Ethical considerations when using social media for evidence generation.

Contributed by a member of the RISE Community • September 14th, 2018

This paper examines the benefits, risks and ethical considerations when undertaking evidence generation using social media platforms and third-party data collected and analysed by social media services. (Source: UNICEF Office of Research – Innocenti).

As of January 2017, 2.78 billion people worldwide were classified as active social media users. Of
these users, 1.87 billion use Facebook. In turn, 39 per cent of these users are between the ages
of 13 and 24 (approximately 729 million young people). Available data also shows that in 2014,
approximately 31 per cent of users of the top five social media platforms were aged between 16 and
24 years. With the enormity of this coverage as well as over 40 per cent growth in usage from the
previous year in countries like India, UNICEF has and continues to look at ways to use these platforms
and the data generated to connect with and understand the reality of children today and to ensure
more child-centred/user-centred policies and services.

However, while recognizing the influence and power of these networks, it is also necessary to
acknowledge the ethical issues presented by these platforms and services in terms of both risks and
benefits. Ethical issues arise not only with respect to the privacy settings and confidentiality of data
amassed by these applications and platforms, but also in relation to the use of the ‘big data’ that is
produced via social media for predictive modelling, trend analysis and consequently for decision
making and influence.1

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