Originally published May 20, 2016
Here is an excerpt:
Shockingly, though, the researchers behind both of those big data blowups never anticipated public outrage. (The OkCupid research does not seem to have gone through any kind of ethical review process, and a Cornell ethics review board approved the Facebook experiment.) And that shows just how untested the ethics of this new field of research is. Unlike medical research, which has been shaped by decades of clinical trials, the risks—and rewards—of analyzing big, semi-public databases are just beginning to become clear.
And the patchwork of review boards responsible for overseeing those risks are only slowly inching into the 21st century. Under the Common Rule in the US, federally funded research has to go through ethical review. Rather than one unified system though, every single university has its own institutional review board, or IRB. Most IRB members are researchers at the university, most often in the biomedical sciences. Few are professional ethicists.
The article is here.