Concerns Over Research Ethics

(Image from Pixabay, "Computer, Server, Screen, Network, Internet, Technology")

Written by: Emily Goodwin

There is a lot of concern over privacy these days, especially with the rising popularity - and necessity - of technology. Who else can see what you post or look at online? What do they use this information for? It is a little worrisome.

Gary Marshall explains in his article that data stored on your wearable fitness tracker is not only sent to its corresponding social platform, but can also leave that platform entirely. Companies that provide the activity tracking services will sell the data collected from users to other companies that would benefit from knowing those personal details that can be tracked by existing devices (par. 4). Basic personal details are worth $0.0005 each, health conditions add another $0.26, and weight loss is worth $0.10 (par. 4). 

Who sees this data? Marshall does not have an answer to that. The data profiles can be sold to various companies who may want to target specific advertisements to you (par. 9). In the United States, health insurance companies are the usual buyers of activity tracker data. They in turn will offer companies with employees participating in fitness activities - or those specific employees - cheaper insurance rates (par. 14).

esearchers are also interested in this data. They purchase - or freely access - it over the internet to reach conclusions about how different social mediums are utilized and habits associated with the Internet of Things (Hoser and Nitschke par. 17). Bettina Hosner and Tanja Nitschke worry about the number of ways personal data can be misused by researchers. Some of these concerns involve fully identifying an individual, being able to monitor an individual based on what is known of their digital habits, and bombarding a person with advertisements catered to their interests (par. 21). Because of these concerns, Hosner and Nitschke believe it is important for researchers to only take what data they need, and this will allow individuals to have their identities better protected (par. 21).

David Resnick argues ethics can be achieved when every member of a given society follows the same norms and conventions (par. 1). This can be applied to research ethics. If researches were held to the same ethical standards as we are in our daily lives, we would not have to worry about what our activity data is being used for.

Works Cited

ClkerFreeVectorImages. *Computer, Server, Screen, Network, Internet, Technology. Digital image. *Pixabay. N.p., 2012. Web. 20 Nov. 2015.

Hoser, Bettina, and Tanja Nitschke. "Questions on Ethics for Research in the Virtually Connected World." Social Networks 32.3 (2010): 180-86. Web. 18 Nov. 2015.

Marshall, Gary. "The Worrying Potential of Wearable Data." Wareable. Wareable, 27 Mar. 2015. Web. 15 Nov. 2015.

Resnik, David. "National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences." *What Is Ethics in Research & Why Is It Important?* National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences, 1 May 2011. Web. 20 Nov. 2015.