Ethics of social media research

Social media is increasingly being used to research human behavior and interaction. recently, studies have been conducted on the topic. A March 12 USA Today article discussed how private companies, like Google, Facebook and Target, are monitoring social media accounts and using it for research.

In some cases, the companies do this to personalize sale advertisements. Facebook and Google use your location, likes and search results to target you with specific ads you may like.

All this research can get a little strange. Target, for instance, can monitor purchases and know when a woman is pregnant. Microsoft can identify women at risk of postpartum depression.

Academics are also using social media for research, and they are conducting studies on how social media is used. One study from social psychologist Ilka Gleibs, an assistant professor at the London School of Economics in London, said, “Facebook is transformed from a public space to a behavioral laboratory.”

All of this research brings up privacy and ethical issues. People who post online don’t realize that their information is traveling to more than just their “friends.” Facebook has backtracked on its privacy standards more than once, and more than half of people who leave the site say they did so for privacy reasons.


About Whitney Dawn Carlson

I'm a digital communications professional and a big fan of coffee, cats and gluten-free baked goods.
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