[Air-L] Ethical practices in scraping data from gay dating apps

Charles M. Ess c.m.ess at media.uio.no
Thu Mar 15 23:28:31 PDT 2018

Just to say quickly - and gratefully - yes.
Not surprisingly, this kind of case has been coming up with increasing 
frequency over the past few years, and the responses offered here are as 
close to "standard" as I know of.

FWIW: Ylva Hård af Segerstad and her colleagues have a paper on 
modifying scraping software in order to minimize collecting data that 
may not be necessary and thus just an unneeded nuisance, both from an 
analytical and ethical perspective.

The only thing I would add is the distinction we often make between 
research ethics and requirements at the beginning of a project vis-a-vis 
dissemination ethics - the ethics surrounding write-up, presentation, 
publication, posting data publicly (as is increasingly demanded by 
publicly funded research bodies).  Broadly, informed consent from each 
profile owner at the beginning stages is clearly too unwieldy and is 
usually waived as a requirement - though permission of the sort you're 
asking for is usually strongly recommended.  But if there comes a time 
when for the sake of dissemination your methods require using exact 
quotes of text or profile information (including photos, etc.) to 
illustrate precise findings, etc. - then gaining informed consent from, 
say, 10-20 persons is not necessarily so daunting and, so far as I am 
aware, always required.

Hope this helps - thanks again to Griffin Boyce - and good luck!
- charles ess
[co-chair (with Anja Bechmann and Michael Zimmer), AoIR Ethics Working 

On 16/03/2018 00:08, Griffin Boyce wrote:
> I scraped Grindr data for a some one-off experiments* a couple of years ago (primarily location, username, basic demographics, not photos). You're on the right path by asking permission, and I would say that hashing data (as mentioned) is a good option for obfuscating the details. Check out Aaron Segal's paper on intersectional PII privacy protection[1].
> The big advice I'd give is to narrow your scope as much as is practical for your project. If you don't need photos/username/profile contents, then don't seek them. But then again, I'm not sure what format the data is in or if Jack'd might give you firehose public API access or will be selective about what data you can receive.
> best,
> Griffin
> * funny story
> [1] https://www.usenix.org/conference/foci14/workshop-program/presentation/segal
> On March 15, 2018 5:41:37 PM EDT, Lik Sam Chan <liksamch at usc.edu> wrote:
>> Hi all,
>> I am designing a study to explore racism in a gay dating app (Jack'd).
>> I
>> plan to collect self-reported data of the user (freely available to
>> anyone
>> using the app) and types of people the particular user is interested in
>> (available to premium users). I am planning to write a python script to
>> collect samples from several major cities in the world -- therefore, I
>> believe using automated data scraping technique will be more efficient
>> than
>> manually taking screen-shot of the users' profiles.
>> I am aware of the recent controversy about scraping users' profile from
>> Tinder (
>> https://techcrunch.com/2017/04/28/someone-scraped-40000-tinder-selfies-to-make-a-facial-dataset-for-ai-experiments/).
>> I am also aware that some researchers have used automated scraping
>> techniques in studying Grindr (
>> https://www.jedbrubaker.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/05/Fitzpatrick-DisclosureLBSM.pdf).
>> I am aware that the app prohibits data scraping so I plan to officially
>> contact them for their permission.
>> I am interested in ways in which, after getting permission from the
>> company, I can collect data in an ethical way, including how to protect
>> the
>> privacy of the users.
>> Regards,
>> Sam
>> - - - - - -
>> Lik Sam CHAN, Ph.D.
>> Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, USC
>> liksamchan.com | @liksamchan
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Professor in Media Studies
Department of Media and Communication
University of Oslo

Postboks 1093
Blindern 0317
Oslo, Norway
c.m.ess at media.uio.no

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