When is public private? Tweets, privacy and consent in health research

When is public private? Tweets, privacy and consent in health research
Sabitra Kaphle, Rachel Kornhaber, Susan Hunt, Roger Watson, Michelle Cleary
Nurse Education in Practice, August 2022; 63
Online social media platforms provide opportunities for the global community to share and express their views, opinions, reactions, and feelings openly. The use of social media for the purpose of information sharing surged during the COVID-19 pandemic due to mandated physical distancing requirements. This is a seemingly consensual catharsis at a time of heightened need for alternative social activity and critical information sharing. Communication on open social media platforms has created opportunities for researchers to access and analyse rich, publicly available data to study a range of topics and issues. The creation of this abundant public data has also led to fundamental methodological and ethical challenges for social science researchers. Namely, is the use of this public data for research a breach of privacy and confidentiality? Are social media users becoming involuntary research participants as their communications and personal information are mined and published on without participant insight and informed consent? In this discussion, we aim to highlight some of the critical methodological and ethical issues that researchers must consider while using Twitter as a data source to publish from.

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