harvard students mining this Facebook info about other Harvard students. The one affected student quoted in the article, tracked down using the so-called anonymized data, didn't seem to care:

"Anything that's put on Facebook somehow will make it out into the general public, no matter what you attempt to do," she says. "So I never have anything on my Facebook profile that I wouldn't want employers, my grandmother, like anyone in the world to be able to see."

Re:This was already approved (1)

Atraxen (790188) | more than 3 years ago | (#36718748)

I'd be more careful than to say "scientists cannot be trusted to judge the ethical implications of their own experiments..."

This feeds a misconception that all researchers have some sort of Faustian disconnect - that we consider the ends )our research) to justify the means (including unexpecte4d consequences.) THIS is IMO the key feature of the IRB - it brings in a bunch of other perspectives to identify the unanticipated consequences and ethics of a situation. It's not a trust issue, it's a matter of perspectives. If I was setting up and experiment on tasting to determine what parts of bacon's flavor profile lends itself so well to ice cream, I might not expect some issues in taste-testing that could emerge (are the flavor compounds extracted from bacon or synthesized - and does this affect Jewish/Muslim tasters? If we disclose the bacon-source, does that undermine the efficacy of the research by 'giving the game away'? Not the perfect example, I'm sure, but not bad for waiting for the coffee to brew...)

There's nothing in your post to say you disagree (though I won't put words in your mouth), but before the "those damned evil scientists" crowd grabs hold of this one, I wanted to add these two cents.

Re:This was already approved (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 3 years ago | (#36719696)

Milgram's "just following orders" torture experiment

Which happens to be one of the most important results in sociology. Just how much are we impeding the progress of science here?

Re:This was already approved (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36720948)

Yeah!

We should go back to doing experiments like they did in Nazi Germany.

Which is what you're advocating, even if you don't know it.

Regards.

Re:This was already approved (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 3 years ago | (#36721442)

Right. Because there's no middle ground between the ridiculously restrictive IRB process we have today, and Nazi Germany. None whatsoever.

Re:This was already approved (1)

FreakyGreenLeaky (1536953) | more than 3 years ago | (#36718016)

effectively influence people into buying something

For those marketers who effectively influence consumers, job well done I say. I wish I could afford more of them.

People who believe they are being manipulated into buying something by advertisers (not talking about outright criminal acts here, like bait-n-switch or false advertising, etc - the criminality of which depends on your country/jurisdiction) need to actively think about their actions and choices as opposed to being led about by their collective nose-ring.

Cynical, I know. But, hey, shit happens. Get on with it.

Give me a break. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36716928)

The privacy meltdown is that everyone is using Facebook. Anyone actually concerned about their privacy has little to no real presence and information on there.

human research standards (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36717018)

As a trained researcher, here's a quick overview of the research and the relevant restrictions: Publicly posted information is available for research. This data set was problematic from the beginning, as it dated from the Harvard student body in the early days of Facebook, and includes data which was only visible to other Harvard students. The research was conducted by using other Harvard students to download the data, then make it available to researchers. The Review Board should probably have turned down the research proposal at the beginning. The board apparently only insisted on "anonymizing" the data so the students and their college couldn't be identified. The data was anonymized, but it has been publicly proven that private information can be derived from the information that was released. I hope this helps.

What's in the twitting so interesting for LoC? (1)

c0lo (1497653) | more than 3 years ago | (#36717042)

TFA quote:

The daily minutiae of our digital lives are so culturally valuable that the Library of Congress is on the eve of opening a research archive of public tweets.

Now, now... what??? Is LoC after some extra budget for archiving all the crappy twits [longestpoe...eworld.com] ? ('cause filtering them will be much more costly).

Why is this news (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36717106)

This is news because it deals with the rich, privileged class. Students from other schools get no such privacy.

You put your stuff out in plain view (1)

presidenteloco (659168) | more than 3 years ago | (#36717230)

on the interweb.

Why expect privacy?

