Notes from Ethics Call with @markomanka , 2021-02-19T09:00:00Z → 2021-02-19T10:00:00Z
Present: @markomanka, @alberto, @noemi, @MariaEuler
(you can move these elsewhere @alberto, I’m just tying them to the manual for now).
@rebelethno, we met with our (wonderful) ethics advisor today and got some very good advice on how to proceed with our work. See below (skip the first point as it is not relevant to our project).
Earth OS Consent Funnel/Tell Form Fixes:*
starting August 2020, Edgeryders started rolling out tiny, super-simple online form (URL
tell.edgeryders-eu/12345) for people to sign up to events. These create automatically edgeryders.eu accounts, and post the answers to the questions in the form on the platform. Some of these forms, it turned out, did not enforce consent. Worse, they still set the value of the
edgeryders_consent field in the database to 1. This means that there is no simple way to identify those users via API query; and also that, when people who created their account through those online forms, they will be allowed to post without having to go through the consent funnel. The issue was discovered in December 2020.
What we are doing
- We fixed the problem going forward. Now all forms enforce consent.
- We have gone through the forms; identified those did not enforce consent; and identified the user accounts created through those. They turn out to be 196. Only a minority are involved in research projects; we estimate that at least 130 came through EarthOS events.
- Next, we have toggled their
edgeryders_consent value to 0. This means that, if they try to post, they will now be redirected through the consent funnel.
- The next step is for the community managers to go through the list, identify those who have made codable contribution and get in touch with them one by one, asking them for their consent. This can be acquired via a form, or via them posting one new post on the platform (which now enforces the consent funnel).
Ethics advisor opinion
This is prima facie an issue of compliance, rather than an ethical issue. The solution is good. If any of the participants follow up and ask about the procedure, then it becomes a question of ethics, and we proceed from there (with a clear roadmap of explaining the process).
Two action items:
Have a consent form that is more detailed than the funnel, describing the project and contact details (already done and linked in 3.1 of the Ethnography Field Manual).
Have a periodic internal peer review on ethics. At least every two months or every hundred participants. Discuss any and all questions or issues that come up, and share best practices.
Lurking (added to Ethnography Field Manual section 3.5):
“non-interference” is not a sufficient measure for ethical consent, but interference certainly requires disclosure of researcher status and information about project and data use.
The first step is to identify the context of the space – do participants think it’s public, private, or somewhere in between? What is their expectation of where and how the information in that space will be used? You have to tailor your disclosure to that expectation and not use information in ways they are not expecting or anticipating (and therefore have not protected themselves for).
If there are moderators, talk to them first before performing participant-observation.
If there is an effective way to disclose researcher status up front, do so.
If technical capacities prevent this, two steps are needed (and both should be followed anyway):
- Once material is used, disclose it at that point – make sure participants/the community has a way of accessing the results of the participant-observation.
The big picture here is that ethical participant-observation in any space requires the ethnographer/researcher to ensure they have a very good understanding of what the collective they are studying assumes tacitly about whether or not their activity or utterances are public, and whether or not they planned for a discussion or activity to be public and the information from it be publicly available. Our evaluations of this public/private line, which is a continuum, have to be context-enriched and decisions about ethical practice and use have to match informant understandings of where on that continuum they are.
We do not have to submit an ethics deliverable formally on this, but we need to document it clearly and follow these processes, documenting them as well as we go.