[Air-l] Lecture on Internet research ethics, cross-cultural comparisons on privacy - online

Charles Ess cmess at drury.edu
Wed Mar 16 04:24:35 PST 2005

Dear AoIR-ists,

I was honored to speak in early March at the 2005 national conference of
Canada's National Council on Ethics in Human Research (NCEHR)/Conseil
national d'éthique en recherche chez l'humain (CNERH), on the topic of
"International Restrictions Affecting Internet Research: Conflicts, Risks,

The obligatory (and helpful, I hope) PowerPoint is available:


The first part is a bit of an overview of Internet research ethics,
following the AoIR guidelines, with some more recent literature and cases
The second part examines notions of privacy and data privacy protection laws
cross-culturally, starting with (now familiar) U.S. / Canada / E.U. /
Scandinavian comparison, but then extending into an "East-West" (still
useful shorthand, despite the colonialist dimensions?) comparison that
includes attention to Japan, Thailand, South Korea, and China - initially
with a view towards Buddhist and Confucian influences on notions of privacy
and its relative importance (and/or lack thereof).
Roughly, it is clear that Western attitudes towards privacy are largely
affiliated with modernity, industrialization, and conceptions of the
individual vis-à-vis democratic polity. National interests in many Asian
countries in developing e-commerce, however, are forcing the development of
data privacy protection, even if absent Western-style justifications
grounded on individualism/democracy - though perhaps notions of the the
latter, as transformed appropriately within specific cultural
contexts/traditions/histories, may be discerned as emerging as well.
In any event, I argue that a pluralism between Western and Eastern nations
regarding notions of privacy and implementation of data privacy protections
can be discerned - one that shows resonance, if not close agreement, on
basic notions and values, alongside the multiple and irreducible differences
that mark diverse national/cultural traditions/values/histories.

As I happily acknowledge at the beginning of the lecture, this work
represents a collaborative dialogue among many, many colleagues in Japan,
China, Thailand, and Korea - especially as fostered by the invaluable work
of my colleagues at Trier University, Karl-Heinz Pohl (Chinese Studies) and
Hans-Jürgen Bucher (Media Studies), and made possible by a
Fulbright-sponsored stay last fall at Trier.

A more complete synopsis of the lecture will be published on the NCEHR/CNERH
website (<http://ncehr-cnerh.org/>). If anyone would like to see it more
immediately, please contact me offlist and I'll happily send it along.

Comments, criticisms, and suggestions welcome!

Charles Ess

Distinguished Research Professor, Interdisciplinary Studies
Drury University
900 N. Benton Ave.              Voice: 417-873-7230
Springfield, MO  65802  USA       FAX: 417-873-7435

Home page:  http://www.drury.edu/ess/ess.html
Co-chair, CATaC: http://www.it.murdoch.edu.au/catac/

Exemplary persons seek harmony, not sameness. -- Analects 13.23

More information about the Air-l mailing list