Re:You put your stuff out in plain view (3, Insightful)

lucm (889690) | more than 3 years ago | (#36717324)

Sound argument. Just like: "you have an easy PIN on your debit card, why are you surprised someone stole your money" or "you were wearing a short skirt at the office, why expect your boss will not harass you".

It is important to refuse unacceptable behavior even if no sufficient safeguards are in place, so the people and organizations learn what they can and can't do. It's like seeing someone slapping his/her kid in a restaurant - if you complain they may snap back at you and tell you to mind your own business, but the impact of a stranger telling them that what they do is wrong is very likely to prevent them from doing it again. This is part of the social contract.

What they did in this case was wrong, and it's a good thing to make a fuss about it and not let people think that privacy is only something that takes place in a doctor's office.

Re:You put your stuff out in plain view (1)

dfxm (1586027) | more than 3 years ago | (#36748906)

What they did in this case was wrong, and it's a good thing to make a fuss about it and not let people think that privacy is only something that takes place in a doctor's office.

Your analogies aren't apt at all, and privacy is something that is greatly misunderstood in the age of social networking. There isn't any kind of "right" to privacy, our private information is valuable, it is important to protect our privacy, and it is no one's job but our own to protect ourselves. The sooner we, as a society, understand this, the sooner stories like this will thin out.

You say it is important to snap at the researchers for this. I agree with you there, however I disagree that you imply that only the researchers are in the wrong. It is just as important to let the students in this dataset know "this is what you get for putting this information about yourselves out there," so that they think twice about possibly compromising their private information in the future as well.

Ethics please (1)

lucm (889690) | more than 3 years ago | (#36717270)

So what's next? An ISP will publish the search history of its subscribers as a research project. but will "protect" privacy by replacing usernames with numbers? Or something crazy like that? That would be insane.

Re:Ethics please (1)

drolli (522659) | more than 3 years ago | (#36717626)

I dont think that something which I published and something which is not meant to be published should be threated the same way.

If you believed that posting on your own facebook page is meant to be as secret as using you ISPs router, then you should not visit a University.

Fuck Harvard and Facebook (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36717426)

This is a bunch of crap.

Whoever uses Facebook is an idiot who deserves whatever he gets.

You people wouldn't know ethics if it bit you in your faggot asses.

So why is this surprising (1)

J.J. Dane (1562629) | more than 3 years ago | (#36717450)

Some people of roughly the same generation as Zuckerberg, operating in the same academic environment, turned out to have roughly the same attitude towards privacy.

Can't be arsed to google for the exact MZ quote, but somebody undoubtedly will.

Oh and it your stuff is so private why are you posting on FB et.c.....

I saw the Social Network (1)

91degrees (207121) | more than 3 years ago | (#36718026)

Wasn't it this sort of behaviourthat got Zuckerberg in trouble with Harvard? Or is that just something that happened in the movie?

Perhaps Harvard needs to look into drilling privacy ethics into its students a little better.

Re:I saw the Social Network (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36722966)

Funny, I think they should spend the time drilling common sense into their students. Then perhaps they'd think twice about what they share and who they share it with.

Harvard doesn't own Facebook? (1)

Amlothi (207848) | more than 3 years ago | (#36718068)

I've never been able to find a satisfactory answer to this one, but why hasn't Harvard tried to argue that Facebook belongs to them? When I was in school, there was a policy that anything invented or created while a student using university resources is the property of the university, not the student. Isn't that why Dean Kamen didn't graduate? To keep his ideas and invent them on his own?

Does Harvard not have such a policy? Is there really no evidence that he used University resources in creating it?

Dear topless woman: I can see your tits. (1)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 3 years ago | (#36718088)

Topless woman: EEK! A PERVERT!

What a world we've come to, when simply looking at or commenting on what you've explicitly chosen to waggle in my face is a violation of your, uh... privacy.

Privacy on Facebook? (1)

idamaybrown (584881) | more than 3 years ago | (#36718868)

How can you post something on the internet and REALLY expect it to be private? And I don't care what Facebook settings you are using, if you trust Facebook - your crazy.

Ethics is to Harvard as? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36719154)

Intelligence is to the Military

Check for New Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?