Welcome to the Nexus of Ethics, Psychology, Morality, Philosophy and Health Care

Welcome to the nexus of ethics, psychology, morality, philosophy and health care

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Do research ethics need updating for the digital age?

By Michael W. Ross, PhD, MD, MPH
The Monitor on Psychology
October 2014, Vol 45, No. 9
Print version: page 64

Over a week in early January 2012, the news feeds of more than 600,000 Facebook users changed subtly: Without users' knowledge, researchers manipulated the feeds' emotional content to examine how Facebook friends' emotions affected one another.

The study on "massive-scale emotional contagion through social networks" (PNAS, June 17, 2014) generated significant debate in both public and scientific spheres. Much of this debate centered on ethical aspects of the study. In an editorial, even the journal's editor-in-chief voiced concern that the "collection of the data by Facebook may have involved practices that were not fully consistent with the principles of obtaining fully informed consent and allowing participants to opt out" (Verma, 2014).

There has been extensive and incisive debate about the ethical and scientific issues arising from the study.