CaSMa is working to address the ethical challenges around social media research by designing tools and services to enable users to gain more control of their personal data.
The CaSMa project is looking at solutions that put people at the centre of human data by introducing a novel citizen-centred approach to social media analysis. Starting with the acknowledgement that the data relates to human beings with a right to privacy and dignity, CaSMa aims to promote ways for individuals to control their data and their desired level of privacy, including mechanisms that make it realistically possible to implement a withdrawal of consent. Indeed, one of the core CaSMa objectives is to ensure that social media users are aware of how their personal data can be used to understand human behaviour and the ethics of handling human data obtained from social media.
The risks and challenges of personal data are often underestimated and currently there is a lack of transparency, an imbalance in the trust relationship and insufficient privacy safeguards in personal data handling. CaSMa aims to promote social media literacy by informing the general public as well as academics, clinicians, SMEs and policy makers about Citizen Centred Approaches to Social Media Analyses, a new ethically sound ways to access digital human data.
Social Media analysis refers to the use of linguistic, statistical and other analytical techniques for exploring social media data to understand:
- the ways people use social media and what this means for individuals and society;
- social phenomena and events expressed in social media by drawing upon social media as a critical, and timely, source of information.
For the purposes of the CaSMa project, we consider social media to include all source of digital data about the behaviour and communications of people. This includes social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, etc. but also direct communication like e-mail and chat as well as other behaviour monitoring data like GPS, accelerometer or other data from smart devices (e.g. smart phones).
Citizen centred approaches refers to tools and methods that are sensitive to the personal nature of human data. Approaches that are ‘ethical by design’ with intrinsic transparency and dependence on explicit consent from the person who’s data is being analysed.