[Air-L] public/private

Jeremy Hunsinger jhuns at vt.edu
Sat Aug 11 13:40:32 PDT 2007

> Some readers come along, google the string, and get led back to your
> subject and write to them, wondering why they are SO damned abnormal,
> sexually speaking.

and that wouldn't have happened otherwise?   I'm afraid i don't see  
where the addition of the quotation has added any new harm.   It  
might have opened up the material to a new community.

> Now . . . I would say that the subject has not been protected.

protected from what?  people's opinion?  public scorn?   now, if a  
person could be fired for their blogging, which is the case, then  
perhaps that would be a harm, but... to what extent is my article  
harming them?  is the materials existence in the world harming them,  
is there actions harming them, is google or other search engine  
harming them.  did they receive harm from their public action?  or  
from me?

> I
> would say that without their permission, you've exposed their
> character to personal damage. You've not only used their material
> without permission and used their material as data for a study,
> you've also labeled them as abnormal AND drawn people's attention to
> them as such . . . WITH your university-researcher's authority as an
> expert, without so much as asking them if they understand what you
> are up to or it it's ok to use their material.

I've not in this case added any more harm to the possible body of  
harm that already exists.  It is a public blog, if a person finds the  
quote through my article is no different than them stumbling upon it  
via google, a newspaper, or any other position.   that i've quoted it  
may add something, but I don't necessarily see that addition of harm.
> Gee... I kinda think that's the sort of thing that human subject
> protection is supposed to stop, isn't it?

not necessarily.  human subject protection is supposed to balance the  
possible harms to the subject against the possible benefits of the  
research... at least that's the position of the irb manuals i've read.

In this case, the harm that would be added to the possible harm that  
exists for the subject is minimal in relation to the public good of  
the research.

jeremy hunsinger
Information Ethics Fellow, Center for Information Policy Research,  
School of Information Studies, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee  

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