[Air-L] Ensuring privacy in online interviewing

Janet Salmons, Ph.D. jesalmons at gmail.com
Wed Mar 7 22:04:34 PST 2012

Dear Jenni,

I'd like to echo some points made by L. Wynholds and suggest some other
questions that might help you to refine your proposal.

I would be less concerned with privacy of the data in transmission, during
the interview, and more concerned with protection of the data after the
interview. You did not say what program you intend to use to record the
interview, but I would suggest selecting one that allows you to download
the interview (and as L emphasized, back it up!) then delete the copy
stored on someone else's server in the cloud.

I terms of the interviewee's privacy, as in the ability to speak freely
without being overheard by others, that is hard to ensure in an online
interview and all you can really do is spell out what you need from the
interview and schedule the interview at a time when the interviewee feels
they are best able to participate.

I have a couple of other comments.... if I were reading your proposal, I
would ask for a rationale explaining why you would use as your
communication options one form that is all written (IM) and one that
includes audio and visual interaction? The nature of the interactions and
the types of data collected will be very different.
How will you use the webcam? You can see the person-- how will you use
those observations? Are you interested in non-verbal signals and affective
responses? You will probably need to clearly define how you plan to use
visual data. You could choose, for example, to review the recorded
interview and use a notation system to record types of non-verbal
expressions that are conveyed throughout the interview. Or, you could be
looking for other visual information about appearance, the setting, what
you can see in the interview.  Of course you will have no data of that kind
for the IM interviews....how will you address that disparity in the data

If you are choosing Skype to do research that includes visual data, you
need to explain it in your research design and in your recruitment/consent
documents. If you are simply planning to focus on audio, or even audio with
notes in text chat, then you will need to explain how you will bracket your
own impressions of the participant in the video window-- or simply use
voice only, essentially like a phone interview.

You didn't mention whether or how you will use the interviewees' blog posts
as data, which is another area for exploration and thinking about ethics...

So... there are a number of things to think about as you look at your
online data collection methods in the context of your methodology and study
purpose, and by carefully exploring what you are doing and why, you'll
develop a stronger dissertation proposal.

I recently recorded a presentation made at a recent conference that might
interest you: Visual & Virtual Interviews http://bit.ly/AcvSlM. Naturally I
will also point to my books, *Online Interviews in Real Time*, which had a
focus on ethics and an entire chapter on visual research online and *Cases
in Online Interview Research*-- both from Sage Publications (see

I hope you will make a convincing case for your study so you can conduct
some valuable research!

*Janet Salmons Ph.D.*
*Capella University School of Business and Technology and Vision2Lead, Inc.
*Site- http://www.vision2lead.com
Follow Twitter at #einterview
Now available: Cases in Online Interview
PO Box 943
Boulder, CO 80306-0943
jsalmons at vision2lead.com

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