Talk:Wikimedia Research Network Privacy Policy

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Difficulties in assuring anonymity[edit]

Originally posted to Wikiresearch mailing list - not wiki-research-l :-)

Privacy is a tricky issue on Wikip/media. It's quite timely for me as I'm doing a lot of thinking about my research and how anonymous it will be. I have found that, due to the open nature of the wiki, it is very hard to assure people of complete anonymity. If you are using data from the wiki, it is "published", as per Privacy policy - even if you take the content and remove the signature, this is Googlable :-) And then, since this is published, does it require informed consent to reproduce? (Open question)

Then there's a variety of anonymity requests from subjects in something that is traditionally anonymous - questionnaires. Some people do want to remain anonymous, but some people clearly don't. If a respondent posts the results of your questionnaire on their talk page on the wiki, for example, this constitutes, for me at least, another example of open "publishing". You can find examples of this at Research/Cormac_Lawler_questionnaire.

One thing I'm finding it hard to get around at the moment is knowing how much of a private correspondence to even_include in your final result as this may affect the anonymity of the subject. If, for example, any article is mentioned or likewise a user this person has had a conflict with, then it is virtually guaranteed that the information is easily found or even immediately obvious to someone who monitors that article or knows that user. Wikipedians are pretty ingenious about rooting out sock-puppetry, hence tracking identity, and I see this applying to research on the wiki also. So then the question is: do you dilute your results to protect the person's anonymity? For my part, with my wordy qualitative methodology, I think I will probably have to do this to some extent. I've also discussed this with each participant. One alternative I can think of however is not to transcribe the whole correspondence, just pick out the quote you want and reference it "private correspondence with the author".

These are just thoughts brought up by my experiences - if anyone has theirs please, as always, feel free to share. I'm also including below two papers I found interesting this year (sorry, no URL).

  • Bruckman, A. (2002) Studying the amateur artist: A perspective on disguising data collected in human subjects research on the Internet. Ethics and Information Technology No. 4 pp. 217–231
  • Capurro, R. & Pingel, C. (2002) Ethical issues of online communication research  Ethics and Information Technology 4, pp189–194

All the best, Cormaggio 16:09, 17 August 2005 (UTC)[reply]