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Vitak, J., Shilton, K., & Ashktorab, Z. (2016). Beyond the Belmont Principles: Ethical Challenges, Practices, and Beliefs in the Online Data Research Community. Proceedings of the 19th ACM Conference on Computer-Supported Cooperative Work & Social Computing, 941–953. https://doi.org/10.1145/2818048.2820078


Pervasive information streams that document people and their routines have been a boon to social computing research. But the ethics of collecting and analyzing available—but potentially sensitive—online data present challenges to researchers. In response to increasing public and scholarly debate over the ethics of online data research, this paper analyzes the current state of practice among researchers using online data. Qualitative and quantitative responses from a survey of 263 online data researchers document beliefs and practices around which social computing researchers are converging, as well as areas of ongoing disagreement. The survey also reveals that these disagreements are not correlated with disciplinary, methodological, or workplace affiliations. The paper concludes by reflecting on changing ethical practices in the digital age, and discusses a set of emergent best practices for ethical social computing research.