YouTube, Google, Facebook: 21st Century Online Video Research and Research Ethics

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Nicolas Legewie, Anne Nassauer

In: Forum: Qualitative Sozialforschung 19 (2018), 3, Art. 32, 11 S.
pub_soep_nutz: SOEP staff publication without SOEP data


Since the early 2000s, the proliferation of cameras in devices such as mobile phones, closed-circuit television (CCTV), or body cameras has led to a sharp increase in video recordings of human interaction and behavior. Through websites that employ user-generated content (e.g., YouTube) and live streaming sites (e.g., GeoCam), access to such videos virtually is at the fingertips of social science researchers. Online video data offer great potential for social science research to study an array of human interaction and behavior, but they also raise ethical questions to which existing guidelines and publications only provide partial answers. In our article we address this gap, drawing on existing ethical discussions and applying them to the use of online video data. We examine five areas in which online video research raises specific questions or promises unique potentials: informed consent, analytic opportunities, privacy, transparency, and minimizing harm to participants. We discuss their interplay and how these areas can inform practitioners, reviewers, and interested readers of online video studies when evaluating the ethical standing of a study. With this study, we contribute to an informed and transparent discussion about ethics in online video research.

Themen: Digitalisierung

Keywords: research ethics; online research; video data, confidentiality; informed consent; privacy; Web 2.0; YouTube